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Baseball Is Staying In Beloit

Posted by Daniel Venn , 11 February 2020 · 607 views

The history of baseball in Beloit will not end after the 2020 season, but that’s nothing new.

For the past four years, Quint and Rishy Studer, both from just up highway 51 in Janesville, have worked diligently to ensure that baseball remains in Beloit.

It is of great credit that the Snappers Community Board has kept baseball in place in Beloit, and their hard work is now being rewarded. A new ballpark is coming to Beloit, with the Studers and Riverbend Stadium Group joining with community leader Diane Hendricks to make it happen.

To the Studers and many local citizens, this isn’t a business deal. This isn’t about revenue or return on investment.

This is about a community, a hometown, and the impact the game of baseball can have to improve lives. This is about ensuring that Quint and Rishy’s children and grandchildren, who still reside twenty minutes away in Janesville, can join families across southern Wisconsin in enjoying sunny afternoons at the ballpark. This is about revitalizing a downtown and bringing a newfound vibrancy to a city.

Twenty years ago, the Studers encountered a similar situation in Pensacola, Florida, a city Quint’s career in healthcare had brought the couple to. Just days after they’d attended a Pensacola Pelicans game, a first-year, upstart independent league team in the Southeastern League, they noticed an ad in the local newspaper: the team was for sale.

Not even half-way through the team’s inaugural season, the owner was already pulling out. If a new owner didn’t step up, professional baseball would be gone in Pensacola quicker than it had started.

Unwilling to let that happen, the Studers bought the team. They spent their weekends at the ballpark, setting up folding chairs in the stands themselves before each game and carrying them away after.

Two years later, the league itself folded, and baseball in Pensacola could have easily gone with it. Instead, the Studers purchased a failing franchise in the Central Baseball League and inserted the Pelicans in their place.

Throughout their first season in the CBL, it was clear the league was struggling. To keep baseball in Pensacola, the Studers took extraordinary steps, at times paying the salaries and travel expenses of other teams in the league to ensure games would continue being played in Pensacola.

The league folded at the end of the year. Again, an opportunity to walk away. Again, the Studers refused.
The Pelicans joined the American Association, traveling as far as Saint Paul, Minnesota to play the Saints.

Simply having a baseball team wasn’t enough. Pensacola needed a downtown community gathering place to return business to a stagnant local economy. The Pelicans, playing at a small local college, drew a lot of fans, but not to Pensacola’s downtown area in need of revitalization.

So, the Studers set off on a multi-year quest to build a downtown ballpark, facing outspoken critics, insults, and red tape.

It took six years of referendums and tens of millions of dollars of their own money, but in 2012, the ballpark opened, transforming a parcel of waste-covered ocean-side property that the local newspaper referred to as a ‘contaminated eyesore’ into one of America’s premier minor league facilities. With it came an affiliated franchise.

Less than a decade later, Pensacola’s economy has been kickstarted. Property values surrounding the stadium have jumped more than 35%. Millions of dollars returned downtown as new businesses opened around the ballpark, bringing thousands of jobs to the sector. Tourism has reached historic levels. The city was named the Strongest Town in America by Strong Towns in 2019.

Even as the team has established itself as one of the most successful businesses in minor league sports, the Studers have refused to take a paycheck from the business they invested tens of millions of their money into. Instead, all profits of the team are re-invested in the community, helping fund a children’s hospital, scholarships, early-childhood education, and other philanthropic efforts across the city.

That’s the kind of impact they hope keeping baseball in Beloit will have on the town.

Beloit currently sits in the same place that Pensacola sat throughout the 2000s, unsure if its hometown baseball team will remain. The Snappers’ place on the recently released list of minor league teams facing elimination and questions about the economic viability of baseball in the area have made it seem unlikely that an investment group like the one formed by the Studers, Diane Hendricks, and Riverbend Stadium Group would step up.

But, when the goal isn’t to profit, but to create a beautiful community gathering place, to spur economic development downtown, and to offer affordable, family-friendly entertainment to a city, the dollars and cents don’t have to make sense.

A new stadium is coming to Beloit and baseball is staying.

  • bighat and Doctor Gast like this

Doctor Gast
Feb 12 2020 08:50 AM

Does my heart good to see these sacrifices to maintain this wonderful & wholesome culture into the family community. Many times they are under-valued & ignored then society suffers