UWM would play baseball at proposed Oak Creek stadium

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s baseball team would play its home games at the new ballpark that MKE Sports & Entertainment hopes to build in Oak Creek, UWM and MKE Sports & Entertainment announced.

MKE Sports & Entertainment, owned by Greenfield-based Zimmerman Ventures LLC owner Mike Zimmerman, owns and operates the Milwaukee Wave, Rockford Aviators, Kokomo Jackrabbits, Jamestown Jammers, The Rock Sports Complex in Franklin and other entertainment venues.

Zimmerman wants to build a 4,000 to 5,000 seat ballpark in the Milwaukee area for an indendent minor league baseball team. Initially he pitched the ballpark project in Franklin at The Rock Sports Complex, but earlier this year that city’s Common Council rejected a proposed tax incremental financing package for the project.

Since then Zimmerman has been trying to develop a ballpark project in Oak Creek. The deal with UWM could help advance those plans.

Under that agreement, UWM’s baseball team would play all of its home games at the proposed Oak Creek ballpark that MKE Sports & Entertainment plans to build. Financial details of the agreement are still being finalized, UWM spokesman Tom Luljak said.

UWM’s baseball team currently plays its home games at Henry Aaron Field at Lincoln Park in Glendale. The field has little more than the baseball diamond, basic fencing and a small amount of seating. UWM is eager to upgrade its baseball facilities.

“(Henry Aaron Field) is just not up to par for what we would like it to be for a Division I NCAA baseball program,” said UWM Athletic Department spokesman Bill Behrns. “It’s lacking a lot of things that a majority of NCAA Division I stadiums have these days.”

The location for the proposed Oak Creek stadium has yet to be determined.

“There are a number of different locations that we are considering,” said Dan Kuenzi, vice president of operations for MKE Sports & Entertainment.

“They’re still looking for the right location,” Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi said. Sites being considered are at “high profile locations” in Oak Creek including the I-94 corridor and areas near the Drexel Town Square development, he said.

Oak creek’s freeway interchanges are severely underdeveloped, Scaffidi said.

“Our interchanges are parking lots, gas stations and truck stops,” he said.

The city could provide infrastructure for a larger mixed use development project that includes the ballpark, but not for a ballpark only development, Scaffidi said.

“We’re looking for a way to make this part of a larger development with retail and restaurants,” he said.

The Oak Creek ballpark will have an artificial playing surface, an important feature for UWM, which this year plays all of its 21 home games between April 2 and May 16.

“Playing baseball in Wisconsin in the spring, with as much rain as we get, the artificial surface (drains quickly and) just allows you to avoid rainouts,” Kuenzi said.

The Oak Creek ballpark will have seating for 4,000 to 5,000, club/VIP seating, suites, a grass seating area, beer garden and a kids zone. The facility will be designed so it will also be able to accommodate soccer.

In addition to the UWM baseball team, Zimmerman also hopes to land a new independent minor league team that would play at the Oak Creek ballpark.

UWM’s baseball team will continue to practice at Henry Aaron Field. Under the deal with UWM, MKE Sports & Entertainment would install a new artificial turf surface at Henry Aaron Field.
MKE Sports & Entertainment hopes to have the Oak Creek ballpark built by 2016.

“(The deal with UWM) is a huge piece of the puzzle for MKE Sports and the City of Oak Creek,” Zimmerman said in a news release. “For this to work we need a strategic cohort of supporters and of course a forward-looking city. The fan base for baseball and stadium based entertainment is certainly there.”

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