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MKE Sports to manage Aviators in 2015

Rockford AviatorsMKE Sports & Entertainment, the group seeking to build a new independent-league ballpark in the Milwaukee suburbs, has signed a deal to manage the Rockford Aviators (independent; Frontier League) in 2015.

Mike Zimmerman, who ultimately failed to convince Franklin (Wis.) officials to finance a new ballpark at his Rock Sports Complex for a Frontier League team, says he has a deal to run the Aviators and continue to work on a new ballpark in greater Milwaukee. If that happens, you could see Zimmerman basically moving the Aviators to Milwaukee down the road. (Technically, it’s not like buying and moving a franchise a la MiLB; it’s more akin to buying a membership in the Frontier League and have the right to do business in Milwaukee.) From the Milwaukee Business Journal:

Zimmerman’s company MKE Sports & Entertainment signed a contract in mid-August to manage the Aviators, which he called a team in need of a turnaround. Zimmerman said the contract is the first step toward buying the team.

The lead owner of the Aviators is a dentist named Chris Hanners, who also is the Frontier League’s founder. Zimmerman said he is partnering with Hanners, of Chillicothe, Ohio, in buying and managing numerous minor league teams.

The new partners first new market is in Indiana, where they plan to run a team in the Prospect League, which Hanners also founded, Zimmerman said.

That would be a potential Kokomo team, by the way.

Rockford is an interesting market. It’s much larger than people assume — at 152,871 residents, it’s the third-largest city in the state and the largest outside of Chicagoland (Chicago and suburb Aurora are the top two in the state), but baseball has had a rough time there since the Rockford Reds of the Class A Midwest League and the original Frontier League Rockford RiverHawks. Moving away from Marinelli Field to suburban Loves Park probably was a terrible idea, which is why the Aviators need a kickstart of some sort.

RELATED STORIES: Franklin mulls new Frontier League ballpark; New pro ballpark pitched for suburban Milwaukee


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