Zimmerman makes new pitch for mixed-use project at The Rock

Proposal includes 4,000-seat ballpark, residential, retail and hotel in Franklin


Developer Michael Zimmerman’s latest proposal for a mixed-use development at The Rock Sports Complex will be reviewed tonight during a special meeting at the Franklin Common Council.

The proposal comes a year after being turned down for a $10 million city-financed baseball stadium in Franklin.

This time around, Zimmerman is proposing a $130 million project that includes a 4,000-seat stadium for a minor league baseball team, restaurants and hotels and an indoor sports complex.

Zimmerman, whose Greenfield-based Zimmerman Ventures LLC, operates The Rock and also owns and operates the Milwaukee Wave and several health care businesses, did not want to comment on the project until after Monday’s meeting.

If approved, the development would occur at both The Rock complex and on adjacent land along Crystal Ridge Drive, between 76th Street and W. Rawson Avenue and the property southwest of W. Rawson Avenue and Old Loomis Road.

Zimmerman and Greg Marso, president and CEO of Marso Construction and Cartensen Homes in Franklin, own about 26 of the 32 acres south of Rawson that could be developed.

His proposal includes the following:

At the Rock Sports Complex:

  • A 4,000 seat stadium intended for an independent minor league professional baseball franchise. The stadium would also serve as the home field for the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee Panthers baseball program.
  • An indoor sports facility to accommodate four youth-sized baseball fields. The fields could also accommodate other sports such as soccer or lacrosse.
  • A mixed-use development known as “Ballpark Commons,” which could include one or more restaurants and hotels and other retail uses.

At W. Rawson Avenue and Old Loomis Road:

  • Three multi-story mixed use buildings with retail on the first floor, 60 residential apartments on the upper floors.
  • Two, 60,000-square-foot, three-story office buildings.
  • Eighteen two-story apartment buildings with 240-units.

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

He originally 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 but was unanimously rejected in April 2014 by the Franklin Common Council.

The Common Council is studying the possibility of creating a TIF for this portion of the city, in part to spur additional retail and commercial development to the area. The TIF would include a portion the land Zimmerman is proposing to develop, but not The Rock Sport s Complex itself.

Zimmerman said he has not determined whether city financing would be required for the stadium, according to documents filed with the city.

Early naysayers of the project were worried about the seasonal nature of the Rock, but Zimmerman said the development across from the ball fields would be the missing piece, according to documents filed with the city.

He compared the mixed-use development to Drexel Town Square in Oak Creek.

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