The Madison Mallards are looking to team up with the city of Madison to upgrade the its stadium. The team's owners are willing to pay for the multi-million dollar renovation, but they would want more control over the stadium in exchange. Both the city and the Mallards agree the Duck Pond is in need of some upgrades, but now they have to juggle the needs of the mallards with the needs of the city and the community around warner park.
Since coming to town in 2001, the Madison Mallards are building quite a following. The team's General Manager Vern Stenman says, "we drew over 6,000 fans a night last year in a ball park that seats less than 5,500 people so we're on the right track from an attendance perspective." The right track, which is putting them on the fast track to needing a multi million dollar renovation. The city had already planned to renovate the seating at the Duck Pond, but the Mallards have a much larger vision, one that will change the view from left field. "We contracted an architect to come up and look at the facility that is very familiar with building minor league ball parks and he said within 30 seconds of being here that we need to turn the field around and put home plate out in center field," says Stenman.
The move will allow the team to upgrade and add seating which will allow them to fill the stadium to its capacity of 7,500. Renovations are estimated at $4 million, most of which the Mallard's are willing to pay for in exchange for more control over the field. Stenman says, "we're looking at putting a lot of our own money into the facility and uh to be able to recoup some of the investment we're putting into the ballpark allowing us to bring in other users and other events and stuff like that to the park is going to help offset some of the expenses we're putting in up front." That includes being selling the stadium's naming rights.
The city is excited about the project but is looking to balance the needs of the neighborhood and the mallard's before approving the proposal. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz says, "the need for a new stadium will create different interactions with the neighborhood and so we have to keep in mind the interest of the neighbors as well and a committee is the best way to work out all of the details." Details that would create an even bigger following for an already popular hometown team.
The team hopes the city approves the proposal by mid February so it can have renovations complete by June of 2008.
A public meeting held Wednesday night drew a big crowd. Many of them expressed a love for the Mallards, but concerns over parking, and continued use of the field for Little League games.
The committee at Wednesday's listening session is in charge of presenting a proposal to the city.