A very ambitious Milwaukee Bucks downtown arena plan was unveiled yesterday by team owners and their design team, with conceptual drawings used to illustrate the project’s development possibilities.
Downtown Milwaukee is showing signs of life not seen in the last 30 or so years; new businesses and restaurants are popping up, taking advantage of low land prices and leases, and an increasingly well-educated and well-paid populace.
To take advantage of that trend — and perhaps boosting it — the NBA team owners are proposing a Bucks downtown arena plan that combines a new facility with entertainment, residential and office development. The large multiblock proposed site, which primarily sits between Fourth Street and Sixth Street from State Street to McKinley Avenue, will seamlessly link with active development on all sides, including Old World Third Street, Schlitz Park, The Brewery, the Milwaukee riverfront, Water Street and the Wisconsin Center. There’s already infrastructure in place — the BMO Harris Bradley Center sits on the southern part of the site — and plenty of freeway access.
All in all, the team is proposing a 700,000-square-foot, 17,000-seat arena fronted by a 60,000-square-foot public plaza. That would be combined with 1 million square feet of new development, mostly in the Park East corridor. The Bucks would also build a new state-of-the-art practice facility in this development phase as well.
Once the new arena opens, BMO Harris Bradley Center would be torn down to make way for additional development. All in all, the Bucks are proposing a 30-acre, 3-million-square-foot development that could take a decade to finish.
“We’re not just trying to build a new home for the Milwaukee Bucks, but create a 365-day attraction for Wisconsin residents that will help revitalize downtown Milwaukee,” said Bucks president Peter Feigin. “We’re excited to share this glimpse of our vision for the future as we continue to work with our local and state partners to arrive at a viable plan. This collective effort will create a ripple effect of growth, development and transformation for the entire community and region.”
The plan, as developed by lead partner Populous and assisted by HNTB and Eppstein Uhen, calls for an arena design with lots of glass and flowing lines to anchor a larger entertainment district. Downtown Milwaukee already has its share of entertainment venues — Walker’s Point is home to cutting-edge brewpubs, the Third Ward is home to shopping and the Public Market, Old World Third Street hearkens back to the city’s Germanic roots with Turner Hall and Mader’s, and Schlitz Park transformed the old brewery into a bustling center — and the arena development next to Old World Third Street could give a much-needed boost to downtown development and traffic.
“These early conceptual renderings represent the owners’ vision to create a world-class facility and year-round destination that will revitalize downtown Milwaukee and spur growth and development throughout the region,” said Brad Clark, senior designer at Populous. “We envision this dynamic entertainment experience as one that could seamlessly connect to the greater Milwaukee community. The goal is to design a lasting symbol for all of Wisconsin, pairing the crafted scale of Milwaukee’s architecture and innovative spirit with the natural beauty of the state.”
The current spending calls for $500 million on the arena and $500 million on development. Bucks owners have pledged $150 million toward the arena, with former owner Herb Kohl pledging another $100 million. That leaves $250 million outstanding, but there are proposals for the state to bond part of that amount, and both Milwaukee and Milwaukee County could come up with more.
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