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UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena budget: no public events until fall 2021

UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena

This is certainly a conservative move: the new budget for Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center doesn’t anticipate any public events at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena until the fall of 2021. UPDATED

UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena is home to the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL), UW-Milwaukee college sports, and the Milwaukee Wave indoor-soccer team; at one time it hosted NBA basketball in the form of the Milwaukee Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks. (It’s been restored in recent years; check out our 2017 visit.) There’s no firm start date to the AHL season (an earlier goal of a Dec. 4 launch seems highly unlikely), and a similarly uncertain status of winter NCAA sports led the Wisconsin Center to adopt a very conservative budget for the upcoming year.

It helps that UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena is just one of several facilities managed under the Wisconsin Center umbrella and operates with no debt. The arena doesn’t anticipate county and city approval for any sizable gatherings until the second quarter of 2021 and no meaningful revenue until the fall of 2021. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

“If the events resume sooner that is very positive for our budget,” said Steve Marsh, senior vice president and chief financial officer of the Wisconsin Center District. “We put together a conservative budget.”

The Wisconsin Center District board approved a 2021 budget that anticipates $7.4 million of net income….

“To be clear, this is WCD’s working assumption and not one that has been reviewed or provided by the city,” Marsh told the board. “Rather, for planning purposes we needed to establish a reasonable benchmark of when we could expect this cap to be lifted as this is the single most limiting factor to our ability to host events.”

As noted, the Wisconsin Center has some flexibility in budgeting. As noted, a Dec. 4 launch for AHL play seems highly unlikely, given that the NHL probably won’t open for play until January 2021 at the earliest.

UPDATE: There has been one fallout from the Wisconsin Center District decision: the MASL’s Milwaukee Wave announced the cancellation of their 2020-21 schedule because of the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty as far as when and if the Milwaukee Health Department will allow attendance at live sports events, and, if so, how many people can safely share a space,” said Milwaukee Wave owner Mike Zimmerman via press statement. “So, the District can’t give us a line of sight past January 1st to open the arena at capacity limits that work for us. Currently the limit is 250 and we need closer to 4,000.”

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