Milwaukee’s U.S. Cellular Arena is no more, with the main tenant of the facility buying naming rights to what will be known as UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
The renaming of the arena is part of a broad 10-year partnership agreement between UW-Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Center District that includes the naming rights to the facility and a long-term downtown home for the UWM Panthers Men’s Basketball team. A key provision of the new partnership agreement is a plan for UWM to begin hosting major concerts and other programming at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, including nationally known speakers.
The deal comes at a time when the Milwaukee Bucks have begun talking once again about a new arena — talks that will surely incite some political turmoil. It’s one thing to have two arena co-exist in a downtown area, but throw in a new Bucks arena and there’s certainly a glut on the market when you include the Bradley Center. With the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena filling the niche as a smaller venue, the future of downtown Milwaukee arenas probably doesn’t include the Bradley Center. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
[Franklyn] Gimbel, head of the Wisconsin Center District, said he supported building a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, Marquette University’s men’s basketball program and the Milwaukee Admirals, but remained opposed to tearing down the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The arena first opened in 1950.
“I think this venue has the unique characteristics for fan appreciation of the events that play here that would not transfer easily to the Bradley Center. And my personal view…I don’t see that building as having future viability when and if a new arena is built,” Gimbel said.
Steve Costello, president and CEO of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, said in a statement that it was premature to say the Bradley Center should be torn down especially in light of what he called a “robust discussion” about the need for a new arena.
“This decision must be a part of the community discussion about the future of downtown Milwaukee, but as the crown jewel of the downtown entertainment scene, we believe it’s putting the cart ahead of the horse to offer this type of opinion,” Costello said.
Still, for UW-Milwaukee, the deal brings the school some needed marketing oomph.
“Having UWM’s name on the downtown arena is an important symbol of our deep commitment to the City of Milwaukee and the entire region,” said Interim Chancellor Mark Mone. “It fits well with our strategic plan to enhance the university’s brand and to further position UWM as Milwaukee’s University.”
According to Mone, the partnership agreement will also raise UWM’s visibility among prospective students and their families.
“Having the UWM name on a major public arena in the heart of the region’s cultural and social scene will strengthen our marketing efforts with the huge number of people who live in or visit Milwaukee each year,” explained Mone.
Mone emphasized that no tax dollars will be used for the marketing and sponsorship initiative. The program will be financed with money from the UWM Foundation and funds generated by non-academic programming at the university.
The arena opened in 1950 as the Milwaukee Arena. It may be best known as the MECCA from the Milwaukee Bucks’ glory days as a tenant.
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