The Deer District Rises
New arena, parking garage and training facility reshape Park East.
A dizzying array of construction workers and heavy equipment are moving every which way in the once forlorn Park East corridor. The crews are building the Milwaukee Bucks new arena, temporarily known as the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center, as well as a massive parking garage, basketball training facility and health center.
General contractor Mortenson Construction is responsible for the arena. J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. is leading the construction of the new parking garage. J.P. Cullen & Sons is leading the construction of the training facility and health center. Overseeing it all is the ICON Venue Group, which serves as the Bucks owners’ representative..
Substantial progress has been made on the arena since we last visited. The first truss pieces that will support the wave-shaped roof have recently been installed. The seating bowl is clearly visible, as are many of the hidden corridors fans will use to avoid the post-game crowds at the main escalators. The frame of the skywalk is in place, connecting the arena with the new parking garage across W. Juneau Ave.
While under construction the complex of buildings is collectively known as the Milwaukee Tool Construction Site, likely the first construction site with a naming rights sponsor in Wisconsin history. Come 2018, if not before, another naming rights sponsor will be announced for the arena itself. The 714,000 square-foot arena will include an estimated 17,500 seats, and its massive size compared to the BMO Harris Bradley Center is clearly visible now.
The Bucks have already landed a partnership for the training facility and 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 aims 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.
The construction on the Live Block entertainment center is cleared to move forward, but has yet to start as the team’s real estate affiliate continues to pursue tenants. The Bucks development arm, Head of the Herd, will still need to seek zoning approval for a recently announced apartment building to be built in partnership with Royal Capital Group on the west end of the parking garage along N. 6th St. Engberg Anderson is leading the design of the 90-unit building.
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, received 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).
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 TIF 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 $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. Nor is the recently announced apartment building.
A ground breaking for the project was held on June 18th, 2016. The arena is scheduled to open in October 2018, although it has been recently announced that the Live Block entertainment component may not open immediately with the new facility.
Even when all thats 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.
The entire arena development is expected to eventually encompass 27 acres, primarily land left vacant since the 2003 demolition of the Park East Freeway spur.
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Read more about New Bucks Arena here