Arena Rises from Frozen Tundra
Snow and freezing weather didn't delay construction of the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.
The massive Milwaukee Bucks arena complex is rising out of the ground at the corner of N. 6th St. and W. Juneau Ave. When we last visited in early October only the Milwaukee Bucks training facility was above ground, but now the arena itself and parking garage are clearly coming together. The October article featured photos from the roof of the 4th and Highland Parking Garage, but as our photos show much of that garage has now been demolished to make way for the Live Block entertainment component. Fear not, our photos today still catch a number of great aerial views of the massive project.
While under construction the complex of buildings is collectively known as the Milwaukee Electric Tool Construction Zone, likely the first construction site with a naming rights sponsor in Wisconsin history. Come 2018, if not before, another naming rights sponsor will step be announced for the arena itself, which is today officially known as the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center. The 714,000 square-foot arena will include an estimated 17,500 seats.
The Bucks have already landed a partnership for the training facility and an attached clinic. The $30 million team training facility at 1227 N. 6th St. will be known as the Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center, reflecting a unique partnership between team doctors, Froedtert and MCW that intends to provide better care to team players and improve player performance. Attached to the facility will be a 37,000 square-foot, $10 million public health clinic at 1247 N. 6th St. known as the Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin McKinley Health Center. The health center will offer primary and select specialty care. Those facilities will open in 2017 and our photos capture them much closer to completion than everything else in the complex.
Design work on the complex is being led by Kansas City-based Populous, with assistance from Eppstein Uhen Architects and HNTB. The Live Block entertainment facility, not yet under construction, is expected to receive final design approval from the city in January. Design on that project is being led by Milwaukee-based Rinka Chung Architecture in partnership with Chicago-based design firm Gensler (see: Bucks Live Block is a Slam Dunk).
Despite the cold weather and impending snow, crews from project general contractor Mortenson Construction and a host of sub-contractors were crawling all over the site Friday morning. ICON Venue Group is managing the project for the Bucks.
Arena Costs and Timeline
The arena and parking structure have an estimated cost of $524 million, which includes the $38.1 million, 1,243 stall parking garage. The City of Milwaukee is contributing $35 million in tax-incremental financing for the parking garage and an additional $12 million to finance a public plaza to the east of the arena. The Bucks are leveraging an additional $8 million via a developer-financed tax-incremental financing district to fund the garage. The state and county, primarily via the Wisconsin Center District, will kick in a combined $203 million, excluding interest, via a number of sources including a ticket surcharge and hotel room, rental car and food and beverage taxes. Former team owner and US Senator Herb Kohl contributed $100 million to the arena. The Bucks owners, led by Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan, were required to come up with the rest as well as cover any cost overruns.
The arena will owned by the Wisconsin Center District and leased to the Bucks initially with a 30-year lease. The Marquette Golden Eagles will also play in the facility.
The $40 million training facility and clinic, as well as the Live Block development are being privately financed by the team’s development arm, Head of the Herd, and are not reflected in the $524 million cost.
A ground breaking for the project was held on June 18th. The arena is scheduled to open in October 2018 with the likely (hopefully) renamed Live Block entertainment component. The new training facility will open a year earlier in August 2017.
Even when all that’s done, don’t expect cranes to disappear from the site. The term sheet between the Bucks and city requires the team to demolish the BMO Harris Bradley Center within 12 months of finishing construction on the arena. The Bucks also have more long-term clawback provisions in their deal with the state and county that will require them to develop the remaining Park East land or risk forfeiting it.
One bit of arena-related news that hasn’t developed as expected is the apartment building that is planned along N. 6th St. During the zoning approval for the parking structure, Bucks president Peter Feigin noted the Bucks would like the privately-financed apartment building to be constructed simultaneously with the new parking garage. The apartment building is intended to mask the garage and will be built immediately west of the new structure. Should that project ultimately materialize it will require additional design approval from the city; until then the western side of the garage is planned to include a few minimal design treatments.
The entire arena development is expected to eventually encompass 27 acres, primarily made up of land made available by the 2003 demolition of the Park East Freeway spur.