Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
For a time it seemed as though recent talk about a minor league baseball stadium being built in Franklin was just that…talk. The naysayers, as usual, surfaced early. And the hint of any city property taxes being used to fund the project appeared to be, not just a strike, but a third strike. The developer immediately locked in Oak Creek as a Plan B in case the Franklin plan would suffer a quick death.
However, the idea of a potential Franklin site isn’t dead yet as the city has provided a spark of momentum with a Memorandum Of Understanding between Franklin and the developer that will be the subject of a public information hearing Thursday night.
I urge interested Franklin residents to look at the lengthy (133 pages) Draft Franklin Baseball Stadium Market Feasibility Study that was submitted to the Franklin Stadium Task Force on March 21, 2014. The draft was compiled by Johnson Consulting. Here are some critical excerpts:
The planned stadium in Franklin is expected to have a total capacity for approximately 3,100 fans for baseball games. The breakdown for seating is detailed below:
·Fixed Seats: 1,800
·Grass Berm Seating: 500
·Premium/ Semi-Premium Seating-
Premium Suites: 6 (Capacity 12 per suite)
2 Party Suites (Capacity 12 per suite)
Umbrella Bar Group Seating (Capacity 250)
·Overflow/Standing Room: 500 Kid’s fun zone & playground
·Bullpen Perch: 160 linear feet of drink rail above the RF bullpens for fan viewing
·Field Dimensions: LF 310, CF 400, RF 325
·Retail Store: 500 SF fixed concession points of sale (10 cash registers)
·Vendor Carts: 4 (with specialty food items)
Additionally, the proposed stadium will include artificial turf and will be designed to accommodate a larger capacity for outdoor concerts, among other special events. This phase of development at The Rock Sports Complex will also include two ancillary little league baseball fields. The estimated cost of the proposed stadium is approximately $10.5 million. Additional costs include team acquisition, fees and team operating costs that will total approximately $4 million.
The City asked ways to help hedge risk.
Reasons why these venues fail are:
§Poorly capitalized owners
In our judgment, the City has a proven developer with a vested interest in the community. He has shown a willingness to be fair and has existing visitors to the site that he is willing to leverage to the benefit of the stadium.
Other tools that can be used to hedge risk are:
§Be very careful in the project’s capital budget. The proposed cost is low, so it seems responsible.
§Negotiate a risk sharing agreement, where the contractor, developer share any cost over runs.
§Dedicate revenues to the project cost and reserve funds, and use the adjacent real estate for sources of capital.
§Negotiate lease payment as well as potential user fee/ticket surcharge.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
The annual debt service payment for the $10.5 million would be approximately $1.1 million over a 20 year period, resulting in a 20 year total of $21.5 million. While, the total spending estimated to be generated by the stadium alone is approximately $11.03 million annually, resulting in a 20 year total of $220.56 million.
Combined, the Rock Sports Complex and the stadium are estimated to generate approximately $15.09 annually, resulting in a total of $301.79 million.
I’ll return to the document in a bit. I believe the economic benefits are undeniable. Early on I wrote that I supported a reasonable city contribution to the effort. The main reason I did so was because I consider myself a beleaguered city property taxpayer.
Let’s be clear. Franklin is a very good city. I fully realize that, having moved here in 1992 and having built two homes here. But in all honesty, despite the nice neighborhoods, the hard-working city staff, great fire and police, and decent schools, I don’t feel I’m getting anywhere near the bang for my sizable buck. My willingness to part with some tax money for a new stadium was a minority view and I, like many of you, would prefer Franklin find a way to execute this deal without putting taxpayers on the hook. That seems to be the way the city is operating.
The information related above outlines the economic benefits. Please don’t forget a benefit that can’t be broken down into dollars and cents but is extremely important.
Much as we may love living in Franklin, the sad reality is that we’re not social or cultural magnet. No one is flocking here to take advantage of what stock we have in restaurants, shops, businesses, or services. They’re just not. A new stadium would bring an intangible vital to Franklin: it would add immeasurably to our quality of life. Here’s another excerpt from the draft feasibility study.
Franklin is a very robust market due to the strong growth and diverse employment base. The population, median household income, rebounding employment figures and expanding list of companies indicate that Franklin is capable of supporting a Frontier League franchise, despite the close proximity to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers have enjoyed a resurgence of popularity and support within the Milwaukee Metro Market over the last several years, but the Frontier League does not compete directly with Major League Baseball. A Frontier League franchise in Franklin will offer an affordable family entertainment option for local and regional residents alike.
There is strong demand for family, outdoor entertainment in Wisconsin during the summer months, and at the moment, there is an opportunity for a new product in the region. Additionally, given the success of The Rock Sports Complex, a Frontier League franchise should be able to partner with existing youth and/or adult baseball leagues for promotional events and could turn the complex into a destination within the region. This should also bring about economic development in the immediate area to support the influx of residents and visitors to the area, as well as raise property values within Franklin.
A Frontier League franchise in Franklin will be most beneficial for local residents in that it will provide additional family entertainment options, seasonal employment and volunteer opportunities while also providing residents a facility for numerous special events outside of baseball.
The stadium will also offer a number of opportunities for community-based events throughout the year, thanks to the synthetic turf and luxury suites. All told, the first year of operations the stadium can expect to host approximately 99 events with a total attendance of approximately 124,335. This will, no doubt, benefit the City of Franklin by ultimately creating a need for additional or reinvigorated retail deveopments, such as those found along 76th and Rawson.
Redevelopment projects can be tipping points for many communities. Through such catalyst developments, many communities find themselves with increased attractions and amenities that add to the quality of life for residents. Hence, the importance of the baseball stadium cannot be overlooked. It can change the course of Franklin and add vitality to attract visitors and residents.
Baseball stadiums drive ancillary development. Through proper planning, use of selected incentives, and community engagement…Franklin can position the baseball stadium to entice additional development and revitalization in the area. Johnson Consulting feels strongly that the development of the proposed Franklin stadium will be a successful investment on behalf of the City, which will likely serve as a catalyst to spur new development and entertainment in the City of Franklin. The synergies between the proposed development and the existing Rock Sports Complex combined offers a unique opportunity for the City of Franklin and its tourism base as it relates to the ever growing sports tourism market.
THAT sums it up very well.
I know Franklin could easily drop the ball.
I also know Franklin could pull this off. It’s for our economic benefit and quality of life that Franklin does.