Jeramey Jannene

Republicans Block State Funding For Iron District Stadium

Gov. Evers proposed $9.3 million in support for $45 million stadium. Plus: Concert venue downsized.

By - Jun 2nd, 2023 12:12 pm
Westown soccer-theater complex. Rendering by Kahler Slater.

Westown soccer-theater complex. Rendering by Kahler Slater and JLG Architects.

Funding for a proposed soccer and lacrosse stadium in downtown Milwaukee was one of several projects Republican lawmakers stripped from the state budget Thursday.

The 8,000-seat soccer stadium is to be home to a new professional men’s soccer team owned by Jim Kacmarcik. Marquette University‘s men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams would also play in the building. The new soccer team would play in the USL Championship League, a fully-professional league one level below Major League Soccer.

Governor Tony Evers proposed a $9.3 million allocation in February to support the project, part of the larger $160 million Iron District development, in his 2023-2025 capital budget. The State Building Commission deadlocked on the proposal in March, sending it to the Wisconsin State Legislature without a recommendation. On Thursday, the Republican-controlled Joint Committee on Finance adopted its $2.4 billion omnibus plan, far smaller than Evers’ $3.8 billion proposal.

A naming contest for the professional soccer team is currently underway. It is slated to begin play, joining a league with several Midwest teams, in 2025. The field in the stadium would use artificial turf, allowing for heavier utilization.

The Iron District proposal 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.

A representative of Bear Development did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

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

An existing office building, 803 W. Michigan St., on site was once slated for demolition and replacement by a 3,500-person-capacity concert venue led by the Pabst Theater Group (PTG). But the building will now be partially redeveloped, with four stories of apartments added to the top. The concert venue would also be much smaller.

The remaining part of the office building, a portion of which has a two-story tall vaulted ceiling, would be repurposed as an events venue. It could still host touring acts, but with a smaller capacity. Sean Ryan was the first to report on the change. PTG is still involved in the venue. The Iron District proposal, including the concert venue by PTG and national promoter AEG, was publicly announced in May 2022, just days before the Milwaukee Bucks and Live Nation-subsidiary Frank Productions announced their long-anticipated partnership to build a new venue adjacent to Fiserv Forum. Construction has yet to start on that building.

There is one piece of the Iron District that is already moving forward.

Construction is underway 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. No plans have been publicly announced for what would replace it.

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

Funding for improvements and maintenance to American Family Field, where the Milwaukee Brewers play, is being debated outside of the state budget process.

2020 Site Photos

Iron District Renderings

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