Athletic background serves Ligocki well at Champion Center

by Tim Froberg

Sports has always been a prominent part of Adam Ligocki’s life.

He no longer competes at a high level, but Ligocki works diligently to make sure others are enjoying athletics.

The former college athlete, coach, and athletic director is serving his second year as general manager of the Community First Champion Center in Grand Chute, a new athletic venue that opened in November 2019 at 5000 W. Champion Drive.

The Champion Center is an impressive 164,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that features a year-round, NHL-sized ice rink,  fieldhouse and a seasonal arena used as both an ice rink and hardwood courts. The fieldhouse offers four basketball and eight volleyball courts. Four more basketball and six additional volleyball courts are available when the seasonal arena transitions from the ice rink.

The facility is used primarily for youth basketball, hockey, figure skating, volleyball tournaments and daily practices. It can also accommodate other sports such as gymnastics, cheer, wrestling, and even dodgeball. Ten local municipalities teamed to fund the $30 million center, which is expected to generate more than $8 million annually in economic activity for the Fox Cities. 

“I always find myself saying, ‘I wish this was here when I was a kid’,” said Ligocki. “It’s a fantastic facility. We have a lot of different kids and families coming through here and it’s fun to see the impact it has.”

LIgocki knows a thing or two about sports. He was a standout basketball and football player at Pulaski High School, graduating in 2003. Ligocki went on to become an all-conference guard at Carroll University where he received his bachelor’s degree in math.

Ligocki then served six years as head men’s basketball coach (2013-2019) and four years as athletic director (2015-2019) at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. He learned the nuts and bolts of athletic department administration in the latter role, including fundraising, scheduling, event supervision, and community relations. Both were part-time positions. Ligocki also worked full time with Kohl’s as a property tax accountant after earning a master’s degree in sports and fitness administration and management from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Ligocki and his wife, Amanda, moved their family (the couple has three young children) to the Appleton area in 2019 after UW-Waukesha eliminated its athletic program. Ligocki joined the staff of the Champion Center in 2019 as a sports and tournament manager and worked as director of events and operations before starting his current position in May 2020.

“I didn’t even know the Champion Center was being built when we moved here,” LIgocki said. “I used to drive past the construction site wondering what they were building.”

Ligocki’s athletic background has served him well as the Champion Center’s GM.

“It helps me understand what people are looking for when they come into this building,” Ligocki said. “Being a former coach and A.D. gave me a good understanding of how athletics work and their importance. I believe you learn life-long skills through athletics.”

Ligocki started his current position at the worst possible time – smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic. The facility was shut down for two months in spring 2020, and the number of people allowed in the building was limited for some time. The venue is now operating at full capacity with no crowd limits. Masks are not mandatory, but are encouraged for those who are not vaccinated.

“I’ve probably aged 10 years in the last year,” said Ligocki with a laugh. “There’s been times when it’s been very challenging and very stressful. But we have a great staff here and it’s been a good experience to get through that.”

Liglocki said they will follow a full tourney schedule  this winter. New additions to the facility will include a golf simulator in the pro shop.

“We’ve learned to live with the pandemic,” Ligocki said. “I’m very optimistic the worst of the pandemic is behind us and that we’ll be able to operate the building the way it’s been designed.”