Marinette County Infrastructure Committee share ideas for UW Campus and Field House

By: 
Shirley Prudhomme

MARINETTE – Marinette County Board’s Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday, June 5 spent over an hour in a lively interactive discussion on ownership and possible future uses for the former UW-Green Bay Field House, which is currently leased by the River Cities Pool Association and the UW campus in Green Bay. Both properties are owned by Marinette County and formerly were leased by the University of Wisconsin system.

Initially built in the late 1960s to operate as UW-Marinette, the campus was taken over a year or two by UW-Green Bay.  Late last year officials of that institution informed Marinette County they would end in-person classes after the 2023-24 school year and would downsize to a couple of offices and classrooms in the main building. Although, they would continue to lease the Fine Arts building that houses Theatre on the Bay.

County Administrator John LeFebvre initially advised County Board they would need to find new uses, or new owners, for the campus facilities quickly, as he expected UW-Green Bay to terminate its lease on July 1. However, at Wednesday’s meeting he told the committee they are no longer on the fast track since they have not been informed by UW-Green Bay when they will terminate their lease.

Since learning that UW-Green Bay planned to move out, Marinette County has been seeking alternative uses. The City of Marinette is interested in acquiring Runnoe Park and had shown interest in at least parts of the library and main building.

After public comment the committee opened the floor for open discussion involving members of the public, committee members and county officials.

Oitzinger told the committee the city may no longer be interested in the campus since they had purchased the old Armory and have now hired an architect to give estimates on costs of remodeling it to provide a new police headquarters and possibly new City Hall facilities. 

Rich had asked that the public be kept informed as to when the future uses of the facilities would be addressed by the committee and County Administrator John LeFebvre said he is looking for ideas from the committee as to what they want on their agendas. 

The UW-Green Bay lease for the Fieldhouse and property surrounding it ended about two years ago in a mutual agreement requested by the University and River Cities Pool Association agreed to lease the pool and the building from Marinette County, which contributes toward the cost of running it. 

The popular Youth Soccer Association of Marinette has its fields at the Fieldhouse, and expressed interest in buying that portion of the property.

LeFebvre told the committee the YMCA is interested in buying the Fieldhouse so they can move their main operations, including the swimming pool and exercise rooms from their current location in Menominee and have hired an architect to design an addition they would need and give cost estimates. He advised against any agreements with the Soccer Association until that is settled, and said along the way an environmental study will be needed. He felt if the YMCA acquires the property they will make accommodations for the soccer fields, which involved some 700 to 800 youth athletes. A Fieldhouse and should have some answers from their architects by the end of July.

LeFebvre said the 12 Tribes (11 from Wisconsin and one from Upper Michigan) have expressed interest in acquiring the main campus for use as an educational and cultural center for Native Americans. The Menominee River area along the Bay of Green Bay is recognized as the birthplace of the Menominee Nation. LeFebvre said they are not interested in the Fieldhouse. He also advised retaining county ownership of Runnoe Park until they know who is interested in the remainder of the campus, but said he does not expect it to ever be used for anything but a park.

More of the discussion between the public and the committee will be published in next week’s edition of the Peshtigo Times, along with other business handled by the Infrastructure Committee, including awarding of logging contracts and the courthouse security project.

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