Sturgeon Bay softball field at center of housing debate

STURGEON BAY, Wis (WBAY) - Some Sturgeon Bay community members are upset over the potential loss of an historical softball field to development.

"This field has given back to the city and I hope that it gets the respect that it deserves," says Sturgeon Bay resident and business owner Woody Wodack.

He considers West Side Field a gem in the community with decades of history. And he's not alone.

"This is a very unique field. I've had people call me today and say they played all over but never played at a field quite like this," says Wodack.

But the field's days could be numbered.

On Tuesday night, the city council voted 5-2 to move forward in working with an Oshkosh developer to redevelop the vacant West Side school and adjacent softball field to fill a major need in the community.

"Create an opportunity for some affordable housing in the community, the unfortunate side is while we have an opportunity to address a housing need, that is likely going to come at the expense of what is a well-liked and well-remembered softball field," says City Administrator Josh VanLieshout.

He says the council support for the project to build 40 housing units is a matter of growing Sturgeon Bay's economy.

"When we go into the industrial park and sit down with our employers and talk to their HR directors, one of the things they tell us is boy, we can grown, we would love to grow, but for us to attract people here they need a place to live," says VanLieshout.

VanLieshout says final approval for the project won't be determined until next spring, and he says the city will work with residents concerned about losing the field.

For Wodack, the fight is just beginning.

"We are not against the low income, we're just against taking this field away, there's other ways of doing this," says Wodack.

The city administrator says if the softball field is developed, the city vows to make improvements at other community outdoor recreation facilities.