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Franklin mulls new Frontier League ballpark

New Franklin ballpark

A new independent Frontier League is being debated in Franklin, a suburb of Milwaukee, but progress on the project on the city side hasn’t moved past the listening stage.

Last night the city’s Plan Commission ballpark task force took testimony on a Special Use Permit zoning change that would allow a 2,000-seat ballpark (with capacity for 1,000 in a beer garden and other group spaces) at The Rock, an athletic complex in Franklin. There’s been a lot of bad reporting on the subject (no, a ballpark deal is far from consideration, much less completion), but city officials tell us there’s no financing plan on the table, no proposal from Rock ownership to help pick up any costs of the anticipated $10.50-million facility. They do expect a proposal from Michael Zimmerman, owner of The Rock, who says he has a commitment from the Frontier League for a 2015 franchise, in time for a March 25 meeting.

Whether Franklin officials do approve funding is far from certain. While most of the attendees at last night’s meeting were in favor of a new facility, past public meetings with city officials yielded a lot of resistance: raising taxes isn’t an option (in fact, Franklin officials are rather proud they froze property taxes this year), and Franklin proper is fairly small: 35,504 in a 2011 estimate. The funding plan has changed over time: Zimmerman is now pursuing a plan where the city builds and owns the ballpark and then leases it back to the team. It’s hard to see Milwaukee County coming up with any money as well. However, Zimmerman says he’s pursuing state money from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. for environmental cleanup funds and tourism grants.

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