In case you missed it Tuesday, Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel reported that plans are afoot to build a minor league or independent league baseball stadium at what’s known as “The Rock” sports complex in Franklin, Wisconsin, which is about 17 miles southwest of downtown Milwaukee. Current plans would see this new ballpark seating around 3,000, and it would potentially host a brand-new team for the Frontier League, Daykin reports. The independent 14-team Frontier League, not affiliated with MLB, would presumably add a new team in each of its two divisions to keep them balanced. The Frontier League’s East Division features clubs from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, as well as the curious Frontier Greys, a traveling team with no home stadium. The West Division includes six more teams based in Illinois, along with the River City Rascals, out of O’Fallon, Missouri. The league began operations in the early 1990s and plays May through September. On Tuesday the Frontier League’s Michigan-based team, the Traverse City Beach Bums (great name), sold the contract of pitcher Johnny Omahen to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
According the JS report, developers of The Rock complex are also looking at a MLB-affiliated minor league team or a Northwoods League-type of team as options to occupy the proposed stadium, which would be built via private financing sources along with possibly a loan or grant from the city of Franklin. Built on a former landfill, The Rock includes a ski hill, gravity-biking trails, six baseball fields, bars and other facilities/amenities already. A Frontier League or other minor league franchise at the site would only boost the complex’s overall offerings. Daykin interviewed Mike Zimmerman, The Rock’s owner, who thought it would cost between $7-11MM to develop a portion of the site into a feasible new ballpark. The existing baseball fields are modeled after various MLB stadiums, including Miller Park.
This is all news to me, as I hadn’t been following this story. In the JS comments, the few who have spoken up are yelling about taxes and seem confused as to why such a thing would be built in Franklin when the Brewers are so close by. To me, there really can’t be enough baseball around, and these kinds of independent or minor league operations aren’t threatening the Brewers’ bottom line, rather the opposite. Provided all the finances are aboveboard, this seems to be a great idea for an addition to this sports complex. Somehow I doubt they land a MLB-affiliated franchise, what with two already in the state (Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and Beloit Snappers), but you never know. I’ve been out to a Lakeshore Chinooks game, and that experience seems like it would be comparable to what folks in Franklin would be in for, which is a good thing. If it provides some local, affordable fun for the folks in that area and promotes the game of baseball, I don’t see the harm in it. Much needs to be worked out on the proposed project, so this will be a story to keep an eye on.
(Image: Mark Kass)