--Photos from the press conference below!--
Wisconsin Rapids, WI--December 16, 2009. The Northwoods League is officially coming to Wisconsin Rapids and will be calling historic Witter Field home. The team will be owned by Steve Schmitt, who owns the Madison Mallards in the NWL, and Vern Stenman who has operated the Madison franchise since its inception in 2001. The General Manager of the team will be Liz Kern, who has been the Mallards Customer Service and Ticket Sales Manager the past three years, becoming the Northwoods League’s first female GM in its 16-year history. The expansion franchise becomes the league’s 16th team.
In 2001, Schmitt and Stenman took over the expansion Mallards after three professional teams had failed in Madison and have since transformed the franchise into being the widely-regarded most successful summer collegiate team in the country, drawing 6,005 fans per game in 2009 which was nearly twice the next closest team in the country (La Crosse, WI). The 2009 attendance ranked the Mallards 31st amongst all minor league teams in the country (including summer collegiate, independent and affiliated professional) in per-game attendance while operating in the 84th largest media market in the country. In 2004 the team drew a summer collegiate baseball record crowd of 10,061 fans and in August of 2007, Madison surpassed the One Million mark in franchise attendance, when ten-year-old John Olsen of Elkhorn, Wisc. walked through the gates of the ballpark affectionately known as the “Duck Pond.”
The Mallards have also been competitive on the field appearing in the playoffs in five of the last seven summers and competing in three NWL Championship Series’, winning the title in 2004 over the Duluth Huskies. Over 51 former Mallards have been drafted and competed in professional baseball.
Kern, a 2006 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, was an outfielder on the softball team and will be moving to Wisconsin Rapids permanently in January. She has managed the Mallards customer service working with over 600 business clients and has been responsible for renewing over 95% of those accounts annually. Kern joined the Mallards as a part-time employee in 2004 and has seen an increased amount of responsibility every year since that time.
Witter Field hosted minor league baseball until 1983 when the Wisconsin Rapids Twins of the Midwest League departed for Kenosha, WI. Since then the field’s primary tenant has been the Wisconsin Rapids Legion program who has done an admirable job maintaining the historic field. The Legion teams will continue to have access to the ballpark during the term of the lease and the NWL team is excited about working with the Legion and all other area teams.
“The Wisconsin Rapids Legion program is one of the best in the country and we couldn’t be more excited to be coming to a market that already has a great passion for baseball – we look forward to helping build that passion in Rapids for years to come,” said GM Kern.
The ownership group will detail a plan to install 400 permanent former-County Stadium seats at Witter Field for 2010 as part of a partnership with the city of Wisconsin Rapids.
A “Name the Hometown Team” contest will run through the middle part of January with the winner receiving season tickets for 2010. Those wishing to submit entries should visit Rapidsbaseball.com. Team name ideas can also be submitted via email to
Ticket pricing, team name and logo will be unveiled at a press conference in January. Fans can get priority seat selection by placing a $25 deposit by visiting Rapidsbaseball.com, calling the office at 715-424-5400, or at the press conference* tonight.
**Please note that both Schmitt & Stenman will still resume responsibilities with the Madison Mallards.
NWL President Dick Radatz Jr. gets the press conference started by welcoming the Wisconsin Rapids crowd and introducing the team's new owners, Steve Schmitt and Vern Stenman.
Stenman, who will be the President of both the Wisconsin Rapids franchise and the Madison Mallards, talks about the plan to install 400 former County Stadium seats into Witter Field beginning in 2010.
Schmitt spoke on how the team won't be a success until every fan has a smile on his/her face and that the entertainment will be geared for those aged "2 to 92."
Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Mary Jo Carson talked about the city's excitement level now that a minor league type-atmosphere returns to Witter Field for the first time since 1983.
Kern, the league's first female GM in its 16-year history, mentioned the need for host families and the team's "Name the Hometown Team" contest whereby fans can submit ideas to
Over 70 locals braved the near-zero temperatures to show support for the city's newest business and form of family-friendly entertainment.