Critical vote coming for Ballpark Commons

Is the Ballpark Commons proposal a done deal?

There are two answers to that question.

1) Don’t assume so.

2) The ultimate answer might depend on you.

The Milwaukee County Board is currently considering a deal for the county to sell the 140-acre property that includes The Rock Sports Complex in Franklin to the entity that runs The Rock. ROC Ventures would then develop Ballpark Commons at the site, a project costing more than $100 million.

Mike Zimmerman heads ROC Ventures and needs to buy the land in order for Ballpark Commons to move forward.

Here’s more background from the Milwaukee Business Journal (subscription needed to see article):

Zimmerman forged a deal to build The Rock on Milwaukee County land in 2012, and over the past two years has been seeking to build the Ballpark Commons project there. A minor-league baseball stadium would be built closer to Rawson Avenue, and would host games by an American Association team owned by Zimmerman’s ROC Ventures, as well as games by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers men’s baseball team.

A high-tech golf driving range, an indoor sports training center, and associated stores and restaurants would be built next to the stadium.

Those would be built on land Zimmerman would buy under the deal Milwaukee County officials are considering. An ongoing point of discussion is the condition of the land underneath much of the county-owned property. It formerly was the Crystal Ridge ski hill, and before that was a landfill. There’s significant maintenance and equipment costs related to that landfill. Zimmerman’s development group would assume the majority of them.

Under the agreements, the developer would spend $21.2 million over the next 40 years on the landfill, said James Tarantino, Milwaukee County economic development director. Milwaukee County would spend about $4.37 million over that time.

Because of its ongoing spending toward those landfill costs, The Rock’s owners will likely buy the county land for only $1. The county set an $840,000 price on the land, but that price will be discounted dollar-for-dollar for money the developers spend maintaining the property’s landfill.

If approved, the option to purchase would give Zimmerman’s development group up to one year to buy the land. Zimmerman was aiming to start construction this year and have the stadium ready for its first pitch in spring 2018.

A new addition to the deal since June relates to noise and light coming from The Rock. Those additions set upper limits on the amount of noise that can travel outside of The Rock’s boundaries at different times of day. Franklin can levy fines for violations under the agreement.

To block light pollution, The Rock’s ballfields would get 78 new visors on their lights. Speakers and lights must be shifted to point away from surrounding neighborhoods.

On Wednesday the County Board’s Finance and Audit Committee voted 4-2 in favor of the land sale to Zimmerman.

That vote comes after the full Milwaukee County Board in June gave preliminary approval for the land sale on a vote of 14-4.

However, the full Board must once again vote on the sale before it’s official. That vote will come on September 28th.

One might think momentum is on the side of Ballpark Commons’ supporters.

Not so fast.

There could be more no votes at next week’s County Board meeting, more than the 4 at the June 22nd meeting mentioned above.

At that meeting Supervisor John Weishan attempted to kill the entire deal by offering an 11-page amendment, that’s right, 11 pages,  filled with all kinds of changes. His amendment failed. There could be similar tactics next week.

I was also informed by one supervisor (not from the Franklin area) that many, many negative calls about Ballpark Commons were received prior to the June 22nd vote.

It’s clear the opponents have their propaganda machine all fired up, and I’ll bet with plenty of misinformation to boot.

If you support Ballpark Commons as I do you can’t just sit back and relax and hope for the right vote.

You must contact members of the Milwaukee County Board and urge them politely and respectfully to vote YES. If they already support Ballpark Commons thank them and express your appreciation.

Opponents already have a head start so do not wait.

Do this ASAP.

Details of the Ballpark Commons resolution, as reported previously by Sean Ryan of the Milwaukee Business Journal:

  • Milwaukee County would sell about 140 acres of land at South 76th Street and
    West Loomis Road to a group led by  Zimmerman.
  • The land includes the Rock Sports Complex.
  • Zimmerman built The Rock on county land.
  • The area to be sold also would be used for a minor-league baseball stadium, golf driving range, indoor sports training center and supporting restaurants and stores.
  • The  development would also include about 300 apartments and a 100-room hotel south of Rawson Avenue.
  • The landfill at the site is a concern, Zimmerman concedes.
  • Ryan reports Zimmerman’s group would assume from the County the responsibility for maintaining the landfill gas system on the property, costing about $167,000 a year.
  • The current landfill gas system would be replaced in 2018.
  • The county and developers would both put money into a trust fund to pay for the gas system’s maintenance and eventual replacement in 2038.
  • The developers would commit about $127,000 a year to that fund, and the county $20,000.

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