PRESS RELEASE – The La Crosse Loggers and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse have announced an agreement in principle to provide for the long-term financial stability of the UW-La Crosse baseball program and to raise funds needed for enhancement to the baseball facilities at city-owned Copeland Park.
As part of their new partnership with UW-La Crosse, the Loggers have committed to making an annual donation to the University sufficient in size to cover the baseball program’s yearly fundraising needs. In May 2009, UW-La Crosse, facing budgetary pressures from the state, discontinued funding the salaries for the head coaches of its baseball and men’s tennis programs. Both programs were revived through private donations, and fundraising efforts have remained ongoing to ensure future opportunities for student-athletes in these programs. By virtue of this collaboration, however, UW-La Crosse will have a consistent revenue stream to fund its baseball program for years to come.
Also under the agreement, UW-La Crosse will assist the Loggers in raising funds to pay for proposed improvements to Copeland Park. The facility improvement proposal calls for approximately $650,000 in upgrades, including installation of an artificial turf infield surface, addition of a video board, and construction of batting cages. The project will be funded entirely with private funds; no taxpayer dollars will be used. In exchange for its fundraising assistance, UW-La Crosse could begin to play its home baseball schedule at Copeland Park, possibly as early as the 2013 season, contingent on the facility improvement timeline and final agreement with the City of La Crosse.
Loggers’ owner Dan Kapanke said the partnership is collaboration with three outstanding organizations. “Partnering with UW-L was an easy choice and then to couple that with enhancing the city-owned facility that is Copeland Park to make it an even more attractive place for baseball teams of our community to utilize is a great ‘win’ for everyone involved,” said Kapanke.
Copeland Park hosts nearly 200 baseball events a year, a number that promises to increase with the addition of an artificial turf playing surface. With turf and lights, more games can be played in a single day, maintenance costs drop dramatically, and weather concerns are mitigated. These improvements will benefit the entire La Crosse baseball community. Once work is finished, Copeland Park will be one of the Midwest’s premier baseball venues. All of the park’s users, including the Loggers, local high schools, American Legion baseball, various youth baseball programs, UW-La Crosse, Viterbo University, and Western Technical College, will enjoy the benefits of these enhancements.
“We could not be more excited to make today’s announcement, which represents all that community collaboration should be,” said Josh Whitman, UW-La Crosse Director of Athletics. “Developing a sustainable long-term model for the financial future of our baseball program has been at the top of our priority list since I arrived here. Now, thanks to the vision and generosity of the Kapanke family and the La Crosse Loggers, we know that UW-L will have baseball for years to come.”
“We’re thrilled to be entering into this unique partnership with the La Crosse Loggers,” said UW-La Crosse Chancellor Dr. Joe Gow. “When we were forced to eliminate state funding for baseball at UW-L several years ago, generous private donors kept our program alive. And now our partnership with the Loggers will take the program to even greater heights. This is a wonderful ‘turnaround’ story.”
“I want to recognize the incredible efforts of the Friends of Baseball at UW-L Committee, chaired by Dan Kunz and supported in large part by our friends at KwikTrip,” added Whitman. “The Committee has donated many hours and significant financial resources to provide the necessary bridge from the 2009 cut in state funding to now. If not for their efforts, we would not have a baseball program to celebrate and enjoy today.”
“We could not be happier to have the opportunity to team up with the Eagles baseball program yet again to not only ensure the future of baseball at UW-L, but also to continue to enhance the playing experience at Copeland Park for the entire community to enjoy,” said Chris Goodell,
La Crosse Loggers General Manager. “We hope that this collaborative effort with the great people at UW-L and our tremendous relationship with the City of La Crosse will allow the great game of baseball to continue to be at the forefront of the Coulee Region for many years to come.”
“We want to thank the City of La Crosse for its willingness to think outside of the box for ways to provide a tremendous baseball venue to our community,” said Whitman, “while at the same time allowing our University to sustain our baseball program into the future.”
“We are extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with an extraordinary organization like the La Crosse Loggers,” said Chris Schwarz, UW-L head baseball coach. “This unique partnership exemplifies collaboration, and the La Crosse baseball community will see the benefits for years to come. Knowing the financial challenges we faced a few years ago it is amazing to think we are on the brink of financial security. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of UW-La Crosse Baseball.”
UW-La Crosse senior Jay Fanta says the partnership between the University and Loggers will help the program maintain a high level of success on the playing field. “Where this program has come in the past couple years has been remarkable and would not have been possible without the help from numerous people,” said Fanta. “This is an exciting day for everyone involved with baseball in the La Crosse community. The benefits will be evident immediately.”
“We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the proud group of men comprising our baseball team, led by head coach Chris Schwarz and an exceptional senior class,” said Whitman. “They have endured a great deal of adversity in the last 36 months. But, like the true champions they are, they have grown together and emerged victorious. To be conference champions less than three years after losing funding is a testament to their leadership, character, and competitiveness. Everyone involved in our athletic program is very proud of them.”
The arrangement is contingent on the Loggers and UW-L reaching multi-year agreements with the City of La Crosse to play their home schedules at Copeland Park, the Loggers’ home since the organization’s inception 10 years ago. Those conversations are ongoing. The length of the partnership agreement between UW-La Crosse and the Loggers will likely mirror the length of the Loggers’ new lease with the City. “We’ve had a tremendous relationship with the City of La Crosse since our inception in 2003 and are very thankful for that,” said Loggers owner Dan Kapanke. “Furthermore, we look forward to continuing that relationship and taking it to new heights with this newfound partnership.”
UW-L, 30-9 overall and 21-2 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC), earned its first conference title since 2000 this year. It was the first outright league title since 1978. The team has set single-season school records in overall and league victories. The Eagles, who host the WIAC Championships May 11-13 at North Campus Field, face UW-Oshkosh May 11 at 10 a.m.