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Franklin moves forward with new ballpark planning

Franklin development plan

The Franklin (WI) Common Council voted to move forward with planning for a $130-million Ballpark Commons development at The Rock sports complex that would include a 4,000-capacity ballpark in the Milwaukee suburb.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU), which passed on a unanimous vote last night, doesn’t commit the city to anything past the intention to move forward with research, design and budgeting of new development at The Rock sports complex. The current plan calls for a 2,500-seat ballpark (and a total capacity of 4,000) for an independent American Association team and the UW-Milwaukee Panthers, a year-round indoor sports complex with four Little League-sized fields and retail/restaurants, at least one hotel (or two) with up to 220 rooms, office, retail and 200 or more luxury apartments.

While that sounds like a set lineup, the opposite is true: there are some nice renderings, but the exact cost and scope of the project needs to be worked out, per the letter submitted by Mike Zimmerman of MKE Sports & Entertainment and Zimmerman Ventures to the council. (Previous media reports had development partners Greg Marso and WIRED Properties involved, but the memorandum of understanding applies only to Zimmerman Ventures.) Potential funding sources include a tax-increment financing district (TID), state economic-development aid, and Milwaukee County participation (part of the proposed site is on county-owned land). Here’s a PDF of the Common Council meeting; the ballpark MOU is on page 83.

This is the second time a ballpark has been proposed for The Rock; the Franklin Common Council rejected a proposal in 2014. In the memorandum of understanding, it was pretty clear time is of the essence: the plan is to field that aforementioned American Association team for the 2017 season. Now, knowing how slowly the wheels of development moves, coming up with a financial plan (which includes a TID and some sort of property-tax agreement), Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources approvals, resolution of potential environmental issues (there is a methane containment system at the site; Franklin sports some 143 acres of former and current landfill), a Milwaukee County land agreement and some level of private funding would seem to a huge challenge for a 2017 opening.

RELATED STORIES: Initial approval sought for new Franklin (WI) ballpark

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