It’s a bitterly cold January afternoon in downtown Milwaukee, but the weather isn’t stopping an army of construction workers who are busy turning renderings into reality at the Bucks’ new $524 million, 17,400-seat arena set to open in the fall.
As heaters blast hot air into the arena’s concrete corridors, executives from the Bucks and Mortenson Construction take a visitor on a tour of the new building, which is next to the BMO Harris Bradley Center where in a few hours the Bucks would play the Golden State Warriors. But Bucks President Peter Feigin is focused as much on the future than on game time as he leads the way onto the arena’s gravel floor that in a few months will become the Bucks’ home court.
“We have an internal countdown of 20 weeks to really get this up and running and start going through critical path, operations and putting in all the furniture and fixings,” Feigin said, adding that the project is on schedule and, perhaps more importantly, on budget given that the Bucks must pay for any cost overruns.
Kansas City-based Populous and Wisconsin-based Eppstein Uhen Architects designed the arena, Mortenson is managing the construction, and CAA Icon is project manager.
- Arched roof, glass facades and zinc shingles
- Massive atrium with escalators to transport fans to their seats
- Panorama Club on the top floor featuring a deck with city views outside, and full views of the lower bowl and atrium inside
As work continues on their new arena, the Milwaukee Bucks are negotiating their next local TV rights agreement. Their deal with Fox Sports Wisconsin expires at the end of this season.
Bucks President Peter Feigin said the exclusive negotiating window between the Bucks and Fox ends Jan. 31. “We are in the middle of discussions,” he said. “Where are we going to be in the next five years, that is the over-arching question.”
The Bucks have retained Endeavor’s Karen Brodkin and Hillary Mandel as consultants in the negotiations. “I’d love to get a deal done by the playoffs,” Feigin said.
With the arena about 80 percent completed, the project’s approximately 650 workers are moving from heavy construction to finishing work, including the completion of premium areas. Crews are installing 750 seats per week.
The massive Daktronics scoreboard, one of the 10 largest in the NBA, was raised on Jan. 16. The 15,000-square-foot Panorama Club is taking shape on the arena’s east end, overlooking the interior of the facility, six floors above the playing floor. The team is seeking a title sponsorship deal for the space.
Two tower suites flank each side of the arena’s east end zone. Each tower suite has three levels with a capacity of 70 people. One tower suite has a deal with Coors, with the other tower suite names still on the market.
The Bucks have sold 30 of the arena’s 34 overall suites with prices ranging from $225,000 to $450,000 per season. They have sold 32 out of 33 lofts priced between $90,000 and $175,000.
A mezzanine club for season-ticket holders will have a capacity for 1,000 fans. Food and drink are not included but season-ticket holders will receive a $10 credit to use in the club for each game. Season tickets with mezzanine club access sell for $9,117 to $10,616.
Unlike the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center under construction in San Francisco, the Bucks’ new arena will not have any pricey bunker suites. Instead, the team will have a courtside club sponsored by BMO Harris located near the Bucks locker room on the event level. Season tickets with access to the all-inclusive club start at $11,661.
Four public bars on the main concourse will have open views into the bowl. Eppstein Uhen Architects designed each to reflect the local market. “EUA is a major part of the local sensibilities,” Feigin said. “They are finishing all the interiors.”
Earlier this month, the Bucks started selling season tickets for the arena’s 10,000 lower-bowl seats. The team expects to sell 700 new full-season tickets by Jan. 22 with the goal of reaching 10,000 full-season tickets. Currently, the Bucks have a season-ticket base of 7,500 at the Bradley Center.
“We sold 450 full-season tickets in the first week and, to put it in perspective, we have never sold a season ticket in January,” Feigin said. “We want to sell another 2,500 seats.”
Despite the brisk season-ticket sales, two major pieces of arena inventory remain unsold: A naming-rights agreement for the facility, and a concessionaire deal. The Bucks also want to add a few more founding sponsorships at the new arena. To date, the team has sold four to partners Johnson Controls, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, MillerCoors and BMO Harris Bank.
As Feigin looks to finalize those deals, he also is leading the effort to build an entertainment district for a total of 30 acres of team-controlled property. The outdoor site is far from completion but plans call for a beer garden, an outdoor plaza and other restaurant and retail offerings to open over the next year.
“The biggest problem is cadence and sequencing,” Feigin said of the challenges in building both an arena and an entertainment district. “It is really urban planning at the same time as constructing. The win is density. If we populate this, we win.”