After struggling to get a baseball stadium approved in two previous locations, the third time may be the charm for Diamond Club Entertainment Inc.
On Dec. 11 the city of Oconomowoc Plan Commission recommended that the common council approve a land-use plan amendment and a request to rezone more than 21 acres on Blue Ribbon Circle North in the Pabst Farms Commerce Centre from business park to general commercial. The actions would pave the way for the stadium.
The matter was scheduled to go to the common council Dec. 17 for a public hearing and possible vote.
Diamond Club Entertainment —Tim Neubert, Tom Kelenic and Sonny Bando —previously proposed similar projects in the city of Pewaukee and village of Summit.
The Oconomowoc proposal includes a 43,000-square-foot wellness facility that would feature a multisport artificial turf playing surface for baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer, rugby and possibly more sports. A strength-and-conditioning facility, physical therapy and chiropractic services, indoor concession and food/beverage lounge would also be included.
The outdoor multi-use playing surface would have 2,200 fixed seats and 300 table top seats. Neubert said they hope the park will be the future home of a Northwoods League franchise. The Northwoods League is a summer league for college baseball players that recently completed its 25th year of operation.
“This is for and built around family entertainment,” Neubert said. “It offers the collegiate athlete the opportunity to play, but most importantly it offers the family the ability to come to a game at a fraction of what it would cost to go to Miller Park.”
The majority of people who spoke at the meeting, including former Mayor Jim Daley, supported the project, which has an estimated value of $12 million.
“Here we have a proposal that requires no incentives that is coming here to bring a sense of place and a sense of community,” Daly said. “One can look at the Cape Cod League in New England and the sense of community bonding that comes with these teams and the strength that it gives to these small towns to be part of something big.”
Luke Nelson, president of the Oconomowoc Area Baseball Club and an Oconomowoc High School graduate, played in the Cape Cod League and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants.
“Being the president for the last 10 years for the Oconomowoc Five O’s, I do what I do because I love to play with the kids,” Nelson said. “I want to give them the opportunities that I was able to have coming through this community. I think this is a huge opportunity for the city, and it’s a huge opportunity for the kids in the community.”
The complex would also be available to the local high school teams and youth leagues, Neubert noted.
“If you look at last spring, it wasn’t wonderful,” Neubert said. “A lot of games were cancelled. There is, without question, a lot of interest from local high schools to be able to use this.”
But Jay Schneider, president of Lake Country Manufacturing, 950 Blue Ribbon Circle, had concerns with the rezoning.
“Since the games are mainly during the week, we are going to have concerns with regards to our employees getting in and out of the park,” Schneider said. “As well as trucks being able to get in and out conveniently for both bringing in materials … as well as shipping out goods.”
One of the plan commissioners, John Gross, voted in favor of the land use plan amendment and rezoning, but also expressed some concerns.
“If we’re going to go commercial, this is the probable location with the proximity to the freeways and with the access,” Gross said. “I am concerned about the potential impacts on the business district to the west. They’ve been there for a long time. … I would hope the council uses sensitivity to their needs as a longstanding investor in the community that probably sunk a lot of money and effort. We don’t want to damage their businesses.”