THE DEAN’S LIST
By Dean Hockney, Sports Journal Publisher
The Kokomo Jackrabbits.
When I first heard the name of the new Prospect League baseball team that will play at Kokomo Municipal Stadium next summer, I had mixed emotions. The biggest question being: What does a Jackrabbit have to do with Kokomo? But when I put together the fact the team is named after the Apperson Jack Rabbit automobile from the early 1900s, I knew MKE Sports & Entertainment had, as they say in baseball, hit it out of the park.
“I love it,” said MKE owner Mike Zimmerman of the Jackrabbits name. “And it is a natural fit with the heritage. I think it is perfect.”
The Kokomo Jackrabbits have a chance to be something special in Kokomo – and not just on the baseball diamond. The MKE ownership group is an award-winning organization that has turned heads in the Milwaukee area. They are known not just for baseball, but for putting on some of the top attractions in the area – such as The Rock Bike Park, which won an award as the best bike parks in the Midwest in 2013. Could the same thing happen in Kokomo?
MKE is also huge in the world of soccer. The Milwaukee Wave is the longest running professional soccer franchise in the United States, playing in the MISL. Soccer is growing by leaps and bounds in central Indiana. This year, three Howard County teams advanced to the Sweet Sixteen round in the IHSAA tournament. And don’t forget, the 30-plus field Wildcat Creek Soccer Complex is currently being built, so soccer has a bright future in the area. Could you imagine if Zimmerman and his team got involved in promoting soccer in the area?
MKE also runs Rock League Baseball in the Milwaukee area. The Rock Sports Complex is considered a top-tier baseball facility with six diamonds – all replica models of major league parks. They had 15,000 fans and athletes visit the complex in 2014. Could something like this happen in Kokomo? Who knows? But as Mayor Greg Goodnight and city officials to team up with Mike Zimmerman and his organization, I think the sky is the limit.
Did you know Kokomo’s new baseball stadium is built specifically so a regulation sized soccer field can fit inside? Maybe the Indy Eleven could play an exhibition game or two here. There has been talk of Kokomo Municipal Stadium hosting concerts, fast pitch softball, youth sports camps and even a winter skating rink. Zimmerman is the first to admit that nine months ago, he had no idea MKE Sports & Entertainment would venture into the Midwest sports market.
“This is a natural fit,” said Zimmerman. “This is a perfect storm with a brand new stadium. Who knows what will happen.”
In the end, this could just be a baseball team that comes to Kokomo and slowly dies, but I doubt it. With MKE and its strong resume of success – it operates the No. 1 haunted attraction in Milwaukee – the Kokomo Jackrabbits could just be the start of a long relationship that becomes an economic boon to Howard County.
Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.
Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana and sports editor of the Kokomo Herald. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.