Brian Kelsey had a more than casual interest in the crafting of the 2023-25 Wisconsin state budget earlier this year.
The managing director of the 88-year-old Peninsula Players Theatre in Fish Creek was leading a capital campaign to build two new dormitories to replace the dated structures that house the seasonal company when, in March, Gov. Tony Evers released his capital budget proposal. Within it was $1 million in cash for the $4.2 million Peninsula Players project. By early July when Evers finally signed the budget presented by the Republican-led legislature, that money had vanished.
“After it was removed from the budget through the work of the Joint Finance Committee – even though it received vast, bi-partisan support – I thought the door had closed on our ability to receive funding from the state,” Kelsey said. “Yesterday’s call [on Nov. 1] was an incredible highlight for our overall campaign, and shows that public/private/not-for-profit collaboration is alive and successful.”
The game-changing call came from the Governor’s office, letting Peninsula Players know it would be receiving a $330,000 grant to complete funding for its safe and modern dormitory facilities for the company that draws nearly 40,000 visitors annually.
“This closes the campaign, with 100% of the funds now raised,” Kelsey said, adding that he was “thrilled that a project that supports the arts and humanities of the state were included in this round of grants.”
The Peninsula Players grant was among the $36.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds Evers announced he would grant to five building projects across the state that had been rejected by members of the Wisconsin State Legislature in the 2023-25 capital budget process.
“These five projects will have a long-term impact on our state’s economy and on economic development in these communities,” Evers said in a statement.
The five projects are: $15 million for the Janesville Sports and Convention Center; $9.3 million for the Milwaukee Iron District new soccer stadium; $7 million for the Green Bay National Railroad Museum expansion; $5 million for the Bronzeville Center for the Arts; and the $330,000 for Peninsula Players.
“I am so incredibly thankful for Governor Evers support of our project through this entire process,” Kelsey said. “He and his administration got behind our project once it was submitted to the State Building Commission and remained committed to our need throughout the entire process.”
The governor’s $36.6 million investment is projected to support over 400 jobs and nearly $68 million in economic activity. The projection is based on a study conducted by Associated General Contractors, which reported that for every $1 in construction spending, there is $1.81 of economic activity in Wisconsin, and for every $1 million of construction spend, 12 jobs are supported in the state’s economy.