MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks unveiled a preliminary architectural design Wednesday for a $500 million arena, which they hope will spur another $500 million in downtown development by creating an entertainment district that draws people to “live, work and play.”
The Bucks owners revealed the design renderings for about 30 acres of largely vacant land next to the existing arena, the Bradley Center, which opened in 1988. The Bradley Center would be demolished under the plan to make way for a new mix of entertainment, retail, hotel, residential, office and parking space around the new 17,000-seat arena and plaza.
“This is the beginning of making it real,” Bucks president Peter Feigin said at a news conference that showcased the renderings. The next step, Feigin said, is settling on how to finance the arena, with the hope of beginning construction in the fall.
Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens have committed $150 million, along with an additional $100 million from former Bucks owner Herb Kohl. Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a $220 million state bonding plan backed by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is promising $25 million in infrastructure improvements and land.
Republican lawmakers wary of borrowing as much as Walker wants have instead said the state should not spend more than $150 million. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has proposed using $150 million in bonding through the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.
Fitzgerald said in a statement that he was “very encouraged” by the plans released Wednesday. He said work was continuing with all involved “to reach a funding agreement that protects Wisconsin’s taxpayers by keeping this important economic engine in our state.”
Walker’s spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, also said work continued on finding a solution that balances support from both the state and local governments.
The proposed arena is the work of a team led by Populous, of Kansas City, Missouri, which designed Yankee Stadium in New York, Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, and Wembley Stadium in London, England. Populous worked with infrastructure specialist HNTB and Eppstein Uhen, a Milwaukee architectural firm that had a hand in designing Miller Park.
CEO Greg Uhen said the arena and adjacent development on vacant land where the Park East freeway once stood will become more integrated with surrounding neighborhoods.
“This will become a connected neighborhood, a neighborhood that includes residential. People will live here, work here and be entertained here,” Uhen said. What once was a “dark concrete barrier” that separated the city can become a destination that will transform that part of the community, he said.
Brad Clark, Populous’ lead architect on the project, said the proposed multi-story structure with its transparent glass facade and curved rooftop attempts to draw inspiration from the region’s rivers, lakes and forests.
While the arena and entertainment plaza on 1 million square feet is expected to take two years to build, the additional $500 million in a mixed entertainment, residential and commercial development could take more than 10 years to materialize, Bucks officials said.
If public financing is secured, the Bucks ownership group has a goal of opening the new arena for the 2017 season. Naming rights for the arena is an issue to be addressed down the road, team officials said.
The Bucks also plan to build a practice facility at the site. The team currently leases space at the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center in suburban St. Francis.