High performance

Community First Champion Center sees successful start

Posted on Feb 27, 2020 :: Economic Development
Jessica Thiel
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

With the flick of a wrist and a ball sent flying, the Community First Champion Center in Grand Chute kicked off its opening weekend with a handball tournament in late November and has been going strong ever since.

Jason Habeck, sales and marketing manager for the center, says the facility has been exceeding expectations for bookings. It’s been busy every weekend, including multiple weekends in which every competition space has been filled. The center has events booked every weekend through May.

“To have all three competition spaces going during multiple weekends, I think that’s more than what we could have asked for,” he says.

The $30 million center, which is projected to provide an $8 million-plus annual economic impact, was funded through hotel-motel room taxes from 10 Fox Cities municipalities. Habeck says delivering on that economic impact and creating 20,000 hotel room nights remains the goal.

The center has brought in people from outside a 100-mile radius of the Fox Cities, with teams traveling from Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa. Large events have included a state gymnastics meet with more than 200 competitors and a Prep Dig volleyball competition. Habeck says the center is vying to bring in a hockey tournament that would draw teams from throughout the Midwest.

The facility features a year-round ice rink with seating for up to 1,000, a fieldhouse with four basketball courts or eight volleyball courts and a seasonal arena that doubles as an ice rink and four basketball or eight volleyball courts. Basketball, hockey and volleyball have been the biggest revenue generators for the center.

As the warmer months approach and the center enters its slow season, Habeck says the focus will switch to offering local programming opportunities, such as camps. The Junior Gamblers and Appleton Youth Hockey also will use the ice throughout the summer.

Another project funded by hotel-motel room taxes, the Fox Cities Exhibition Center, has taken on a new use with Appleton Downtown Inc.’s Community Public Market series of events. ADI held its first market in February and has additional ones slated for March 21 and April 18.

Lynn Schlemm, marketing director for ADI, says the exhibition center provides a venue that allows the organization to freshen its indoor farm markets, which typically include 25 to 30 vendors and are held inside City Center. With the larger space, Schlemm and the ADI team hoped to replicate the vibe of the outdoor Downtown Appleton Farm Market.

If initial results are any indication, the concept has succeeded. The first market featured more than 80 vendors that included retailers, food and restaurants, and nonprofits, family-friendly activities and live music. It drew more than 3,000 people, and Schlemm says it gave many people a chance to experience the exhibition center for the first time.

“We were over the moon about the number of attendees, but then the kicker is, are they spending? The vendors were ecstatic with how their sales were,” Schlemm says.

ADI plans to continue to hold monthly markets throughout the winter, with the possibility of adding a January market in 2021.

Menasha downtown takes shape

The site of a devastating fire is poised to take on a new life in downtown Menasha. The historic Brin Theatre building was destroyed in a 2018 blaze.

In December, the Menasha Common Council unanimously approved taking the next steps on a development proposal for the site. The $10 million investment would include a three-story mixed-use building, a four-story, 46-unit residential building, community gathering spaces and connectivity to water and trails on the corner of Main and Tayco streets, creating a gateway to downtown Menasha.

As a nod to its roots and the original 1928 building, the new development is called The Brin. RF Development, Vision Architecture and CR Structures are leading the project. “We are excited to participate in this team to revitalize downtown Menasha. I am passionate about improving where I live and raise my family,” Kip Golden, co-owner of CR Structures and Menasha resident, said of the project.

As of mid-February, the city and developer were working to finish the draft development agreement to present to the council. CR Structures expects a 12-month construction period with an anticipated spring 2021 completion date.

Sam Schroeder, community development director for the City of Menasha, says the project promises to become a defining anchor for the city’s downtown. In addition, it will help the city achieve its goal of offering a mix of retail, dining, entertainment, office and residential space.

“The goal with the development design is create an iconic and influential project that enhances the walkability and connectivity of the downtown while setting a tone for future urban renewal and growth within this corridor,” he says.

Elsewhere in the Fox Cities

The City of Neenah is working through the final stages of preparing development agreements for two downtown housing projects: a multifamily residential building and a mixed-use building with retail on the ground floor and residential units above. It would add around 100 market-rate units to the city’s downtown.

Chris Haese, director of community development and assessments for the City of Neenah, says the projects would add a needed element to the city’s downtown, which has a strong retail and employee base but lacks residential options.

ThedaCare’s decision to move its headquarters from downtown Appleton to downtown Neenah further strengthens that employee base but brings the need for additional parking. The city is looking at adding a parking structure.

“The great news is that Theda is coming back to Neenah and we look forward to having them in our downtown,” Haese says.

This summer, Aurora BayCare will open its outpatient clinic, ambulatory surgery center and urgent care facility near Interstate 41 and Highway 55 in Kaukauna. The 72,000-square-foot clinic will include 13 clinic specialties, seven outpatient surgery specialties, a dedicated area for rehabilitation and sports medicine, Urgent Care Plus, diagnostics and pharmacy.

The Village of Kimberly continues to progress in its Cedars riverfront redevelopment project. It includes the 20-acre Rivers Edge subdivision, Riverfront Developments luxury apartments, the 49-unit Papermill Estates, mixed-use development The Roots, and Treaty Park, an entrance to the Cedars redevelopment.

The village is working with the project’s developer to create a public scenic overlook of the Fox River. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. awarded the village $250,000 in June 2019 for the construction of the overlook feature.

In Greenville, a large warehouse is under construction at the corner of County Road CB and Levi Drive. Ryan Companies of Minneapolis is the developer behind the project, and the town has not disclosed plans for the facility, which could open this summer. Demand for warehouse and distribution space throughout the region remains high.