Franklin — Hundreds of people gathered at The Rock Sports Complex over the weekend to celebrate its grand opening with concerts, home run derbies and an outdoor movie. For staff, it was an opportunity to show off the park's newest developments.
The 20-acre complex at 7900 Crystal Ridge Drive continues to evolve since the new owner, Zimmerman Ventures, took over the Milwaukee County land formerly known as Crystal Ridge Ski Complex in 2011.
This year alone, The Rock has added four adult and two youth baseball fields that replicate actual Major League Baseball stadiums. Plans are in the works to add two more youth fields and four softball diamonds.
Last month, the complex also completed an umbrella bar and a patio that overlooks the baseball fields. These projects are in addition to a renovated ski lodge, concession stands and added parking.
'A whole different game'
But of all the new developments, it's the downhill gravity bike trail, which opened July 5, that's generating the most buzz and already attracting guests from across the Midwest.
The new mountain biking course transforms the 250-foot ski hill and offers an expansive view of Milwaukee County — you can even spot Miller Park.
Excavators spent months carving out 5-foot-wide lanes that snake around each face of the hill, and installed a series of wooden-planked stations. There are four trails of varying difficulties, with the more challenging trails recommended for expert riders, while the others can be enjoyed by beginners.
Each path takes about five minutes to complete, and all trails lead to roughly the same area at the bottom of the hill. A chairlift brings riders and their bikes back to the top of the hill.
Phil Hatfield and Al Brookshire traveled from Illinois with their mountain bikes Saturday to ride the new course. Hatfield said the man-made course at The Rock trumps the natural courses often available in state parks.
"This is a whole different game; it's more aggressive," Hatfield said. "It's amped up and a lot more fun."
Brookshire was nursing a minor injury from a spill he took on the course. He said as soon as he went down, bike patrol rushed to his assistance. Staff at the complex said they employ several bike patrol officers who are always on duty to respond to medical needs.
The Rock has about 40 mountain bikes available for rental, including bikes for kids, Marketing Director Alison Graettinger said. For a fee, riders can take a basic instructional course before hitting the trails.
Construction for the gravity bike course was almost delayed last month when officials from Greendale threatened to bring a lawsuit forward again the complex and Milwaukee County over concerns about erosion and other factors. The parties eventually reached an agreement, and the park opened as scheduled.
From on top of the bike hill, riders can see the almost-completed BMX course on the south side of the complex, which is set to open in mid-August. General Manager Tom Johns said The Rock brought in a well-respected construction team to build the course up to Olympics qualifying standards. Stadium seating, fencing, concessions and other amenities will be added.
The Rock will host Monster Pro BMX event Aug. 24.
Johns said there are other projects in the works, including possibly building an amphitheater and adding catering services at the umbrella bar.
"We kind of call this place imagination station," he said "If we think it up, we might build it."
At a glance
WHAT: The Rock Sports Complex
WHERE: 7900 Crystal Ridge Drive
PHONE: (414) 529-7676
ETC.: The bike park is open from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday. On the weekend, the hill is open from 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and 3:15 to 8 p.m. A day pass costs $20, and there are packages for a day pass, lessons and rental equipment for $60. The umbrella bar and baseball fields are open until after league games are completed.
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