Oak Creek may get in The Zone with baseball/softball facility

Business eyes 13th St. location for training center

April 29, 2014

Oak Creek — An indoor baseball and softball team training facility called The Zone could open as early as July, if it gets final city approval.

The Zone would occupy two units at 6758 S. 13th St. between Rawson and College Avenues. Primarily, it would serve south suburban travel teams who feel pinched for indoor practice space.

"We think this idea is a need that's out there, due to a growing frustration of having to cancel practice and not having easy access to affordable (indoor) places," said Al Foeckler, an attorney at Cannon & Dunphy, who proposed the idea to the Plan Commission on April 22 via Skype.

"Without an indoor place, we can't get the practice in," added Foeckler, who has coached Oak Creek Jr. Knights for more than two years.

His Zone business partner, who wished to remain anonymous, is also associated with the Jr. Knights team.

Space and amenities

The Zone, occupying 15,000 square feet of warehouse space, would house three fixed batting cages with pitching machines for baseball and softball, an 85-by-85-foot open field area and a 1,200-square-foot area for soft toss and tee work.

All areas would be netted, and the floors would be padded with artificial turf.

The Zone may also have trainers, but that idea is still being developed, Foeckler said.

Build-out would begin following city approval. The Common Council is expected to act June 3 on the Plan Commission's favorable recommendation.

Members-only fees

While the facility wouldn't be strictly for teams, its fee structure is team-oriented.

Usage will be permitted by membership only, Foeckler said. Teams can buy initial one-year founder memberships for $2,500 for a weekly, two-hour practice time slot. Dues will be due Sept. 1 with a $250 down payment.

That may seem like a large sum, but Foeckler said the fee structure is "substantially less" compared to similar facilities elsewhere.

"It's about $200 per player (for the year). In essence it would be $4 per player, per practice," added Foeckler.

Other nearby indoor facilities include "The Halo" Milwaukee Angels baseball facility, 2060 S 54th Street, and Hitters Baseball Academy, 4726 6 Mile Road in Racine.

High demand

The sheer volume of baseball and softball teams is what The Zone and other businesses see as the basis for their existence.

There are about 53 Oak Creek Little League teams, 14 Oak Creek Jr. Knight teams and about 20 independent tournament-style in Oak Creek, said Mark Riha, president of Oak Creek Little League. There are also Recreation Department teams.

Most teams practice on one of the city's 17 neighborhood softball diamonds. The city has only one regulation-size baseball field at Abendschein Park, which is usually reserved for high school players.

"I know that there are a lot of teams and that there's a certain amount of competition between teams to get fields," said Mary Jane Trate, recreation manager of the Oak Creek Recreation Department. "It really gets difficult (when) the kids get older and they're looking for an actual baseball field. There is only one."

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