Breese Stevens

A worker pressure washes seats at Breese Stevens Field in the summer of 2016. The city is proposing to add a building with concessions and restrooms at the facility, which is seeing increasing use for sports activities, concerts and other events.

Madison plans to continue investing in resurgent Breese Stevens Field on the Near East Side, this time with a new one-story commercial building inside the landmark structure.

The city’s Parks Division is proposing a $1.1 million project including a 3,750-square-foot building that would provide permanent concessions space and more restrooms next to the 1928 grandstand at the west end of the facility, 917 E. Mifflin St.

The project also includes masonry repairs to the existing stadium’s facade and the addition of rain gutters to the existing roof canopy.

The moves are “an effort to make the historic landmark a more viable event space and to help ensure its ongoing preservation through continued and more diversified uses,” Parks spokeswoman Ann Shea said.

Since the mid-2000s, the city has been making major improvements at Breese Stevens, including the game-changing installation of artificial turf in 2015.

In late 2015, the city hired Big Top Baseball, which runs the Madison Mallards and other minor league teams, to operate the facility with the hope that Big Top would bring its Mallards magic to the historic but long-underused stadium and continue the hip revival of the East Washington Avenue corridor.

This season alone, the stadium hosted an array of sporting contests; concerts by Boston, the Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams and others; and events ranging from a wedding to the Midwest Regional Quidditch Championships to open-air markets to the Catch and Reel dinner and film series. The rock band Queens of the Stone Age is already booked for a concert on May 22.

Currently, Big Top uses a temporary structure to house its food service, organization president Vern Stenman said.

“There’s absolutely not a space in Breese that can be licensed as a permanent kitchen,” he said. “We have been operating with temporary licenses. It’s been OK, but it’s not something that will work over time.”

The new building would allow Big Top to offer a wider range of foods and provide more flexibility to tailor offerings to events, Stenman said.

The building would also significantly increase permanent restrooms, although some temporary restrooms would still be needed for bigger events until additional permanent ones are built in the future, he said.

“We’re competing with other municipalities to bring in events,” Stenman said. “A facility like this will give us a little bit of an advantage.”

The single-story addition would have only a minor impact on a portion of the lower seating sight lines, which are infrequently used given their distance to the athletic field and performance stage, Shea said.

Breese Stevens Municipal Athletic Field was built in 1925, with additions in 1934 and 1939. The stone wall enclosing the field was built by the Civil Works Administration in 1934.

It was designated a city landmark in 1995 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

The city’s Planning Division staff is recommending the Landmarks Commission approve the proposed project with certain conditions. The proposal also needs approval from the Urban Design Commission.

If approvals are secured, façade restoration would occur next summer, with the majority of the addition construction work happening during the event off-season of 2018-19.


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