Thank You Frank Busalacchi

No, he was not a Major League Baseball (MLB) player. No, he was not an MLB manager. No, he was not an MLB owner. But Frank Busalacchi has done more for the MLB in Milwaukee over the past 20 years. He was instrumental in retaining and maintaining the Brewers tenure in Milwaukee and was at the forefront of creating a state-of-the-art facility.  When Milwaukee was in dire need of replacing County Stadium and when the legislation was drafted (Act 56) that would provide the funding for said stadium replacement, Frank was all in. On October 6, 1995, Act 56 passed, Governor Thompson signed the legislation into law, and the Brewers would remain in Milwaukee.

The legislation created the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District (SEWPBPD) (the “District”), run by an independent board which had the power to issue revenue bonds and institute a five county 0.1% sales tax for the stadium. The District’s quasi-government board’s mission was to build a new home for the Milwaukee Brewers. Frank wasted no time in accepting Governor Thompson’s appointment to the newly created institution.

Frank’s contributions, along with the contributions of Bob Trunzo and other Board Members, to the District were instrumental in not only the design and location of the new stadium, but also the novel roofing design of the stadium. The roof guaranteed that games would not be canceled or postponed due to rain or inclement weather conditions. Frank traveled to Japan when Mitsubishi set up a week’s worth of tours of their specially designed retractable roofs.

Miller Park was the house that organized labor built. The Project Labor Agreement ensured that the complex project would be completed properly, on time, and within the budget. As a respected labor leader, Frank was at the forefront of the assemblage of the Project Labor Agreement. In addition, Frank chaired the Construction Committee of the Board. During his tenure, a crane collapsed mid-lift resulting in the loss of life of three iron workers. Frank acted as the spokesman for the Board during this horrific accident and investigation, and quickly earned the media’s respect for his candor, empathy, and honesty.

The stadium was completed, and the first official game held at Miller Park was Opening Day, April 6, 2001. President George W. Bush was in attendance. In 2003, Frank became the Secretary of Transportation for the State of Wisconsin, and Governor Doyle requested that Frank resign from the District Board.

Milwaukee was so fortunate to have Frank Busalacchi. Beyond the contributions already mentioned, Frank was an avid communitarian. He was a president of the Summerfest Board of Directors, received a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, degree from Marquette University, and was responsible for rebuilding the Marquette interchange, on time and on budget, in downtown Milwaukee.

But for Frank, baseball was his first love. He was reappointed to the District by Governor Evers in 2019 and was made Chairman of the Operations Committee, formerly the Construction Committee. During his term, the stadium tax was set to be eliminated. Frank vehemently opposed letting the tax reach its sunset date and was convinced there was not enough money to finish out the lease. Unfortunately, the tax was allowed to retire, and Frank’s prediction has proven true. In 2023-2024, new legislation was announced whereas governmental units would put up tax dollars for improvements to Miller Park, now American Family Field, for an extension of the Brewers’ Lease. After faithfully serving more than 20 years, Frank’s time on the District Board came to an end when he was not reappointed to the Board of the new District, Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, created by the new legislation executed by Governor Evers.

Frank was a dedicated citizen, a dedicated communitarian. And had a love for baseball that transcended our community. Frank was also a public servant and leader who accomplished what he promised. We should all thank Frank Busalacchi for keeping baseball in Milwaukee and for being one of Wisconsin’s best citizens.