Play ball!

Commentary

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:11 pm

I get the same feeling every year around this time. After about three months of winter, I’m absolutely sick of it. Spring weather can’t come soon enough.

Looking forward to spring also means looking forward to baseball season! Spring training is underway, and I can’t wait to see how the Milwaukee Brewers do this year.

But area baseball fans have options other than just the Brewers to enjoy the national pastime. And there’s good news and bad news on that front.

First, the good news: ROC Ventures announced that an American Association of Independent Professional Baseball team will play in a 4,000-seat ballpark that will be built at The Rock Sports Complex in Franklin. The ballpark, which will also be home for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team, will anchor the mixed-use Ballpark Commons development, which will also include apartments, restaurants and retail.

Mike Zimmerman, the chief executive officer of ROC Ventures, transformed the Crystal Ridge ski hill into The Rock, improving the skiing facilities, adding tubing, upgrading food and beverage offerings, and building several ball fields there, creating a year-round center of sports activity. The Ballpark Commons project will take The Rock to the next level with a ballpark that will draw bigger crowds, additional sports facilities, residences, shopping and dining. The ballpark will be a new community attraction and the entire development could become the activity center of Franklin, a community that has never had a downtown.

Now, the bad news: Plans to convert the ball field at Frame Park in Waukesha into a ballpark for a Northwoods League team have been put on hold.

The Northwoods League is a summer league for college baseball players. It’s quality baseball and includes the Lakeshore Chinooks in Mequon and the Kenosha Kingfish.

Big Top Baseball, which operates the Northwoods League teams in Madison, Wisconsin Rapids, Kenosha and Green Bay, wants to bring a team to Waukesha. Big Top would have made an annual lease payment that would have covered most of the cost for the ballpark.

Frame Park is a great park on the Fox River and near downtown Waukesha. The park also has a good ball field.

But a proposal to convert the ball field into a 2,500-seat ballpark for the Northwoods League raised concerns in the community, including parking and traffic. Some said a ballpark would wreck the aesthetic feel of the park

But an amenity that attracts more people to the park, and the downtown Waukesha area, should be considered a good thing. Don’t you want that activity and excitement in the heart of your community?

Similar concerns were raised in Franklin about The Rock Sports Complex and its Ballpark Commons project. The ballpark project faced several setbacks there before finally gaining approval and moving forward.

Hopefully the same thing happens, eventually, in Waukesha.

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.

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