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Initial approval sought for new Franklin (WI) ballpark

Franklin development plan

A team that includes MKE Sports & Entertainment is seeking conceptual approval for development at The Rock sports complex from the Franklin (WI) Common Council, in another run at a new ballpark in the Milwaukee suburb.

MKE Sports & Entertainment, which owns three summer-collegiate Prospect League teams (Kokomo, Jamestown, Lafayette) and formerly managed the Rockford Aviators (independent; Frontier League), has proposed a new ballpark as part of a larger sports-tourism development. However, Franklin officials have passed on approving the project. This time around, MKE and development partners Greg Marso and WIRED Properties are seeking initial approval from the city in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) before moving forward with more planning. This approval would take the form of city financing as well as zoning and plan approval.

The development would feature retail, office, 205 apartments, a 256,000-square-foot indoor sports facility, and a 4,500-capacity ballpark that would potentially house an independent American Association team (and not the Frontier League team pitched in earlier iterations of the plan), the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers baseball team and a Premier Development League soccer team. From the Milwaukee Business Journal:

Before moving ahead with more detailed and expensive planning efforts, the developers are seeking a vote of confidence from city officials. The developers are drafting a non-binding memorandum of understanding saying both they and city officials understand the project, and are interested in moving forward with it, said Aaron Hertzberg, Franklin director of economic development.

“My sense is the developer wants to see if they can build consensus around the general concept,” he said. “It’s their proposal, and we want them to feel comfortable moving forward.”

Franklin’s Common Council likely will consider the MOU on Feb. 2, Hertzberg said. Zimmerman in 2013 and early 2014 negotiated with Franklin officials over financing to build a stadium, but plans for the surrounding development were not as far along at that time. Franklin officials rejected that earlier request after months of negotiations.

The Common Council could take up the proposal next week at a scheduled Feb. 2 meeting.

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