BY DAN MOLLOY MILWAUKEE
PUBLISHED 11:14 AM ET MAR. 10, 2020
OCONOMOWOC, Wisc. (SPECTRUM NEWS) – A new baseball facility is coming to southeastern Wisconsin for the 2021 season. The city of Oconomowoc approved plans from Blue Ribbon Baseball for a 2,500-seat ballpark and year-round indoor training facility.
The group financing the park hopes to bring a Northwoods League team to Waukesha County next season, with the goal of showcasing some local players who spend the college season at schools across the country.
“We would like those kids to come back home, play in front of their own community, their own family, and ultimately eat Mom’s dinner instead of being on the road,” said Tom Kelenic of Blue Ribbon Baseball.
Kelenic said Oconomowoc’s unanimous vote last week was a big step in the group’s three-year effort to build a ballpark and training center. Pewaukee and the village of Summit had passed on similar construction proposals. The Blue Ribbon team said it had learned from those setbacks before Oconomowoc ultimately decided to play ball.
“Everybody liked baseball, everybody liked the venue,” Tim Neubert said. “it’s just when you put something like this in somebody’s backyard, they’re going to have concerns.”
The votes by the Oconomowoc Common Council came after more than two hours of public hearing and debate, mostly about regulating for noise levels and hours of operation during sporting events.
Oconomowoc mayor Dave Nold is leaving office in April, but he said he was proud to move this significant development forward before the end of his term.
“Oconomowoc’s always been a baseball community, but we also need things for soccer and lacrosse and a training facility,” Nold said. “There’s really no indoor training, and the weather in Wisconsin is not very good this time of year.”
Neubert compared Blue Ribbon Baseball’s current position to a batter just rounding first base. Construction approval was a big step. The group plans to break ground in early June, just under a year ahead of Opening Day for the 2021 Northwoods League season.
“When that ballpark is full and the youth are there utilizing it and we can see them getting better,” Kelenic said, “That’s what we’ve envisioned for the last three years.”
A Northwoods League season would include 36 home games in Oconomowoc between Memorial Day and early August.