Zimmerman considers other communities for minor league ballpark after Franklin rejection

Mike Zimmerman, CEO of Greenfield-based Zimmerman Ventures and The Rock Sports Complex in Franklin, said he still plans to build a minor league ballpark in the area, despite the Franklin Common Council’s rejection of tax incremental financing for the project.

“I am talking to other communities for consideration,” Zimmerman said. “It will be built somewhere, that is for certain. Another community will snag this up quickly in light of Franklin’s inability to (do so).”

A source said Zimmerman is in talks with Oak Creek and Cudahy officials. But Cudahy Mayor John Hohenfeldt said he only received a brief phone call about three weeks from a representive of Zimmerman, checking for interest in the ballpark project, and that was it. He said Greenfield Mayor Mike Neitzke received a similar call. Neitzke couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Hohenfeldt said he told Zimmerman’s representative to have Zimmerman contact the city for more detailed discussion, but he has not done so yet.

“Without seeing a real proposal, it would just be way premature to comment,” Hohenfeldt said.

Zimmerman transformed the former Crystal Ridge Ski Hill, a Milwaukee County Park property northwest of South 76th Street and Loomis Road in Franklin, into The Rock, a multi-sport complex with a ski hill, baseball fields, mountain biking trails and a BMX track.

He wanted to build a $10.5 million minor league ballpark at The Rock and secured a franchise for a team from the independent Frontier League.

Zimmerman sought a public-private partnership with the City of Franklin to finance the ballpark. His most recent proposal included plans to develop a mixed-use downtown district near The Rock, and to use tax incremental financing from that development to pay for the cost of the ballpark. But the Franklin Common Council rejected those plans this week.

The Common Council motion to deny the financing plan for the ballpark said it was doing so for, “multiple unknowns including the developer providing inadequate evidence of the potential for economic development.”

Zimmerman appears to be moving on to other communities, but a Franklin official said the door is not closed for a deal there.

“The ball is in the developer’s court to continue (negotiations) if he wants to look at a proposal and identify unknowns in the proposal,” said Mark Luberda, director of administration for the City of Franklin.

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