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Breese Stevens

The owners of Forward Madison FC and managers of its home field want to build 11 field-level suites that would be on the side of Breese Stevens Field running parallel to East Washington Avenue. 

A city commission approved a plan for field-level suite boxes for professional soccer games at a historic Near East Side stadium after the original proposal was changed to better match the stadium’s aesthetic.

The Madison Landmarks Commission unanimously approved a proposal Monday by the operator of Breese Stevens Field, Big Top Events, to build suites at the stadium for Forward Madison FC soccer games.

But that proposal wasn’t what Big Top originally envisioned.

Last week, city staff recommended the commission deny its proposal, saying the original proposal’s structures didn’t meet historic preservation requirements and would have been too visible from East Washington Avenue.

After Big Top made changes to better match the stadium’s character, Heather Bailey, a Madison preservation planner, said Monday that the city would recommend that the commission approve the proposal.

Ald. Ledell Zellers, whose 2nd District includes the stadium, also said on Monday that she supports the new proposal.

“I’m very pleased with the changes ... I agree that it’s a much better proposal now,” she said.

The proposal still must be approved by the Urban Design Commission.

Vern Stenman, president of Big Top Events, said the changes — like switching from a vinyl roof to a metal one matching the reddish-brown roof of the press box, going from white walls to tan and painting the framing brown to match the stadium’s grandstand — will look better than the original proposal.

“We think, actually, that it’s a better plan,” Stenman said.

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The maximum height of the structures could also be decreased 2 feet to 13 feet to limit how much of the roof rises above the limestone wall of the stadium running along East Washington Avenue.

“By using Breese Stevens Field in the way that we’re planning to this year and beyond, that’s the best way to keep a historic facility vibrant in the community,” Stenman said. “I’m excited that the commission saw it that way as well.”

Suite experience

Big Top, which owns Forward Madison and the Madison Mallards baseball team, has said building 11 suite boxes in two structures would give spectators an experience similar to a luxury suite at Miller Park or the Kohl Center.

The 15-by-15-foot suites would have furniture, a refrigerator, outdoor seating and access to a concession area by the press box.

They could also be quickly removed from the stadium.

Stenman has said one ticket for a 16-person suite would be at the higher end of the team’s most expensive ticket cost of about $90, but would also include food and beverages.

The suites would mostly be geared to businesses for hosting employees or clients, he has said. They would be among many changes at the stadium made for the city’s new professional soccer team.

Upgrades to the historic stadium include a new concession area, bathrooms, team store, scoreboard and locker rooms. Its seating capacity was also increased from 2,800 to 5,000.

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