There’s a new tenant in downtown Beloit, and the community is embracing it. ABC Supply Stadium, the new home of the Beloit Snappers, brings opportunity and excitement to the area, but more importantly, it provides a major economic boost to downtown Beloit. Take a journey through this eye-popping facility and find out why it’s more than just a baseball stadium.
It’s more than a baseball field.
Those words, uttered by Brent Bartels, media and public relations manager for the Beloit Snappers, perfectly describe the shiny new ABC Supply Stadium, 217 Shirland Ave., which is nestled between the Rock River and Beloit City Hall, just a stone’s throw away from the Illinois/Wisconsin state line.
It’s more than a new home for Beloit’s High-A, minor-league affiliate of the Miami Marlins.
This new gem, which uses downtown Beloit as a backdrop, is designed to be an entertainment destination that promises to be a major economic boost for Beloit and the surrounding area.
“This process is designed to better Beloit and the state-line community and bring the downtown area together,” Bartels says.
The stadium opened its doors in early August, several months after it was supposed to be finished for Opening Day. Construction was delayed because of the ongoing pandemic.
As the world returns somewhat to normal, Beloit’s new stadium is poised for big things.
“The stadium is being built for events and programming to take place 365 days a year,” says Celestino Ruffini, CEO of Visit Beloit. “That’s an entirely new level of product that’s never been offered in downtown Beloit. We’ve never had an attraction of that magnitude built with the focus of something happening every day of the year.”
A Look Inside
Beloit is one of just 120 American cities with a Major League-affiliated minor league baseball team. It’s a designation that Beloit leaders are proud of – and one they intend to keep.
That the city even has its minor-league team this year is due to the new stadium. These modern amenities make it a crown jewel among minor-league parks.
ABC Supply Stadium, which broke ground on June 16, 2020, features a jaw-dropping grandstand with administrative offices, top-of-the-line player facilities, concessions, restrooms and a 300-person stadium club that’s available year-round. The main concourse wraps around the facility.
Everything here makes a major improvement upon Harry C. Pohlman Field, where the Snappers have played since 1982.
“Pohlman Field was built as a baseball stadium for baseball events, and there are a few more than 70 games a year taking place there,” Ruffini says. “Outside of that, it’s quiet and the lights are off. With this stadium, baseball is the primary tenant, but the complex is designed where the other 280 days can also be filled. That’s what we’re most excited about.”
One of the main assets is the 135,000-square-foot artificial turf field that allows the stadium to host non-baseball events like soccer and football games or live music – as you might see at Wrigley Field, the Brewers’ American Family Field or the Marlins’ home at LoanDepot Park.
“It’s meant to mimic what Miami has, because that’s our parent club,” Bartels says. “The dirt is also very similar.”
The stadium’s overall design is also meant to mimic the modern-meets-classic baseball field, like what you might find at Denver’s Coors Field, St. Louis’ new Busch Stadium, or Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
“[Oriole Park] was the stadium we were going after, with the bullpens in left field, the wall design and the overall look and feel of the stadium,” Bartels says.
As the Beloit Snappers hit the field this summer, they can welcome some 3,500 people, but upwards of 10,000 can squeeze in during non-baseball events.
A 40-by-40-foot, high-definition video board keeps the excitement going.
“It’s probably the staple of this place,” Bartels says. “Pohlman didn’t have a board, so it’s cool that we can actually show highlights during the game. It’s something that we’re proud of.”
If you’re hungry, there are plenty of food options scattered throughout the stadium. In right field, there’s a designated place for food trucks to park and serve patrons. In addition, the stadium has five concession concepts, ranging from street tacos to traditional hot dogs and nachos.
The stadium cost roughly $37 million, but taxpayers won’t spend a penny on it, because it’s been privately funded in part by Diane Hendricks, a local businesswoman who’s been involved with real estate development and whose late husband, Ken, co-founded ABC Supply Co., a major supplier of exterior building products.
Because the facility was dubbed as a multi-use amenity, it qualified for a nonprofit status, meaning capital donations were able to help fund construction.
“It is extremely rare for a stadium like this to be funded with zero tax dollars anywhere in the country and, quite frankly, it just doesn’t happen anymore, but it happened here in Beloit,” Ruffini says.
Because of Hendricks’ generosity, baseball fans won’t see much of a difference in price, either.
“Ticket prices are an increase of $1 compared to Pohlman Field, which we think is understandable, since you’re going to a brand-new ballpark,” Bartels says. “The intention was to keep ticket prices and food prices similar.”
The stadium boasts two large banquet halls that can accommodate 300 people for weddings, banquets and other community events. The Beloit Health System Club is a 5,000-square-foot luxury club with indoor seating, an outdoor balcony and stunning views of the Rock River.
The First National Bank and Trust group suites have room for 100 guests and also feature outdoor balcony seating and cozy indoor seating.
On game day, season ticket holders can enjoy several perks, including private bathrooms and upscale food choices.
“Even if we can’t do something outside during the winter months, we have these event spaces, so we can hold events and activities all year ‘round,” Bartels says.
The Need for a New Stadium
ABC Supply Stadium was literally built to impress, because if it didn’t, the city could easily have lost its minor-league affiliate.
At Pohlman Field, the Snappers lacked many of the amenities required for today’s minor league teams.
“Minor League Baseball went to the Snappers and said, ‘Your standards are way out-of-date, your facilities are dilapidated, and they don’t accommodate our players and talent very well, so we’re going to pull the team,’” says John Gackstetter, representative of the Riverbend Stadium Authority, the nonprofit organization that was tasked with designing, developing and owning ABC Supply Stadium. “It’s always been a conversation, but about four years ago, Minor League Baseball said either you build a new stadium, or we’re pulling your team.”
Things came to a head last year, when Major League Baseball (MLB) was finalizing new standards for its minor league.
“We were one of the 40 teams that was going to be cut,” says Bartels, “but with this facility, everything changed.”
Last February, Beloit was invited to be an affiliate of the Miami Marlins as part of the new Professional Development License (PDL) system, which was put in place by MLB.
“In order for a minor-league team to be affiliated with a major-league team, they need a PDL, and with that license come rules and regulations that your stadium and ownership has to abide by,” says John Gackstetter. “ABC Supply Stadium is one of the only minor-league stadium that meets all of the new rules and regulations.”
By comparison, Pohlman Field didn’t meet those standards or even previous minor league standards for items including clubhouse size, dugout space and the playing surface. Most of the requirements center around player facilities.
The Snappers reached out to Hendricks’ organization looking for help and guidance to develop, build and design a new stadium.
“That’s where the conversation started,” Gackstetter says. “The question raised was how do we make this not just a baseball stadium, but a community amenity, because it shouldn’t just be about baseball. Baseball is a large component of this stadium, but it needs to be bigger than baseball and bigger than just Beloit. This amenity is something we want the stateline area to have access to.”
An Economic Boost for Beloit
Now that Beloit has locked in minor league baseball for years to come, city officials expect to reap many benefits.
The new stadium is a welcome sight for businesses operating in Beloit, the downtown area and the surrounding region.
While it’s still too early for Ruffini to estimate the economic impact of this stadium, he believes the boost is going to be substantial.
“This stadium is as much about keeping our minor league baseball team in Beloit as it is building a stronger quality of life for our residents here,” he says. “It’ll also help us attract companies to the area and it’ll help us retain employees from our existing companies.”
During the stadium planning phase, there was some conversation about whether it should be built near Interstate 90. The argument was that it had easy access for people coming from out of town and it’d be visible from the highway. The problem with that approach, Gackstetter says, is it might’ve been a little too easy for people to attend a game and go home, without actually exploring Beloit.
“There was land available to the development group out by the highway, but we wanted to increase the vibrancy in downtown Beloit,” he says. “Plus, when you build a stadium by the highway, people only come for the game and go home. We wanted to weave it into the fabric of downtown Beloit.”
That was strategically done in two ways. First, the stadium is located in downtown Beloit, on a former industrial site between City Hall and the Rock River. It’s located about a block away from Main Street restaurants and businesses.
The stadium has basic on-site parking and Gackstetter says that was done on purpose.
There are only 148 parking stalls immediately outside the stadium, but there’s more than 1,500 parking stalls within a 10-minute walk from the stadium.
“The goal was to utilize the existing public parking and by doing that, people will walk past the storefronts, restaurants and experience everything downtown Beloit has to offer,” he says. “It’ll hopefully spur interest, activity and help promote the downtown businesses, which’ll impact this small, yet thriving community.”
Since thousands of people can visit the stadium for any given event, downtown businesses stand to see a serious uptick in traffic on event days. Gackstetter estimates roughly 250,000 people will visit ABC Supply Stadium each year.
“There are also people who travel from other places to see their team play, so that means people from out of town are looking for area hotels and restaurants, which also helps the downtown,” Ruffini says.
Despite the low number of on-site parking spaces, Gackstetter says the Snappers still meet all ADA requirements for accessibility to patrons.
“The priority was always about increasing downtown vibrancy while meeting the basic parking needs, not about building a massive parking field,” he says.
The stadium also is providing a boost to the workforce. There were more than 120 workers on site each day during the 13-month construction process, along with 55 contractors and suppliers working to complete the stadium, which made up an estimated 225,000 man-hours.
The facility also created an additional 150 day-to-day jobs.
Ruffini says this project could spur the start of future development in the surrounding areas.
“It wouldn’t be too surprising to see this complex encourage other developers to think about expanding the entertainment, retail, and dining options near the stadium,” Ruffini says.
“For those who want to be in close proximity to the events and activities happening at the stadium, the west bank of the riverfront is prime real estate for those to move within walking distance. Within the next couple of years, it’ll be impressive if people continue to invest their own dollars into this community.”
As stadiums are traditionally built, people typically become attracted to the energy of those facilities, so businesses and residents like being in close proximity, Gackstetter says.
“A lot of times, you’ll see apartments or condominiums pop up directly adjacent or very close to the stadium,” he says. “You’ll also see restaurants locate closer to the stadium. Right now, there’s a lot of capacity to accommodate future development in and around the stadium. The ultimate vision is to have more businesses and people recognize the amenity that the stadium is and hopefully, they’ll want to be located near it. As it happens, the downtown will build up over time.”
As that area continues to grow over the next several years, Gackstetter and his team hopes to see an increase in population and vibrancy.
“It could help drive the economy naturally and help prop up downtown Beloit,” he says.
‘A Generational Change’
With a new stadium comes a new identity. At the conclusion of this season, the Beloit Snappers will rebrand under a new name.
“We’re starting over,” Bartels says. “We have a new stadium and a new affiliate, so we’re changing the name. We’re sending Snappy on a farewell tour this season, and we’ll re-brand the team this fall.”
Ruffini says he’s looking forward to working late and making the short walk from his downtown office to the new stadium.
He couldn’t be prouder of the stadium and what it means to the city.
“This is a generational change for our community,” he says. “Our community needs more attractions, and now we have a big one. It’s a great time to be in Beloit.”
Who is ABC Supply Co.?
ABC Supply Co. is one of the nation’s largest wholesale suppliers of roofing, siding and windows.
Beloit is where everything started for ABC Supply, which has been headquartered in southern Wisconsin since it was co-founded by the late Ken Hendricks in 1982. From three original stores, the company has since expanded to more than 800 locations across the country.
This Beloit firm bought the naming rights for the Beloit Snappers’ new stadium downtown.
Rich Thompson, ABC Supply’s director of marketing and national business development, says getting involved was a no-brainer.
“Our owner, Diane Hendricks, feels strongly about giving back to the Beloit community,” he says. “When she decided to lead the charge on building a new baseball stadium, ABC Supply knew it was an opportunity to support her efforts.”
It was also a way of thanking the community.
“We know we could not have grown to be a $12 billion business without the support of our associates and the Beloit community,” Thompson says. “Supporting the Snappers is a small way to give back. We’re excited to support the stadium well after opening day by hosting our ABC Supply associates and customers for games and events throughout the year.”
ABC Supply Stadium By the Numbers:
-$37 million price tag
-Roughly 120 workers on site each day; 220,000 man hours
-135,000-square-feet of artificial turf
-148 parking spaces on-site, with more than 1,500 parking spaces within a 10-minute walk
-200,000 Bricks laid
-12,000 cubic yards of concrete
-6 miles of electrical conduit
-500 tons of steel erected
-30 tons of sand and rubber added to the turf
-3,500 stadium capacity for baseball games and 6,000 for concerts
-300-person event space
-40×40 square foot high-definition videoboard