What's Good For Wittman Could Be GREAT For Oshkosh
Expansion plans at Wittman Field in Oshkosh, WI may not just
mean added capacity and amenities for those attending the annual
aviation love-fest that is EAA AirVenture... they could also help
the city revamp its own convention facilities.
The Oshkosh Northwestern reports the Experimental Aircraft
Association recently asked city officials for close to $2 million
in tax incremental funding, or TIF, financial assistance to
construct two expanded, two-story exhibit buildings, which would
link the four existing exhibit hangars in pairs.
The extensions -- part of a 10-year, $17.2 million upgrade
project at Wittman -- would result in nearly 150,000 square-feet of
additional, indoor exhibit space... complete with indoor plumbing,
air conditioning, and meeting areas.
EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski told the paper the group plans to
build one of the exhibit buildings with or without TIF aid. If the
plan is approved, EAA would recoup $1.94 million in assistance
after the improvements are made, with the money coming from
property taxes generated over 20 years in the proposed TIF
Knapinski told Fox-11 EAA isn't simply looking to expand its own
facilities... but to also provide Oshkosh with an additional venue
to attract other conventions.
"How can we make this AirVenture area more useful year-round?"
Knapinski asked. "How can we make it something that would be a draw
for the entire Oshkosh area throughout the entire year?"
Knapinski stressed EAA
doesn't intend to compete with the Oshkosh Convention Center
for business... but Oshkosh city council member Paul Esslinger says
the EAA's plan may pose an attractive alternative for the city, as
it considers investing $2 million to remodel the existing
"I'm wondering if the city can't get together with EAA and
figure this out, to save both of us some money," Esslinger said,
adding the existing convention center could then be sold to a
The council is expected to consider the TIF assistance plan on
EAA plans to reveal other details of its expansion plan during
this year's AirVenture. Among the proposed changes to the grounds
at Wittman Field include better separation of pedestrian and
vehicle traffic, and new or revised camping and food service
"It's the biggest investment we have ever made," Knapinski said.
"We're putting this on the table. We're willing to step forward
with this plan. We see this as something the whole community could
benefit from in the long run."