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Survey Seeks Opinions on Domes’ Future

County asks citizens to complete online survey with nine options for Mitchell Park Domes.

By - Jun 29th, 2016 10:40 am
The Domes. Photo courtesy of the Park People of Milwaukee.

The Domes. Photo courtesy of the Park People of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee County administrators want to know what you think about the future of the Mitchell Park Conservatory, known as the Domes. They have posted an online survey that offers nine options, from repair to removal without replacement.

The survey was designed by planners at GRAEF-USA, as part of a $30,000 consulting contract for “community engagement” that was commissioned by County Executive Chris Abeles staff in March.

The survey notes that “The work in progress in the Domes provides only safety measures to protect visitors and staff; it does not address repairs and updates needed by a 50+ year old facility. Given the potential large costs of repairs as well as the opportunity to re-imagine the future, the County Executive and the County Board believe that it is important to ask the Milwaukee County community, ‘What should happen next?’ All feedback will be weighed by the Advisory Committee that has been tapped to listen to the community and to recommend a future direction and long-term plan.”

Of nine options presented, six involve demolishing the Domes with or without replacement. Others include removing all the plants and using one or more of the Domes for other purposes. There is no deadline listed for completing the survey.

The Survey’s Questions  

What uses should we be planning for: a conservatory containing most or all of the current Dome’s plant collection, new uses, or a combination of uses?

What structure(s) should we [be] considering: the current Domes structures, a new structure or structures, or some combination?

What other ideas does the community have for the future?


R1 with Current Use as a Horticultural Conservatory

Repair all three Domes in their current locations and continue all ongoing horticultural and educational activities.

The character of each Dome would be preserved with the continued scheduling of regular, special, and private events.

R2 with New Uses

Repair all three Domes in their current locations and use the structures for new purposes. The Domes would be used as a different indoor, recreational space managed by Milwaukee County Parks, while the greenhouses would continue horticulture operations to support the Boerner Botanical Gardens.

R3 with Your Input

Offer your ideas about rebuilding!


B1 New Domes On Site with Current & Expanded Uses

The three Domes at the Conservatory would be demolished, while the Annex and greenhouses would remain. New domes would be constructed in their place with restored connections to the Annex and greenhouses for continued horticultural and educational activities, events, and other complementary uses.

B2 New Conservatory at Mitchell Park with Current & Expanded Uses

The three Domes would be demolished. A new conservatory would be built in Mitchell Park for horticultural, research and educational facilities. The Annex and greenhouses could continue to operate during demolition.

B3 New Conservatory at Other Location with Current & Expanded Uses

The three Domes would be demolished. Related activities would cease at Mitchell Park, but horticultural operations would continue in the greenhouses and Annex to support Boerner Botanical Garden. The conservatory and related activities would be moved to another location in the county.

B4 New Conservatory with Your Input

Offer your ideas about building something new!


O1 Remove & Reinvest in Another Asset with Current & Expanded Uses

The three Domes would be demolished and related activities would cease at Mitchell Park. Horticultural operations would continue in the greenhouses to support the Boerner Botanical Garden in Hales Corners. The money that would be used to rebuild or relocate the Domes would be invested in an existing or new County community asset.

O2 Remove with Your Input

Offer your ideas about another idea!

O3 Partial Removal & Partial New Facility with Current & Expanded Uses

1-2 Domes would be restored. The Domes could be used for horticultural purposes or as a different indoor, recreational space managed by Milwaukee County Parks. A facility would be built alongside the existing greenhouses and Annex to expand programming opportunities.

O4 Partial Removal & Partial New Facility with Your Input

Offer your ideas about another partial removal and partial new option!

Other Events Planned

According to the Domes Update information, various events will also be planned to solicit more input from the general public or selected groups.

A Conservatory Advisory Committee appointed by Abele will select two or more options to pursue more fully, the page notes. Members of his committee have not yet been named. The County Board has also authorized “the creation of a task force to develop a comprehensive long-term plan for the Domes.” Precisely how these two committees will work together has yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, GRAEF is installing netting in all three Domes as a safety measure in response to flaking of concrete covering the steel structural frameworks. GRAEF is also developing updated estimates for restoration and repair options.

The Domes


15 thoughts on “Survey Seeks Opinions on Domes’ Future”

  1. Gwen Lester says:

    I was raised in Milwaukee and to see any other work being done besides restoring it wouldn’t be right. It didn’t get in this condition over night and should have been taken care of years ago. I would love for the city to bring the domes back to its former glory for future generations to come.

  2. Gerry Broderick says:

    The issue is much broader. The Domes like most county facilities are the victim of the Walker and Abele administration’s preoccupation with keeping taxes artificially low by deferring much needed county facility maintenance over the past 15 years. The quality of life in our community will continue to suffer until adequate funding is provided. The solution was authored by the county board and ratified by a favorable public vote in a 2008 advisory referendum (which advocated lowering local property taxes by shifting parks and transit funding to a sales tax). Unfortunately, the people’s voice was subsequently ignored by the republican controlled state legislature, that chose instead to listen to their patrons at the MMAC in determining what was in the best interest of the public. Continuing to pretend that inadequate funding will result in anything other than a diminishment quality of life in our community is an illusionary. We would not be confronted by such surveys (that to me seem aimed at justifying the demolition / elimination of highly valued public facility) had the public’s voice, as expressed at the ballot box, been listened to in the first place. We need that sales tax and we need it yesterday.

  3. Lynne Milner says:

    The domes are as important to some of the County of Milwaukee residents as the Bucks are to others. I have never set foot in Miller Park, but I’m paying for it. I will probably never use the new arena either. Some things should NOT be about the bottom line. Parks should be about the common good. Milwaukee used to be famous for it’s beautiful parks. Let’s be that city again.

  4. Tori Campenni says:

    I have been going to the Domes for over 45 years. I think they are a very important educational tool.

    But for the past 30 years they have been extremely important to me and several other people I know as a way to combat depression in the winter.

    I feel that they are a vital destination for tourists and a great tool for researchers.

    I was surprised and disappointed when I found out that when they were worked on several years ago they weren’t repaired then. We have been neglecting our parks, the Domes and the Zoo for way too long. As well as our roads and railroads.

    These are ASSETS! It is important to maintain and preserve them.

    I am saddened to see that so many of the options here mention just tearing down such an Iconic part of this city!

    Please repair them and make them safe again!

    Please start taking care of our parks and recreation centers–all of our assets..

    Don’t sell off or destroy our beautiful Domes. All of us deserve beautiful places to go and learn.

  5. Jeremy says:

    Mr. Broderick,

    It seems that your repeated statements against Abele, Walker and Republicans have finally served their purpose: Even you believe them when they aren’t true. Governor Doyle vetoed the sales tax for Milwaukee County ( An increased sales tax would help, however that’s not happening anytime soon. There is no practical reason to spend tens of millions of dollars to restore the Domes in their current configuration. It was a bold idea, with mediocre results. Let’s be forward thinking again like the Milwaukee that built the Domes.

  6. Gloria says:

    It’s a well-known fact that Milwaukee County does not have funds to build a new “forward-thinking” structure of ANY type, much less a new conservatory. This survey and all this talk about replacing the Domes with something “new and better” is a smokescreen. It’s also a cynical (and wasteful) ploy.

    Let’s do the required upkeep of the Domes. Any building will eventually fall apart if you stop maintaining it.

  7. Hip Hop Dude says:

    “There ain’t no words for the beauty, the splendor, the wonder” of the Domes, to borrow from the lyrics of “Hair.”

    The Domes’ wonderfulness is partly due to their exceptional height. Installing energy-efficient glass will lower the costs of providing this rare and lofty experience loved by so many Milwaukeeans.

    Domes. Domes. Domes. Domes!

  8. Judy Amroze says:

    Abandon the domes. They are too high maintenance and architecturally not dome shapes. The Boehner gardens in Hales Corners are so beautiful with surroundings that rival famous gardens in many cities and can fulfill our desire to be at one with nature. I always thought the domes were unpleasant physically to be in. it is time to take them down and perhaps have a competition for a project that would excite us all.

  9. Tracey Sperko says:

    The Domes give an opportunity to people who maybe haven’t travelled to explore a desert, the tropics, and whatever else is at the Domes. When you miss those places it gives you the gift of memory. When my son was small and questions about things, we went there to see and smell. I would like to see them renovated and the use expanded. More interaction with the community. I believe in jewels of the community and the on a cold winters day, the Dome bring a smile to my face and my families. Yes, I am willing to use tax dollars to make sure they continue in our community.

  10. gerry broderick says:

    It is true that Doyle opposed the sales tax, but that doesn’t justify the opposition of the republicans who always support “Home Rule” until that concept involves Milwaukee County. Does anyone really believe they’d have supported a sales tax in opposition to the MMAC’s position? And of course the sales tax idea isn’t going anywhere soon (despite the fact a majority favored it at the polls) That would suggest that the current state government represents the needs of the public, rather than those of special interests. I’m simply saying the Walker/Abele anti-tax policies have ignored public needs and that has resulted in a crippling $300,000,000 dollar deferred maintenance deficit in our county. How do you “move ahead” on the Domes or any other responsible program aimed at restoration of our quality of life, from the deep hole already dug by the continuing conservative efforts to starve the beastly government (that was once upon a time, was OF, FOR and By the People) without providing additional revenues? Continuing Abele’s policies will strip us of our more meaningful cultural assets in the name of “fiscal responsibility”, while failing to assign blame to those whose policies dug the hole in the first place. I won’t pursue this further, but simply wanted to give voice to another view.

  11. Pete Mingle says:

    There have been 10 replies to this survey article. Mine makes 11.

    Two readers are okay with throwing stones at the glass Domes. Gerry Broderick and seven others heartily disagree. This appears to be an accurate approximation of citizen opinion on the subject–based on the overwhelming support for Domes restoration expressed during the February public hearing at the Domes.

    Earth to Chris Abele: THE VAST MAJORITY of Milwaukee County residents are willing to pay for restoration and maintenance of the Domes.

    That could not be said about the unholy scheming you engaged in to make us pay for the Billionaire Bucks Boondoggle arena. SHAME ON YOU for continuing Milwaukee’s QUALITY OF LIFE RACE TO THE BOTTOM started by Scott Walker.

    What’s outa touch Abele got against the Domes anyway? It’s he who lives in a bubble-warped world.

  12. Jeff Amroze says:

    Eleven comments for a huge metropolitan city. Obviously, hardly anyone cares.

  13. Pete Mingle says:

    Jeff Amroze:

    Conduct your own public poll. Ask 10 or a 1,000. Report back to UM what percentage of Milwaukee County taxpayers think it’s a great idea to trash the Domes?

  14. Mats Sjoberg says:

    R3: Look at what they did in Zurich, Switzerland in their zoo. They have a combination of rain forest and animals living in the forest. It is a very interesting and learning experience for both young and old. I also believe it would be a tourist attraction and revenue generator for Milwaukee

  15. Mats Sjoberg says:

    I’d like to edit M comments R3 should be B4 since my suggestion was a rebuild with a new use. Thanks

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