FRANKLIN - The company behind The Rock Sports Complex and the proposed Ballpark Commons has changed its name from "MKE Sports & Entertainment" to "ROC Ventures."
According to the company, the name ROC Ventures is meant to "remind everyone in the organization of the thread unifying all of ROC's projects: return on community."
“It’s become more and more clear to us that developing and contributing to a real deep economy locally is the key to lasting success for the entire surrounding region,” said owner Mike Zimmerman. “That’s the principle behind ‘return on community,’ and that’s our commitment.”
ROC Ventures is a private equity fund that focuses on six primary investment themes, all of which were affected by the name change, including: ROC Sports & Performance; ROC Productions; ROC Hospitality; ROC BPO Services; and ROC Properties, which is currently developing Ballpark Commons.
According to Zimmerman, the company has held the concept as a value for quite some time, but began considering a name change at the end of last year.
One of the places he saw this concept in action was in Franklin's community.
"It was something we saw at The Rock, for instance, this past summer when we had Rock ’n Food Truck Rallies. People of all ages were there enjoying themselves and getting to know one another, and the food trucks found a whole bunch of new fans," Zimmerman said. "That’s 'return on community,' and now it’s front-and-center."
Due to the event's success when it was held every month during the summer last year, Zimmerman says that this summer the firm will hold the event every Wednesday at the Rock.
Zimmerman also considers Ballpark Commons one of the best examples of this new focus, calling it a "literal manifestation of the return on community ethic."
"We've been very mindful of creating a mixed-use environment that offers a range of opportunities and regular human interaction for people of all ages," Zimmerman said. "We’ve had national chains approach us, asking for retail and restaurant space, and we’ve opted instead for locally owned, smaller businesses that are more likely to reinvest in and develop relationships with the community they are part of.
"This is also exactly the kind of development that brings interest to the areas around it, so we anticipate further positive growth in Franklin as a result of Ballpark Commons," Zimmerman added.
Throughout the process of developing Ballpark Commons, some Franklin residents have agreed with Zimmerman's assessment of the project's impact, while others have been more skeptical, voicing concerns about environmental issues and how the development may affect those living close by.
However, Zimmerman says developers have been working closely with those in the locations closest to the development to ensure its effect is positive.
"Our process in developing Ballpark Commons has involved regular interaction with surrounding residents in order to be sensitive to their concerns and keep them up to date on our progress," Zimmerman said. "The layout of Ballpark Commons is very much informed by how best to preserve the environment of subdivisions in proximity, and we’re confident that our neighbors will be very pleased with the results and enjoy new local assets available to them."
'New village' ideas
He added that the Ballpark Commons will emulate the concept of a "new village," which is popular in many suburbs now, and that he believes many residents will enjoy what services Ballpark Commons will bring.
"People of all ages are voting with their wallets, and they're choosing to live in environments that foster a sense of community and belonging, where they can enjoy a coffee just a block or two from where they live, for instance," Zimmerman said. "Also, Franklin residents have been asking for exactly the kinds of merchants we're lining up for Ballpark Commons, so we anticipate quite a few happy people regularly visiting. It is literally a 'return on community' opportunity."