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The Rock baseball stadium proposal strikes out, for now, in Franklin

Task force refuses plan that would push some costs onto city taxpayers

The concept design for the proposed professional baseball stadium at The Rock could contain between 2,500 and 3,000 seats.

The concept design for the proposed professional baseball stadium at The Rock could contain between 2,500 and 3,000 seats.

April 9, 2014

Franklin — The Rock Sports Complex's proposed professional baseball stadium will not be paid by the taxpayers, the project's task force has decided.

The Rock Professional Baseball Stadium Development Proposal Franklin Task Force held a meeting last week to discuss the complex's proposal for a public-private partnership to fund a $10.5 million baseball stadium.

The proposal that calls for a $10.5 million from the city excludes $4 million Mike Zimmerman, owner of the Rock and Zimmerman Ventures, would pay for team acquisition fees and team operating costs.

Not a hit in first at-bat

Following a public comment portion of the meeting that touched on issues related to the stadium proposal, the task force went into closed session Wednesday, April 2, before unanimously approving a motion to reject The Rock's proposal.

The panel suggested that existing property tax resources were not an appropriate funding source.

But while the initial proposal appears to have struck out, the game's not over. The task force also recommended that city staff work with the complex on a revised proposal,

The task force also requested that details about The Rock's third development phase be incorporated into the revised proposal.

According to The Rock proposal, phase 3 — which would take place after completion of the stadium — would include a retail village, entertainment and a hotel as well as residential and commercial property.

"We realize this thing is moving ahead very quickly and we are taking the precautions we need to do," said Alderman Daniel Mayer, a member of the task force, before the closed session. "If that means we need to slow things down, we'll do that."

While the task force may recommend the proposal be rejected, the decision ultimately lies with the Common Council, which must approve any action related to The Rock's proposals or development, said Mark Luberda, director of Administration and task force member.

Neighboring concerns

Aside from the financial issues, the proposal in general wasn't a hit with others at last week's meeting.

Some residents have expressed a wave of support for the project, but new concerns continue to arise from homeowners who live nearby the potential stadium, which would be located on The Rock's property at 7900 Crystal Ridge Road.

Concerns include light pollution, over-reaching noise and environmental issues, such as water run-off and the danger of methane gas generated from when the site was first a landfill.

Franklin resident Ronald Gindt presented a 17-page citizen analysis, which addressed residential concerns, to the board at the April 2 task force meeting.

Residents needed more information regarding the project, Gindt said in the report.

"A developer-prepared feasibility report is contained on the city's website, but there is no publicly available site development plan," Gindt said. "The city will argue that these details will be refined in negotiations with the developer and Milwaukee County; meanwhile, they continue checking off the boxes needed for development approval."

That, in part, was a reference to the Common Council's recent decision to approve a special-use permit for the baseball stadium that also would impose conditions and restrictions.

"As neighbors of the current site, we are certainly aware that we cannot be considered dispassionate when it comes to the project, but we will not be dismissed as another not-in-my-backyard group that unreasonably opposes any new development," Gindt said. "…This project will not only affect current residents of the city but the generation that follows. It is important to get it right."

Franklin, or elsewhere?

Multiple meetings have been held regarding the sports facility, its development plan and its financing since Zimmerman proposed the stadium to the Common Council at a concept review meeting on Jan. 30.

The stadium would seat 3,100 people and could host several corporate, fundraiser and community events aside from baseball games. The proposed stadium also remains a contender for a new franchise team in the independent baseball Frontier League.

The Rock's goal would be to have the stadium completed in time for the 2015 baseball season.

The possibility exists, at least, that the proposal could test out other markets.

Based off a phone conversation Zimmerman had with Oak Creek Mayor Stephen Scaffidi last week, it appears The Rock is looking for an alternative location for the baseball stadium should Franklin fall through, the Milwaukee Business Journal first reported.

"(Zimmerman) reached out to me on Friday and asked if we'd be interested in the project," Scaffidi said. "He mentioned a specific location (in Oak Creek) and I said we'd be willing to talk to him more about it in the future."

Zimmerman could not be reached for comment.

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