A few years back, Mike Zimmerman was driving by a landfill every day in his hometown of Franklin, Wisconsin, wondering what the city’s plan was for the community eyesore.
Understanding the need for high-quality baseball facilities around the city at the time, Zimmerman took matters into his own hands, creating what eventually became The Rock Sports and Entertainment Complex. It broke ground in 2013. The 142-acre complex includes six baseball fields, as well as biking and skiing courses, and also hosts large outdoor events such as concerts.
So it’s fitting that Zimmerman and the City of Kokomo’s paths collided just months after the city revealed plans to construct Kokomo Municipal Stadium, a 4,000-seat baseball stadium that broke ground in July.
The city’s objective in creating the stadium was two-fold: Add another large attraction to bring people downtown while raising the elevation in a traditionally flood-prone neighborhood.
Zimmerman will now be the face of Kokomo’s newest attraction, a Prospect League baseball team that will hit the field this coming spring.
Zimmerman, the founder and CEO of MKE Sports & Entertainment, also is the owner of the Milwaukee Wave, an indoor soccer club, and has another independent Frontier League franchise starting up in Milwaukee.
At 36, Zimmerman brings to the table a successful business track record to compliment his thirst for athletics. He’s built seven successful healthcare companies, working with over 80 percent of the nation’s hospitals.
“Mike’s enthusiasm and business credentials stood out from the rest [of the potential suitors],” Goodnight said. “Partnering with Mike, who has a proven record with owning successful sports franchises, also provides us with the opportunity for entertainment options beyond baseball.”
When the city announced it would be building Kokomo Municipal Stadium, many were wondering what its use would be beyond local high schools using the stadium for games and tournaments.
The Prospect League appears to hit the sweet spot for a downtown attraction. It has a shorter, 60-game schedule featuring some of the nation’s best college baseball prospects and ticket prices starting at around $8.
MKE also will pay the city a minimum of $22,500 per year for the use of the stadium, with various incentives that could boost that total to $100,000 a year in its five-year lease. MKE Sports will be responsible for the maintenance of the stadium and will pay the electric, gas and water bills and trash removal.
With other events like family movie nights and turning the stadium into an ice rink in the winter possibly on the horizon, Zimmerman appears ready to bring a product to Kokomo that extends beyond baseball.
It looks like Kokomo has found its man.
“The revitalization project that Kokomo is doing is real special, and I want to be part of that,” Zimmerman said. “Plus, this idea of urban baseball is a newer trend in baseball. So for me, it was a perfect storm, because I’m an entrepreneur at the heart. For me, it wasn’t just about baseball. It’s about building life into businesses. So, for me, Kokomo was an ability to get involved in the community in yes, baseball, but also a lot of other things.”