Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Evers Proposes $9.3 Million For Iron District Stadium

Funding would advance $45 million soccer stadium.

By - Feb 28th, 2023 05:16 pm
Iron District stadium rendering. Rendering by Kahler Slater.

Iron District stadium rendering. Rendering by Kahler Slater and JLG Architects.

A proposed $45 million downtown Milwaukee soccer stadium received a major boost Tuesday.

Governor Tony Evers proposed a $9.3 million allocation to the project, known as the Iron District, in his 2023-2025 capital budget. The proposal will be next vetted by the State Building Commission and the Republican-controlled Joint Committee on Finance.

If approved, construction on the 8,000-seat stadium could start in July and be completed by February 2025, according to the state capital budget request. A new professional soccer team, owned by Jim Kacmarcik, would be the anchor tenant in the stadium. Marquette University‘s soccer and lacrosse teams would also play at the venue. The new soccer team would play in the USL Championship League, a fully-professional league one level below Major League Soccer.

Kacmarcik, CEO of Kapco Metal Stamping and Kacmarcik Enterprises, also owns the Forward Madison men’s soccer team and is a minority investor in the Milwaukee Bucks. The development team would provide $35.7 million to advance the stadium, part of a larger $160 million, mixed-use complex.

The Iron District proposal, components of which were several years in the making, was publicly unveiled in May 2022 for an approximately 10-acre site at the southwest corner of Downtown. Originally assembled by Marquette, the site is located southwest of the intersection of W. Michigan St. and N. 6th St. and backs up to the Marquette Interchange. Karmarcik’s entity paid $3.87 million in June for a two-acre portion of the site where the stadium would go. Master developer Bear Development, based in Kenosha, acquired the rest of the site for approximately $8.4 million.

Urban Milwaukee, in June 2022, was the first to report that the stadium would need a public subsidy. The larger development project includes a hotel, apartment building, concert venue and other commercial development.

A 140-room hotel would be located between the soccer stadium and concert venue. A rooftop bar and restaurant would overlook the field, as would many of the rooms. Street-level commercial space is also planned.

The USL Championship League currently has 27 teams, with the nearest teams located in Indianapolis, Detroit, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Memphis. A Queens, New York team is to join in 2023 and a Des Moines team in 2025. Four teams owned by MLS teams as part of that league’s second-level (MLS Next PRO) are expected to exit the league at the end of the season. Kasmarcik’s Forward Madison team competes in USL League One, the next level below USL Championship.

The team’s ownership group will eventually need to pay an entrance fee to the league. Forbes reported that the one-time fee had climbed from $1 million in 2015 to $12 million in 2020. Entry fees into Major League Soccer, which also includes bigger stadiums, are over $200 million.

The stadium is to use artificial turf. The Hispanic Collaborative is listed in the state funding request as a part of the proposed stadium’s youth programming.

Construction is starting on the 99-unit Michigan Street Commons apartment building at the far western edge of the site. Apartments in the building will be set aside at below-market rates for qualifying residents. Bear Development secured low-income housing tax credits in 2021 to develop the building, with the city establishing a $1.8 million tax incremental financing district in 2022 to support the affordable housing development. At the eastern edge of a site, a long-shuttered Ramada Hotel is being razed.

The new concert venue would be led by the Pabst Theater Group. The venue is likely to compete with a new venue in the Deer District and The Rave.

Kahler Slater and JLG Architects are collaborating on the district design, with JLG leading the stadium component.

Iron District Renderings

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