The Fox Cities Champion Center will be a game changer for Grand Chute and surrounding areas.
When the $30 million sports complex opens later this year, it will be the culmination of five years of planning and construction, says Bob Buckingham, community development director for Grand Chute. The center includes a lobby and three pods — a designated hardcourt that can be used for basketball or volleyball, a designated ice rink that can be used for hockey games and practices as well as figure skating, and another area that will be used as an ice rink during the winter months and a hardcourt during the summer months.
“It is such a unique venue and will be a popular destination for teams and tournaments,” Buckingham says.
While the town owns the center, it will be leased to the not-for-profit Fox Cities Sports Development Inc., a subsidiary of the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau. Fox Cities Sports Development is hiring a professional operator to manage the facility.
“The center is programmed for tourism first and will drive additional spending at hotels, restaurants and retailers,” Buckingham says. “We want the center to be a premier venue that teams and players will want to come back to.”
Municipalities supporting the initiative through the collection of a hotel room tax include: the City of Appleton, Village of Fox Crossing, Town of Grand Chute, City of Kaukauna, Village of Kimberly, Village of Little Chute, City of Menasha, City of Neenah, Town of Neenah and Village of Sherwood.
Whether it’s the Fox Cities Champion Center or other reasons driving an increase in visitors to the Fox Cities, several hotels are under construction. Three hotels are going up in Grand Chute: Home Suites by Hilton, Fairfield Inn & Suites and Holiday Inn, which will be located across from the center and has room onsite for a Holiday Inn Express. In Kaukauna, a new GrandStay Hotel & Suites is being built on a former Gustman car lot. In addition, Cobblestone Hotel opened in Fox Crossing in January.
“In Grand Chute, we have such a high concentration of hospitality businesses, restaurants and retailers, and the Champion Center fit in well with our economic development plan,” Buckingham says.
Not too far away from the Champion Center, the $40 million Gulfstream expansion at Appleton International Airport in Greenville is an economic catalyst for the area, says Michael Brown, Greenville’s community and economic development director.
“It will bring a number of new jobs and indirect economic growth to the area,” he says. “ATW is a major draw for employers looking to locate in the area, so as it expands and attracts new airlines, it not only benefits Greenville, but the whole Fox Cities.”
Several once-vacant sites in the Fox Cities are finding new life for other uses. In Grand Chute, the former National Envelope site at the intersection of Interstate 41 and Wisconsin Avenue was redeveloped for retail and hospitality. Led by WG&R owner Jim Greene, the 30-acre site is home to a new WG&R furniture store with more developments coming, including an At Home store, which sells home goods, and a Kwik Trip. The property also has room for two medium-sized retailers, two restaurants and one hotel.
“The development is being carefully thought out, so the right businesses are going in there,” Buckingham says. “It won’t be another typical strip mall.”
In Neenah, a long-empty parcel next to the Ascension Medical Group clinic on Main Street is being looked at as a site for
a residential development. Arrowhead Park, which is located in that area, will also be redeveloped.
“We have a solid retail base in our downtown and lots of employees, and we believe residential would be a good fit and allow us to continue to grow,” says Chris Haese, director of community development and assessments for the City of Neenah. “We hope the park will become a jewel for not only Neenah, but the whole Fox Cities.”
In Neenah’s Southpark Industrial Park, two vacant buildings were filled during the past year when Horseshoe Beverage moved into an old Plexus building and Lico-US, a company jointly owned by Lico AG of Switzerland and Acoustic Ceiling Products of Neenah, moved into the former Werner Electric building.
“It’s good to see those buildings being reused,” Haese says.
The industrial park has 65 acres ready for development, with the majority of it being shovel-ready. “We can tailor it to people’s needs,” he adds.
In Kaukauna, Aurora BayCare is building a new clinic and ambulatory surgery center on land once used for a greyhound track. The 72,000-square-foot building will offer services including outpatient surgery, urgent care plus, primary care and specialty care. The facility is expected to open in 2020.
The former New Page paper plant in Kimberly has now been fully cleared and building has begun on several multifamily and single-family residences, with future development plans including additional housing, a park and some mixed-use possibilities. The entire development looks to take advantage of scenic views of the Fox River.
The City of Menasha is looking to redevelop the Water Street corridor, which stretches from Tayco Street to the Menasha Lock. The city is holding design workshops with residents and businesses to gather ideas and create a vision for the area. It is working with a consultant to develop a plan that may include a new linear park, additional trail connections and improved wayfinding and streetscape improvement. The Menasha Common Council will vote on a plan later this spring.