Story by Rick Berg
From where Jason White sits, Oshkosh’s Sawdust District is still “a vision, not a plan,” but the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision in February to locate its Development League basketball team in Oshkosh certainly helps focus that vision and likely moves the Sawdust District concept closer to becoming an actual plan.
The Sawdust District, as proposed, would encompass redevelopment of several key central city sites south of the Fox River in Oshkosh, including Pioneer Island and the former Buckstaff Company property. Construction is currently taking place on the Buckstaff site for the new 3,500-seat, $17 million privately financed Oshkosh Arena that will host the Buck’s development team in the NBA Gatorade League. The arena is expected to be completed and ready for occupancy in the late fall of this year.
White, who is CEO of the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp., said there are several key stakeholders within the district’s proposed boundaries who have yet to sign on for additional development, and the plan has not been adopted by the City of Oshkosh Plan Commission or the Common Council. Nonetheless, he said, the Sawdust District concept fits squarely within the Imagine Oshkosh Master Plan for redevelopment.
The Sawdust District would be another piece of the puzzle in Oshkosh’s Central City and South Shore redevelopment areas, along with Marion Road, the Riverwalk, Pioneer Road and the city’s lone downtown hotel. As envisioned, the Sawdust District would include not only the new arena, but also a mixed-use environment of office, retail and hotel space, as well as residential units and entertainment amenities – not unlike the Packers’ Titletown District in Green Bay or the Bucks’ proposed Sports and Entertainment District near its new arena in downtown Milwaukee.
Greg Pierce, president of Oshkosh-based Windward Wealth Strategies and president of Fox Valley Pro Basketball, was the driving force behind the Oshkosh bid for the Bucks’ development league franchise. Pierce’s Fox Valley Pro Basketball will own and operate the arena and is also expected to spearhead much of the Sawdust District development.
He welcomes the comparison with Green Bay’s Titletown District and Milwaukee’s proposed entertainment district.
“I think that’s right on target,” Pierce said. “That’s a good comparison. To build facilities like this you have to have year-round functions for more than just sports. That is happening in major sports but also in minor league sports as well. To make this project work and be profitable, it needs to be part of the community on a year-round basis.”
While the Bucks minor league team will be the primary tenant of the arena, Pierce and others said the facility will also see other uses, including youth sports tournaments, concerts and other special events.
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