Kollege Town Groundbreaking

City, Kollege Town Sports and Riddell officials were all smiles when ground was broken in August 2016 for the company's Sun Prairie Business Park facility. Company officials confirmed Thursday the company will close the Sun Prairie plant in April, less than four years after construction began on the plant.

Kollege Town Sports will close its Sun Prairie facility in April — less than four years after announcing it would construct a facility in the Sun Prairie Business Park.

A company press release on Monday Feb. 10 by Kollege Town’s parent company, Riddell, announced it sold Kollege Town Sports, a division of the company’s apparel business, to BSN Sports, for an undisclosed amount.

Kollege Town is a team sports and corporate apparel dealer acquired by Riddell in 2015 to operate the company’s apparel business. Kollege Town and Riddell announced in 2016 they would construct a 102,125 sq. ft. facility in the Sun Prairie Business Park to move its facility from Windsor to Sun Prairie, and opened the facility in May, 2017.

Company president Tom Handlen, founded the apparel company, then known as Impact Sports, in 1990 as a fundraising and promotional venture.

Through the years, the business expanded with big name coaches and athletes praising the company’s products. The October 2015 Riddell acquisition helped KTS to expand operations and move to the bigger facility, Jeff Handlen said.

The move from Windsor to Sun Prairie was a homecoming for KTS, a business started by a family with deep roots in the city.

“Our family all graduated from Sun Prairie High School, so it was a big deal to feel like we were coming home and see the friendly faces that we used to see all the time,” Jeff Handlen said in an August 2017 issue of the Sun Prairie Star. Handlen grew up on Michigan Avenue near Royal Oaks Elementary School.

The Sun Prairie City Council OK’d creating Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District 12 to offer the company $1.3 million in a pay-go TIF incentive during the course of eight years. As part of the 2016 agreement, the company agreed to build the facility located at 1763 N. Bristol St. and worth $7.5 million, in addition to hiring 240 employees by 2021.

BSN Sports is the nation’s largest direct marketer and distributor of sporting goods to the school and league markets and a division of Varsity Brands. The sale includes a large portion of the Kollege Town sales force, sales management and customer service, and fanaKTive capabilities.

“This development provides Riddell the opportunity to advance our core football protective equipment business in an incredibly dynamic marketplace,” said Riddell and BRG Sports President and Chief Executive Officer Dan Arment. “Riddell will continue to lead the industry forward as it brings new protective technologies to the field that help athletes perform at their best.”

According to a press release, Riddell will maintain an apparel offering focused on Riddell branded football practice apparel, team sports stock game and custom uniforms, as well as a full complement of basics, coaching and spirit wear, in addition to football head protection, smart helmet technology and accessories.

Kollege Town specialized in screen printing, laser etching, embroidery and tackle twill. Kollege Town offered a variety of fan and spirit wear items. In addition to apparel, Kollege Town’s “fanaKTive” line provides sports fans with personalized wall and ground graphics.

The decision will impact 106 workers at the Sun Prairie facility, according to Erin Griffin, Riddell Vice President of Marketing & Communications. Most workers were told about the sale earlier this week, according to unconfirmed reports.

“The Sun Prairie facility will remain open with a reduced workforce for a period of time with [an] anticipated close in April 2020,” Griffin wrote in a Feb. 13 email.

An email forwarded to City Economic Development Director Neil Stechschulte seeking comment went unanswered as of 9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13. However on Friday, Feb. 14, Stechschulte shared the following statement:

"This past week, the City of Sun Prairie was notified that Riddell Sports Group had sold the Kollege Town Sports business line and that they intend to close the Sun Prairie facility by April 2020.

"Since 2016, the city has worked in good faith with both the employer and the building owner to ensure that a quality building with quality employment opportunities would be constructed. The completed industrial building ensures that enough property taxes will be generated to prevent any negative impact to city taxpayers.

"While we are disappointed that the project will be unable to fulfill its employment obligations, we look forward to the next employer who can take advantage of the rare opportunity presented by a new industrial building becoming available in Sun Prairie," Stechschulte added. "Our immediate concern is making sure any displaced employees have the appropriate resources to help them find local, quality employment options in this competitive labor market.”

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