Wisconsin Rapids Rafters Agree in Principle to Ownership Transfer of Franchise
Pending approvals, ownership of the Rafters will transfer to Brothers Joe and Vince Fonti of Plover, WI
Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.- The founders of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, Vern Stenman and Steve Schmitt, have agreed in principle to transfer ownership of their Wisconsin Rapids Northwoods League affiliate to Joe and Vince Fonti. Pending Wisconsin Rapids City Council approval of a lease extension for Witter Field, along with approval of the transfer of the lease to the new group, the change in ownership would be completed in February. General Manager, Andy Francis, has come to terms on a two-year agreement to continue in his role overseeing the day-to-day management of the team. Team President, Vern Stenman, will continue in an advisory role with the club for the next two seasons as well.
Joe and Vince Fonti reside in Plover, WI and are the principles of Jo-Vin Baseball, LLC, which is the entity that will acquire the team.
Chief Legal and Compliance Officer
Furniture & ApplianceMart/Ashley Homestore
Joe and his brothers are the majority owners of Furniture & ApplianceMart and a majority of the Ashley HomeStores in Wisconsin. Joe is a lifetime baseball and sports fans that enjoys the fun and excitement created at sporting events. Joe and his wife have two daughters, one son, and a grandson. Excited about the acquisition of the Rafters, Joe had this to say: “We are excited to continue the tremendous baseball tradition in Wisconsin Rapids and to maintain and build upon the Rafters motto ‘where our community comes together.’ I have a passion for providing a great customer experience at our retail stores and I look forward to bringing that same passion for a great fan experience to Rafters games. As a Central Wisconsin resident for over 30 years, I am looking forward to giving back to the community that has supported my family.”
Vince Fonti Jr.
Furniture & ApplianceMart/Ashley Homestore
Vince is a driven worker who is passionate about providing customers the best selection and value in their stores. As a 2nd generation family-owned business, Vince, along with his 2 brothers Joe and Bill, have grown from 2 stores in 1989 to now 15 stores throughout Wisconsin.
Living and working in Central Wisconsin since 1984, the area is in his blood. He graduated from SPASH in 1986 and his wife Kay was born and raised in Wisconsin Rapids. They have 3 children, Vinnie 18, Kyleigh 17, and Ben 14. Aside from work, Vince is an avid baseball fan cheering for both the Cubs and the Brewers (goes back to when the Brewers were in the American League). He has also enjoyed coaching youth baseball in Plover over the last 12 years.
The Rafters, founded in 2010, have become a staple of summer in Central Wisconsin. The team has consistently ranked in the top half of the Northwoods League in attendance, while operating in one of the smallest markets in the circuit. The team won the NWL Summer Collegiate World Series in 2016 and, under the leadership of Manager Craig Noto, has competed in the NWL playoffs three of the last four years. Noto has committed to return for the 2020 season and the team is in talks to extend him past this season.
The next step for the transfer is consideration of the lease extension and transfer approval by the Wisconsin Rapids Finance Committee at their February 4th meeting. On February 18th, the Rapids City Council will review the same.
The Rafters Home Opener is slated for 6:05pm on Wednesday, May 27th against the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders. For more information on the different ticket packages visit Raftersbaseball.com, call the Rafthouse at 715-424-5400, or visit Historic Witter Field. The Rafthouse is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday at Witter Field, 521 Lincoln Street in Wisconsin Rapids.
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Having completed its’ 26th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, over 230 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC) and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and MLB All-Stars Jordan Zimmermann (DET) and Curtis Granderson (MIA). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.raftersbaseball.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Rafters as your favorite team.