BREAKING NEWS: Milwaukee County Board approves Ballpark Commons resolution

The Milwaukee County Board this morning voted 11-7 to approve 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 needed to buy the land in order for Ballpark Commons to move forward.

The project’s construction is now slated to begin in the spring of 2018 with the opening of the baseball stadium expected in 2019.

The Milwaukee Business Journal recently reported:

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.

Prior to today’s County Board vote Supervisor John Weishan Jr. made two motions in an effort to delay the matter.

First Weishan moved to refer the resolution to the county’s lawyers, the Corporation Counsel for a written opinion.

Supervisor Steve Taylor said that was not necessary because a Corporation Counsel staffer at the meeting could answer any questions.

Several questions were raised and supervisors were informed that the county would be in a much better position than the status quo because the resolution contains safety measures, including provisions about noise and light remediation that are not currently in place.

Objective measures would also be put in place to review complaints from neighbors.

Taylor objected to Weishan’s motion, saying he was trying to bring up “any doomsday scenario.”

“If you don’t like the project, you vote no. You don’t play games,” argued Taylor.

Weishan’s motion failed with only four supervisors in favor, 14 opposed.

Weishan then moved to send the resolution back to the Finance Committee that recently approved the measure.

“It’s insane to think developing on a landfill is a good idea,” said Weishan.

When the project fails, Weishan said he wanted to see names of those who supported Ballpark Commons printed in newspapers, and supervisors “dragged through the street.”

Weishan’s motion failed again, 2-15.

During debate on the resolution Supervisor David Sartori said the behavior on the County Board floor was an example of why people hate government.

“Endless, endless, endless delays. The silly ass games,” said Sartori.

Weishan continued to criticize the project, claiming the argument that it would be an economic boon was a “miscalculation” and that Ballpark Commons would be a strip mall in 10 years.

But Taylor disagreed, calling Ballpark Commons “a game-changer” that would “change the identity of our community.”

Prior to the Rock “there was nothing that put us (Franklin) on the map,” said Taylor.

UPDATE: Following the vote, Supervisor Taylor provided me this statement:

The Ball Park Commons Development is a big win for Milwaukee County financially, environmentally and will greatly improve the quality of life for its residents.  For the City of Franklin, this is a game changer that will forever alter the identity of our community.  I commend Mike Zimmerman and his development team for enduring this very long process and working with both elected officials and surrounding neighbors to make this a first class project.    

In my 20 years of public service this was by far the most complex development I was ever involved in. But I can tell you that it is also the most satisfying. Before The Rock, Franklin had nothing that could be considered a true destination. What gets built over the next few years will definitely put Franklin on the map.


3 thoughts on “BREAKING NEWS: Milwaukee County Board approves Ballpark Commons resolution

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