Bucks Unveil Arena Plans

Long-awaited details on location of a new arena and development of surrounding area in Downtown Milwaukee have now been announced.

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It’s been 357 days since Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens took the stage in the atrium of the BMO Harris Bradley Center to announce they were acquiring the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, after months of anticipation, the organization has offered the most definitive look yet at plans for a new arena.

At a Wednesday-morning press conference – back at that same atrium – team officials, led by Bucks president Peter Feigin and Mike Fascitelli, a member of the ownership group, unveiled renderings for a new arena.

The proposed site is located just north of the current Bradley Center (“Option No. 2” from Milwaukee Magazine’s November cover story). It will be bordered by Fourth Street to the east, Sixth Street to the west, Juneau Avenue to the north, and where the Bradley Center now stands to the south.

The arena itself is estimated to cost $500 million, be 700,000 square feet, and would seat 17,000 people. Plans would also call for a nearby team practice facility and the eventual demolition of the Bradley Center.

“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,” says Feigin says in a press release. “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.”

According to the release, the proposed site…

“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.”

“The vision is for an arena designed for maximum flexibility and year-round use. A dynamic entertainment district will serve as a destination that draws the people of the region together for unforgettable experiences and a place people will love to gather for generations to come.”

“The Bucks recently announced the hiring of Populous to lead a group of prominent global, national and local architects including HNTB and Eppstein Uhen.

“These early conceptual renderings represent the owners’ vision to create a world-class facility and year-round destination that will help 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.”

Photo courtesy Milwaukee Bucks


Plans also call for an estimated $500 million in ancillary development in the area west of the Milwaukee River in Downtown Milwaukee. The proposal includes:

  • A new practice facility located just west of Sixth Street near a roundabout.
  • Full development of the Park East corridor — from the roundabout to the Aloft Hotel.
  • A “live entertainment district” block between Fourth Street and Old World Third Street that would connect to the arena.
  • redevelopment of the Bradley Center’s site after its demolition.

In total, this amounts to 3 million square feet of proposed development on 30 acres of land (including city streets).

Photo courtesy Milwaukee Bucks
Photo courtesy Milwaukee Bucks

These plans are considerably more than what has been made public at any point in this process, but nothing is definitive.

“All of this might fluctuate,” says Jake Suski, a Bucks spokesman, who adds that the team intends for the ancillary development plans to be “flexible.”

Bucks ownership would have the biggest role in funding a new practice facility, but the full $500 million in ancillary development would come from several sources.

“We will be working with local officials and others to bring together a world-class development team,” says Suski.

The city owns a parking structure at Fourth and Juneau that would be torn down in the proposal. Also on that block, facing Third Street, are buildings that house the Loaded Slate, Ugly’s Pub, and other Downtown bars and restaurants, and the team is looking to include those sites in the entertainment block as well, says Suski.

The Park East is owned by Milwaukee County. Development there would include parking and mixed-use facilities that would involve commercial, retail, office and housing.

While the financing plan for the new arena will involve a public partnership with the state, city and county, no public officials joined Feigin and Fascitelli for the announcement.

Still to come is a finalized plan for funding the new arena. Private contributions from new ownership and former owner Sen. Herb Kohl are expected to make up $250 million, or roughly half of the expected cost to build the arena itself. A plan proposed by Gov. Scott Walker would have added $220 in state-issued bonds to the arena funding package, but judging by recent comments by the governor and additional plans by Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Walker’s “Pay Their Way” plan, which was announced in late January, may not have a path forward.

Mayor Tom Barrett was unavailable to comment today. At a press conference last week, he said the city and county together could provide $50 million in financing for the arena (more details on that from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here).

The timing of Mayor Barrett’s statement drew the ire of Ald. Joe Davis (2nd District), a presumptive mayoral candidate in 2016.

“To blast your potential state funding partner (the Governor’s announcement of a $220 million proposed funding package for the arena), and then wait to announce the City of Milwaukee’s contribution was irresponsible,” Davis said in an April 3 press release. “Our Mayor should have stood shoulder to shoulder with Governor Walker and pledged my proposed $50 million package when the Governor announced his support of $220 million (like I did) to send a clear message to the members of our state Legislature that the City of Milwaukee is serious, committed, and all in.”

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says he’s also working with the Bucks on funding.

“We are working on alternative models that can get the entire project funded, and we continue to share those models with the governor, legislators, the City, and the Bucks owners,” says Abele. “We will continue to work hard to do whatever we can to ensure that this project gets done.”

Naming rights, too, are yet to be announced. The team’s ownership group has grown considerably since Lasry and Edens purchased the team, including several with local ties. However, none of the new local owners have yet pledged private dollars toward funding the arena or any ancillary development. Additionally, the question of which entity would ultimately own the arena has not yet been answered.

Nevertheless, this begins a remarkably big stretch for the Milwaukee Bucks. The team hosts LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight. A deal for playoff tickets was just announced. A new logo will be unveiled Monday, with legends and players on hand at the Bradley Center. Milwaukee Day events are in the works. The last game of the regular season is at home on Wednesday. And April 16, will mark the one-year anniversary of Edens and Lasry announcing that they’ve acquired the team.



Dan Shafer was the digital editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Dan joined the magazine as assistant editor in 2014 and wrote the November 2014 cover story, "Downtown Horizons." He's worked as a reporter at BizTimes Milwaukee and an editor at ThirdCoast Digest. Contact him at daniel.shafer@milwaukeemag.com. He's on Twitter @danshaferMKE.