The Rock Sports Complex in talks with Frontier League baseball

Michael Zimmerman, owner of The Rock, proposes development of a professional baseball stadium during a Common Council meeting Jan. 30.

Michael Zimmerman, owner of The Rock, proposes development of a professional baseball stadium during a Common Council meeting Jan. 30.

Feb. 5, 2014

Franklin — The Common Council has given its blessing to The Rock Sports Complex to pursue plans for a professional baseball stadium, but a financial partnership remains in question.

Michael Zimmerman, owner of The Rock and Zimmerman Ventures, proposed the stadium during a concept review meeting Jan. 30.

The 20- to 30-acre stadium would be designed to hold 2,500 to 3,000 seats and would cost between $7 million and $11 million to develop. The stadium would be located on The Rock property, owned by Milwaukee County, at 7900 W. Crystal Ridge Drive.

Zimmerman, who once asked the city for financial assistance during initial development of The Rock, said he would ask the same again.

"I challenged you guys last time I came here to match the $3 million I was going to pump into The Rock, and it didn't happen," Zimmerman said. "I'm going to ask you again."

Zimmerman ultimately built the sports complex with $10.5 million in private money.

Frontier League talks

The stadium would be an asset to Franklin, Greendale and the surrounding areas by providing affordable entertainment for the whole family, Zimmerman said.

He has looked into acquiring a franchise team with the independent baseball Frontier League and a partnership seems likely, he said.

"It looks like it's going to happen," he said. "I will most likely be granted this (franchise team). ... We're going to have a real professional team; these (players) will be paid, and we'll want them to be engaged with the community."

Aldermen expressed support for the stadium, but were weary when it came to financing the project.

"I'm in favor of the project ... but I'm not really in favor of the rest of the citizens of Franklin footing much of the bill for this," said Daniel Mayer, alderman for District 2, where The Rock is located.

"I think partnering with you is a good idea, but I think we have our own work to do" with the 76th Street and Rawson Avenue intersection, Alderman Kristen Wilhelm said. "I would like the city of Franklin to not only embrace your project, but (also) to bring people into Franklin and our business retail area."

Neighborhood support

Greendale President John Hermes, as well as Village Manager Todd Michaels, attended the meeting to express support for the project and to ask for inclusion in the planning process.

"We rise in support of Mr. Zimmerman's project in the conceptual plan presented tonight," Hermes said. "We got off to a bad start (with The Rock, but) I think we're starting to see that turn around in a complete 180-degree turn. We participate and welcome being a part of the potential planning. We hope to work ... in partnership to make The Rock Sports Complex successful for all of us."

Mayor Tom Taylor, a vocal advocate for the stadium, proposed the creation of a taskforce to help with the development process of the stadium. Aldermen Mayer, Mark Dandrea and Steve Taylor were enlisted for the taskforce, as well as other city officials. Representatives of Greendale also were invited to join.

Wilhelm suggested looking into a roadway connection that would make traffic from The Rock to the business retail area easier.

The Rock must first apply for a special-use permit with the city before beginning development.

"I want the city to participate, but if we get the special-use permit, I'm going to try some way to get this done" with or without city financing, Zimmerman said.

"I think this is a very great item," said Alderman Ken Skowronski. "We're honored that you selected Franklin to do this. ... I think (the stadium) is a regional (asset) and for us ... and I'm looking forward to it."


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