MDN: Wiseacre’s Coliseum Plan Fueled By Growth
An expansion of the 3-year-old local business that Frank Smith co-founded is going to start taking shape physically somewhere by early 2017, out of necessity from its growth.
“We have to do that quickly … because we have to be building a brewery by early 2017,” Smith said. “We cannot afford to get into a process or else we just have to go somewhere else.”
That’s because since its opening in August 2013 in a 13,000-square-foot warehouse on what is now the east end of the Broad Avenue Arts District, the brewery has become a regional-sized brewery that is on pace to make 22,000 barrels of beer annually. Initially, Wiseacre’s founders thought the warehouse would be enough space for the first decade of the business.
“We cannot fit another large stainless steel tank in the place,” Smith said. “We cannot make any more beer than we are making today. Our business is capped until we decide what we are going to do next. And that’s the tough calculus that we’ve got to figure out now.”
The jump in production requires more space because of larger equipment. It’s a $12 million investment by Wiseacre that requires about 65 feet of vertical space.
But Smith told the council that he and partners Davin Bartosch and Kellan Bartosch want the support of community groups that have rallied in recent years to save the circa-1964 Coliseum from what seemed to be certain demolition in several incarnations of Fairgrounds renovation plans.
And many of the leaders of those efforts were in the city council’s committee room Tuesday as Smith pitched an idea he acknowledged ultimately might not be feasible.
“There’s a lot of folks in this room today who care a lot about this iconic structure, who spent a lot of time making sure it didn’t get torn down,” Smith said. “These are all folks that represent groups who have worked really hard. We’re grateful to all of them that this building stands, and that we could be having this conversation.”
John Minervini of Friends of the Fairgrounds, a group looking at a broader plan for the entire Fairgrounds, said later the organization isn’t endorsing or condemning the proposal.
He said the group wants to see more public input and has questions about how it compares to a plan for more recreational use of the Fairgrounds around the Coliseum.
The Coliseum Coalition, which has focused on an examination of a full restoration of the arena as a venue for concerts and other events, issued a statement saying it was “excited“ by the interest.
“Whether this is an arena or a publicly accessible brewery, or both, remains to be seen, but the public must be actively engaged in determining the best future for their building and their Fairgrounds,” the group said in a written statement.