Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Soccer Stadium, Concert Venue Planned For Downtown

6th and Michigan complex would transform Westown and impact local concert business.

By - May 20th, 2022 10:36 am
Westown soccer-theater complex. Rendering by Kahler Slater.

Westown soccer-theater complex. Rendering by Kahler Slater.

Downtown Milwaukee could soon be home to an 8,000-seat soccer stadium, 3,500-person indoor concert venue, hotel and apartment building. The new development is expected to be completed by 2024.

The two facilities woud be built on an 11-acre site at the southwest corner of N. 6th St. and W. Michigan St. in Milwaukee’s Westown neighborhood.

The soccer stadium development is being led by Jim Kacmarcik, the CEO of Kapco Metal Stamping and Kacmarcik Enterprises. Kacmarcik owns the Forward Madison men’s soccer team and is a minority investor in the Milwaukee Bucks. He previously owned the Lakeshore Chinooks, a summer collegiate baseball team based in Mequon.

A new professional soccer team would be created to play in the stadium, as well as Marquette University‘s men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams using it as their home field. It would have an artificial turf playing surface.

“Milwaukee is one of the great sports cities in the United States, and we are excited to bring professional outdoor soccer to the community,” said Kacmarcik in a statement. “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.”

Wording of the press release indicates the team would likely be a USL Championship franchise, one level below Major League Soccer.

The new concert venue is being created by a partnership of the Pabst Theater Group and Kacmarcik. The former operates the Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater, Turner Hall Ballroom, Back Room @ Colectivo and Miller High Life Theatre.

The two projects would anchor a mixed-use development led by Bear Development.

A 140-room upscale hotel is planned with restaurant and bar overlooking the stadium.

Kenosha-based Bear secured low-income housing tax credits last year to develop a 140-unit apartment building. The project is referred to as Michigan Street Commons in planning documents. A press release issued Friday refers to a 99-unit development.

Kahler Slater is serving as the architect on the project.

Marquette University assembled the nine-parcel site starting in 2014 for a planned, $120 million Athletic and Human Performance Research Center in partnership with Aurora Health Care. But Aurora pulled out of the project and Marquette ended up building a scaled-down version at 733 N. 12th St., closer to the middle of its campus.

“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,” said Marquette President Mike Lovell. “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. I look forward to cheering on our men’s and women’s lacrosse and soccer teams in their new competition venue.”

The site backs up to the Marquette Interchange, with Interstate 43 and the interchange separating the site from the main university campus. A large portion of the site was created by removing access ramps to the Marquette Interchange and relocating elevated freeway structures during the interchange’s early 2005 reconstruction.

The university secured city approval to rezone the site in 2020 to the city’s C9G designation for “mixed activity,” which allows retail, service, light manufacturing, warehousing and residential uses.

The announcement of the new concert venue comes as another venue, from Frank Productions, is expected to be announced for a site in the Deer District. Frank had originally proposed to build the facility in the Historic Third Ward before pulling the plug earlier this month.

“This amazing new venue is another rung on the Pabst Theater Group’s ‘artist and fan developmental ladder’ and 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,” said PTG President and CEO Gary Witt. “The location is a perfect fit for a concert venue. It has plenty of parking and easy access to trains, buses, and highways, and it’s only a stone’s throw from downtown. 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. As an almost 20-year-old independent Milwaukee business, we are honored to carry the torch for live performances in Milwaukee into the future, along with other independent local powerhouses like The Rave, The Cactus Club, and Shank Hall.”

The press release does not reference construction costs, nor a request for public financing. Construction on the apartment building is expected to begin this year.

Marquette confirmed Friday that many of the existing buildings on the site would be demolished.

A two-story, 132,334-square-foot office building at 803 W. Michigan St. would be demolished. The building is home to Safe & Sound and the North Central High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas office. A vacant Ramada hotel, 633 W. Michigan St., would also be demolished.

An office building, used by Marquette’s Department of Psychology, at 525 N. 6th St. would not be immediately demolished, but the university will relocate its operations.

A rendering depicts the initial development being constructed primarily along W. Michigan St., which would leave additional land for development.


Site Photos

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5 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Soccer Stadium, Concert Venue Planned For Downtown”

  1. Polaris says:

    This is fabulous and unexpected news!

    I was expecting more today on what Josh Krsnak will be developing to the tune of $40 million around The Avenue or even something concrete about the Bucks and Frank Productions developing a concert venue/hotel in the Deer District. (Wonder how this project impacts that…and who the promoter will be for this new venue. There IS backstory, here.)

    As I often do, I was looking at a map of Milwaukee wondering about “Library Hill,” which is what I call Kilbourntown west of 6th. 🙂 This project, if it succeeds, will be a tremendous boost to all of downtown west of the river, and to Milwaukee in general.

    And…a new pro soccer team? So…much…here…

  2. 45 years in the City says:

    Is this a joke – artificial surface for Division I and possibly professional soccer? A bad idea for players’ well being based everything I’ve read.

  3. Duane says:

    ESPN conducted a poll of MLS players in March 2018, one question asked about playing on artificial surface…

    If a stadium had an artificial surface, would it impact your decision to join that team?
    Yes: 63%
    No: 36%
    No answer: 1%

    Some player comments,
    “No. As long as they train mostly on grass.”
    “Hard yes. I don’t like turf, plain and simple. The times I played on it, it takes a day or two extra to recover.”

    Phil Simms former NFL QB feels all NFL stadiums should be grass. Mike Florio, NBC sports writes “Artificial surfaces don’t give like grass fields do. Feet get stuck when planted. The forces that don’t get pushed into the soil end up going elsewhere. Like into the joints of the leg connected to the foot”.

    Obviously the artificial surface is for lower cost ease of scheduling. But does artificial surface jive with the statement “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.” if you are risking player injury merely for economic reasons?

  4. Gordon Skare says:

    Will this project close 7th street or James Lovell Dr. when coming off the interstate?

  5. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Gordon – Based on the rendering, no. Vacating the street would take council approval as well.

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