Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Bradley Center To Go Boom

A series of "shaped charges" will detonate and lower the roof on January 13th.

By - Jan 3rd, 2019 03:00 pm
BMO Harris Bradley Center in 2014. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

BMO Harris Bradley Center in 2014. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The BMO Harris Bradley Center, once dubbed the “The Fortress on Fourth,” is coming down.

While it’s hard to tell from the outside, a team of contractors has been laboring for months now to gut the inside of the structure.

That work will become highly visible on the morning of Sunday, January 13th, when a series of shaped charges will detonate. The resulting impact won’t cause the building to implode, but will instead separate the roof from the structure.

The intent is to create a safer work environment for those disassembling the roof and trusses according to Mike Abrams of CAA Icon, which is representing the Milwaukee Bucks on the project. The roof will drop onto the upper seating bowl and reduce the need to cut steel while dangling 100 feet above the ground.

“We’re going to do it in the morning because there is less traffic in the area,” said Abrams. But even with the lack of downtown commuters, the Bucks are trying to stay on the safe side. The owners representative came before the Common Council’s Public Works Committee Thursday to secure approval to close a portion of W. State St. and N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. on January 13th.

Abrams said the public would likely be able to hear, but not see, the charges going off.

Brookfield-based Hunzinger Construction is supervising the work for the Milwaukee Bucks, while Veit & Co., a Minnesota-based firm, is performing the demolition work. Veit has been busy in downtown Milwaukee in recent years, smashing everything from the Downtown Transit Center to the BMO Harris Parking Garage.

The end goal is for 90 percent of the structure, including everything from bathroom partitions to the massive scoreboard, to be recycled or reused.

First came the reuse. Habitat for Humanity’s salvage crew guided the removal of luxury box seats, team lockers and other fixtures and sold them for affordable prices at its three area ReStore shops (one of the visiting NBA lockers can be now be found in our sister business, Urban Milwaukee: The Store). A team from Milwaukee Public Schools also was able to salvage a number of institutional items ranging from bathroom partitions and sinks to drinking fountains and door hardware.

Then comes the recycling. The remaining seats, thousands upon thousands of them, were sent to a local recycling firm to be dismantled and recycled. The granite facade will be acquired by utility contractor Michels Corp. Using equipment at the site of its future River One development, the company will grind up the large pieces and use the resulting gravel in projects within ten miles of Milwaukee.

“At 90 percent [recycled], did you pay the Bucks to tear the structure down,” committee chair Robert Bauman asked Veit representative Herb Pundsack. “Unfortunately, no,” replied the project manager. He told the committee that his firm does incorporate the value of the materials into its bid, creating the incentive to divert as much as possible away from landfills.

Hunzinger engineer John Jansen has an unusual perspective on tearing the building down. He told the committee his first job out of college was building the arena. Now he’s supervising its demolition. “I’ll be honest with you, in 30 years, I never thought they would be taking it down. It says a lot about our society,” said Alderman Michael Murphy. The Bradley Center opened in 1988.

The committee unanimously passed the street closure applications.

What comes once the 7.2-acre site is completely cleared? That remains to be seen. The Bucks’ real estate affiliate, which acquired the arena and associated land as part of the Fiserv Forum funding package, has yet to release specific plans for the site. With a full-fledged push for the 2020 Democratic National Convention underway and major construction projects often taking over two years, it’s more likely the site will be used as a staging areas for politicians, reporters and delegates than a new building in 2020. But long term, the Bucks ownership and the city would both like to see the site developed.

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Related Legislation: File 181415

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