MILWAUKEE - While a new Bucks arena is at the
heart of discussions surrounding a so-called entertainment
district in downtown Milwaukee, several prominent city leaders
asserted it was one piece of a larger puzzle at a forum Tuesday.
Fittingly, the BMO Harris Bradley Center - the
27-year-old structure that currently hosts the Bucks and could
be razed within the next several years - was the host site for
the panel discussion.
Community organizers and professionals discussed
the range of big-picture possibilities that could arise
alongside the Bucks’ need for a new stadium to comply with NBA
requirements. Several hundred people attended the forum.
“This is quite an opportunity, but it’s also
quite a responsibility,” said architect Greg Uhen, the CEO and
design partner with Eppstein Uhen Architects, the local company
brought into the fold to design some of the entertainment
That opportunity, however, will not be realized
unless the perfect blend of financing options comes together.
The Bucks franchise has agreed to pony up $250
million toward a new arena, while the ownership group has
pledged an additional $150 million. Also at the table is former
Bucks owner and Sen. Herb Kohl. He has offered $100 million.
Public financing from state, county and city
officials could be necessary to see the rest of the project
Bucks ownership recently unveiled renderings -
some areas more fleshed out than others - for building a new
arena near the current Bradley Center facility.
Alongside the new arena - bound by West Juneau
Avenue, North 4th Street, West Highland Avenue and North 6th
Street - a series of ancillary developments have been eyed for
the Park East corridor.
All told, the project could cost some $1 billion.
Uhen and the other four panelists said there are
numerous forces behind planning for the region.
“I love this community,” said Cory Nettles, a
minority owner of the Bucks and founding and managing director
of Generation Growth Capital. “I believe this city has some
major assets. But they’re incredibly underutilized.”
Local developer Greg Grunau said he saw limitless
potential if the full plans for the entertainment district are
realized. Downtown Milwaukee, he said, could be active
throughout the day and night with a mix of visitors.
“Quite frankly, I think that’s where it’s going
to get exciting,” Grunau said.
The panelists wholeheartedly supported creating
an entertainment district and ensuring the proper funding for
No panelist could assure a new arena would enjoy
a long life, though several, including Uhen, suggested a
benchmark minimum of 50 years.
For the panelists, there is little choice but to
invest in the Bucks and surrounding arena.
“It would hurt every part of our economy,” Grunau
said, when asked what he believed would be the result if the
Bucks left Milwaukee.