City edges toward Ashley Field redevelopment collaboration

Ashley Field renovations could bring an economic development boost to downtown Sun Prairie with shops and retail space surrounding the new stadium.

Ashley Field renovations could bring an economic development boost to downtown Sun Prairie with shops and retail space surrounding the new stadium.

The Sun Prairie Area School District is renovating the longtime sports field with a proposed 4.200 seat, field turf stadium, backed by funding approved in an April referendum.

City officials want more involvement in redevelopment around the stadium project, seeing a potential to bring more city residents and visitors to downtown.

“We are trying to see how this strategic area, Ashley Field, fits into the overall downtown and what types of events and things we could have to create that downtown destination that we would all like to have,” City Administrator Aaron Oppenheimer said at the July 16 Committee of the Whole meeting.

A draft resolution, approved by Committee of the Whole members on Tuesday July 16, acknowledges a common interest between the city and the SPASD in the Ashley Field redevelopment.

No specific collaboration details were outlined in the resolution.

Retail and restaurants and other businesses could be part of the redevelopment effort, similar to the Breese Stevens Terrace in the City of Madison, Oppenheimer said. The historic multi-purpose stadium on East Washington Avenue hosts concerts, sporting events, markets, the Forward Madison FC Flamingos soccer team and other activities.

The city, under the resolution, would allow a downtown tax increment finance (TIF) district expansion to include redevelopment around the new stadium. Oppenheimer said that would allow the city to acquire properties or offer tax incentives to bring in new businesses.

The city has already asked its consultant, The Lakota Group, to include the Ashley Field area in its Bristol and Main Street redevelopment plan. That effort is to help rebuild the area destroyed by the July 10, 2018 explosion and fire.

With that redevelopment plan and the Comprehensive Plan both in the works, the city wants to provide directions to the school district on traffic, access, parking, pedestrian safety, public spaces and other issues in its Ashley Field project. City officials say a more formal partnership could occur with a memo of understanding between the city and school district.

District 3 Alder Mike Jacobs said he thought the collaboration was a great idea but wouldn’t support using city dollars for the stadium rebuild.

Oppenheimer clarified that any city investment would not be for the Ashley Field renovation but adjacent lots to the project.

Sun Prairie Area School District voters approved a referendum to fund the Ashley Field stadium project. The school district has not revealed costs for the project yet.

District 2 Alder and City Council President Bill Connors, who is a liaison with the SPASD, said the plan calls for a multi-purpose stadium for school sporting events and other activities.

“It could be used for performance space for the Sound of Sun Prairie, concerts— it could be a wide variety of things. They are hoping that the venue is going to be heavily used,” Connors said.

A July 22 open house at the Sun Prairie High School Commons from 5-6 p.m. will allow the public to learn more about the progress of the High School and the Multipurpose Stadium at Ashley Field. After months of staff input and committee meetings, SPASD is ready to show some design concepts and answer questions.

Interested individuals may follow the progress of the committee work on the website sunprairieschools.org/ref2019.

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