Downtown Could Get a Massive New Stadium, Concert Hall

Developers plan a 8,000-seat soccer stadium, 3,500-seat concert venue and more for 11 mostly vacant acres near the Marquette Interchange.

A long-neglected corner of Downtown could be transformed under a proposal for a new sports and entertainment district anchored by a pro soccer stadium and a 3,500-seat concert venue.

Grafton-based Kacmarcik Enterprises and Kenosha-based Bear Development announced Friday that they have agreed to purchase an 11-acre parcel at the northwest corner of the Marquette Interchange from Marquette University for the development.

The centerpiece of the proposed district is an 8,000-seat stadium that would serve as home to the highest level of professional soccer in Wisconsin and serve as the competition field for Marquette men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams. A professional soccer league affiliation is expected to be announced soon.

An architect’s rendering of soccer stadium proposed for Downtown Milwaukee; Courtesy Kahler Slater

The field, which will feature a premium, synthetic turf surface, will be used from March through November, hosting about 200 events annually, including non-sports community events.

“Milwaukee is one of the great sports cities in the United States, and we are excited to bring professional outdoor soccer to the community,” Grafton-based Kacmarcik Enterprises Chairman and CEO Jim Kacmarcik said. Kacmarcik is also the lead owner of Forward Madison FC, Madison’s USL League One franchise. “The beauty of soccer is that all across the world, communities rally behind their city’s club to support the players, the team and each other.”

Kacmarcik noted that a dedicated group “has been working tirelessly for years to make this day possible.”



What’s Brew City’s best? We’ve picked 16 of our favorite Milwaukee craft beers for a March Madness-style tournament, but it’s up to you to pick the winner! Will it be bright and hoppy? Dark and malty? A zippy lager? Every one is worthy of the title; who will claim the sudsy crown?

Adjacent to the soccer facility will be a state-of-the-art 3,500-person indoor concert venue operated by “one of the world’s premier concert promoters” and the Pabst Theater Group in partnership with Kacmarcik Enterprises. The facility expects to host national touring acts 80 to 100 nights per year and host more than 300 events annually in total.

The development also will feature a full-service hotel, multifamily housing, retail and restaurant/bar tenants. Terms of the sale and a total cost for the project were not immediately disclosed.

Kacmarcik Enterprises’ portfolio includes a host of businesses in the industrial and entertainment sectors including Kapco Metal Stamping, House of Harley Davidson and Advanced Coatings Inc. Bear Development owns and manages real estate in Wisconsin and 13 other states.

The parcel is bordered by North Sixth Street to the east, Michigan Street to the north and the Marquette Interchange to the east and south. Kacmarcik Enterprises noted the space is in one of the most visible gateways to Milwaukee and the busiest intersection in Wisconsin. “The development will catalyze the Westown neighborhood and the region while playing a pivotal role in linking Downtown Milwaukee, the Menomonee Valley, the Near West Side neighborhood, and Marquette University,” the company said in its announcement.

Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater is the project’s design and architecture lead.

“We are thrilled to work with the city of Milwaukee and other community partners to transform a long-dormant site into a vibrant sports and entertainment district, furthering opportunities to live, work and play Downtown,” Bear Development CEO S.R. Mills said.

The sports and entertainment district expects to create hundreds of new jobs in the community and draw 1 million visitors annually, many from outside the city, according to the developers.

“This new development reimagines and promises to bring new life into a highly visible strategic corridor, presenting an exceptional opportunity to connect the Marquette University campus and Westown neighborhood with the Downtown Milwaukee renaissance,” Marquette President Michael Lovell said. “The economic revitalization and community pride this multi-purpose development will catalyze is something I am proud Marquette can help facilitate through the strategic sale of this important parcel of land.”

Pabst Theater Group President and CEO Gary Witt said the location is ideal for a concert venue with an abundance of parking, easy access to trains, buses and the freeway system while being adjacent to Downtown.

The venue will “help artists to choose Milwaukee as a city to not only launch their careers but support them as they continue to return and as they grow,” Witt said.

“This is the right place for us to be, working alongside great partners like Kacmarcik Enterprises and Bear Development and getting to expand our venues’ potential in the same space as an exciting new professional soccer stadium,” he added.

Directly attached to the concert hall will be a full-service, 140-room hotel with Downtown and Lake Michigan views. Plans for the upscale hotel, owned by Bear Development, call for a full-service bar and restaurant overlooking the stadium.

The western edge of the development will include 99 housing units.

The project is scheduled to break ground later this year, with the stadium and entertainment portion projected to open in spring 2024.

Marquette’s original plan for the site, first mentioned in 2015, was for a $120 million sports complex that would have included a $40 million investment from what was then Aurora Health Care. Plans at the time called for an indoor track, lacrosse field and indoor golf area in what would have been Marquette’s largest-ever development.

But two years later Marquette, with Aurora’s commitment to the project in question, scrapped plans for the site and instead opted to build a sports performance center in the heart of campus. The $24 million Athletic and Human Performance Research Center opened in 2019.

The site of the newly proposed development near the south end of Marquette’s campus includes property that once included the 155-room Ramada Milwaukee Downtown, Butch’s Old Casino Steak House and a Herzing University location.

A two-story office building and Marquette’s Behavior Analysis Program building are will be demolished for the development. Tenants in the office building have been notified of the sale and will be relocating, and the university said it is working with the program’s faculty to find a new location for the program.

Marquette will have no financial or controlling interests in the sports and entertainment district development. The university will be a lessee in the athletic stadium and a “cooperative and supportive neighbor of this new, premier sports and entertainment and residential destination,” the university stated in a message to the Marquette community.

“As Marquette considered potential buyers for this parcel, it was important that any development add value and economic growth to our community,” the university said in a statement.



Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.