Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Wisconsin Brewing Company Park
1011 Blue Ribbon Cir N,
Oconomowoc, WI 53066
Year Opened: 2022
Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay
The owners of the franchise that became the Lake Country Dockhounds had a long journey to bring their team to reality, but their efforts were rewarded with the American Association’s newest team, which began play in 2022 in the Milwaukee suburb of Oconomowoc.
These western suburbs have long been a target for expansion for both professional and summer collegiate baseball. The original proposal was to build a ballpark for a summer collegiate team in nearby Waukesha, but they were unable to secure funding. Other proposals pitched complexes in the towns of Summit and Pewaukee. Finally, the neighboring town of Oconomowoc approved funding for a ballpark in 2020. At some point the plan pivoted from placing a team in the summer-collegiate Northwoods League to the independent professional American Association.
The ballpark is the first piece of a larger entertainment complex dubbed Lake Country Live! It will include a multi-use indoor sports facility housing NX Level Sports Performance and Spiderz Batting Gloves. The facility will have batting cages, a weightlifting area and a fully equipped commercial kitchen serving lake country craft food. The site will host other community events, corporate gatherings, outdoor concerts and charitable events. Other sports teams from the area, including soccer, rugby, and lacrosse teams will also have access to the field.
Food & Beverage 4
The majority of concessions are sold out of the main concession stand, located in a cramped concourse underneath the first base stands. This stand has the appearance of ticket booths rather than a food service area due to the small windows where orders are taken and food is delivered. Only a small monitor displaying the menu items provides any proof that the concession stand is here.
A decent variety of food is sold from this stand, with items such as cheese curds, walking tacos, prime beef sandwiches, bratwursts and buffalo chicken sandwiches available in addition to typical ballpark fare. Stands at the end of the concourse provide additional points of sale and alleviates some of the congestion at the main stand.
Pepsi products are featured at Wisconsin Brewing Co. Park. While the planned Wisconsin Brewing ballpark brewery is not yet operational, there are several local brews available in addition to the usual national brands. Lake Louie Brewery and yes, Wisconsin Brewing Company have their beers featured at the concession stands and also at the giant bar that greets fans right as they enter the ballpark.
While the Dockhounds staff are working out the kinks in their operations during their inaugural season, there are already several pieces in place that will be familiar to veteran minor league ballpark travelers. There are several games and other shenanigans taking place throughout the game to keep the younger and more casual fans entertained.
The Dockhounds employ an on-field emcee who comes complete with a bucket hat and a repertoire of dad jokes. All the typical minor league between-inning games are played here, including the bubble joust, dance contests and t-shirt tosses. The team’s mascot, Louis B. Sluggin’, roams the ballpark posing for pictures, interacting with fans and helping with promotional duties. Music plays between innings and sound effects punctuate big plays. There is a crystal-clear scoreboard in right field that is put to good use with game information, sponsor ads and videos.
It’s not an over-the-top gameday presentation here, which fits right in with this smaller facility in this summer vacation area.
When completed, Wisconsin Brewing Company Park will be the centerpiece of a complex containing several athletic facilities that will be a community focal point. As of right now, those other pieces are not in place, so consider this grade a bit of an incomplete. At the present time, fans looking for attractions around the ballpark will need to hop in their car.
With the Lake Country area of Wisconsin already a popular summer destination, there is no shortage of places to stay or eat in Oconomowoc and beyond. A Staybridge Suites and a Hilton Garden Inn are both located close to the ballpark. As you would expect, plenty of outdoor options exist on the numerous lakes in the area. A Dockhounds game would be a nice centerpiece of a weekend or week-long stay in the area.
If more baseball is on the itinerary, American Family Field, home of the Brewers, is less than a half-hour drive away in Milwaukee. Franklin Field, home of the Dockhounds’ American Association rival the Milwaukee Milkmen, is also only a half an hour from Oconomowoc. The Northwoods League has several teams located within an hour’s drive from Wisconsin Brewing Company Park.
Nearing the end of their inaugural season in the American Association, the Dockhounds are sitting in 8th place in the 12-team league in terms of attendance, averaging about 1,700 fans per game. This places them well below the league average of 2,500, but a bit above their AA neighbors in Franklin, the Milwaukee Milkmen.
As is the case in most minor league ballparks, you’ll see a lot of families in attendance at Wisconsin Brewing Co. Park, as the team markets itself as family friendly, affordable entertainment. The team is still new and the fans are still getting used to the new faces, so the atmosphere is pretty laid back. There are definitely some regulars here, but is it too early to call them diehards?
Much has been made of the ballpark’s unusual design, but fans may question the ballpark flow before they even enter the parking lot into Wisconsin Brewing Co. Park. The ballpark is right off Interstate 94, with a distance of only a half mile from the off-ramp to the front door of the facility. However, instead of going right into the parking lot, fans are routed the long way around an empty field and into the ballpark via the back route, which triples the distance from the highway to the parking lot. This writer asked a staff person why this long route was chosen, and they referenced an accident and difficulty managing traffic on opening day, so the decision was made to re-route everyone so that all traffic enters the facility from the same direction.
The ballpark itself has an unusual setup. The entrance is right behind home plate, but there is no traditional baseball seating here. This open area is filled with a giant bar and several small tables on both the ground and upper levels. Since the facility was designed to be multi-purpose, this set-up makes sense, as corner seats are not so desirable for lacrosse or football, but for baseball, it removes prime seating from the ballpark.
Concession stands are located underneath the cramped first base grandstand. In another strange design choice, a single line leads to several small windows, giving the stand the appearance of ticket booths rather than a food service area. This set up really closes in the concessions and the concourse, making the area appear quite narrow and dimly lit. There is also water dripping down from overhead structures in some unfortunate spots (right where the queue for concessions is located). Additional stands are located at either end of the grandstand, with a bar on the open patios down either side of the ballpark.
Seating consists of several sections of individual folding stadium seats along both sides of the field. As mentioned before, there is no traditional seating behind home plate. There is a small berm down the left field line, with some party areas down the right field line. A small section behind the right field fence contains Adirondack chairs. Behind the party deck on the right field side of the ballpark are some inflatables and a basketball court, which was a popular spot for adolescent fans throughout the game.
An interesting facet of the design of this ballpark is the fact that there are no railings along the front of the seating area. The wide walkway in front of the seating sections just ends with a net that wraps around the seating bowl. This walkway pushes the seats further from the field, but creates a very accessible facility.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets to Dockhounds games start at $8 for standing room in the berm area (called “Bret’s Backyard) along the left field line. Seats in the grandstand are sold for $14. Parking in the lot adjacent to the ballpark costs five dollars. Concessions are a bit on the high side for this level of baseball, but not outrageously so.
If you’re headed to Wisconsin Brewing Company Park with a group of people, there are certainly many ways to get more bang for your buck. Tables seating groups of four (the ones behind home plate) are sold at $80 per table. You can add food and beverage (one sandwich, one snack item and two drinks per person) to the package for an additional $70. Purchasing a quad dock will give you ten tickets on the right field party deck but will set you back $200. You can purchase two drinks for everyone in your party for an additional $50. Club seats provide all you can eat food and two drinks for $50 along with a dedicated area atop the seating bowl.
An extra point is awarded for the unique design of Wisconsin Brewing Company Park. While there are certainly some unusual design choices here, you can appreciate the effort made to produce a facility that works for baseball, football and lacrosse. The field features artificial turf throughout to extend its usefulness throughout the year.
The Dockhounds report that there were 2700 submissions in their name the team contest. The name was chosen to honor the many local pups who hang out at the local docks and on local boats. The team’s mascot, Louie B. Sluggin, wears the jersey number five to represent the five O’s in Oconomowoc. He wears a hat complete with bobbers, which was one of the other finalists for the name of the team.
The developers of Wisconsin Brewing Company Park made many bold choices when they designed this multi-purpose park. Unfortunately, the result was a bland facility that features a less than ideal setup for all the sports it was designed to host. Once the kinks are worked out in this brand-new facility for this brand-new team, this will be a fine addition to the American Association roster of ballparks.