The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on Milwaukee’s two basketball schools and their respective arenas, which are in view of each other:
Marquette University, which has been at the BMO Harris Bradley Center since its inception in 1988, wants a better handle on what Bucks owners Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan have in mind. For now, the Bradley Center is an important asset to Marquette’s men’s basketball program. Recruits are told they will play in the same arena as the Bucks.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has a different challenge. UWM, which signed a 10-year, $3.4 million agreement last summer with the Wisconsin Center District for the naming rights to the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, as well as the right to stage additional programming, is concerned it will lose the arena to the wrecking ball.
The Bucks’ preferred choice is land now occupied by the headquarters ofJournal Communications, the UWM arena and, possibly, the Milwaukee Theatre. A source with knowledge of the site-selection process said Bucks officials are eager to get control of the Journal Communications building, which houses the Journal Sentinel and sits on the block bordered by W. State St., N. 4th St., W. Kilbourn Ave., and N. Old World Third St.
The Bucks are focused now on negotiations with Journal Communications and hope to have a site in place in a month. Should that fall through, the Bucks have other sites in mind, including land just north of the Bradley Center, a city-owned parking lot at the corner of N. 4th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. and land at N. 2nd and W. Michigan streets.
If the Bucks secure the Journal Communications block, the team is expected to turn its attention to the UWM arena, first opened in 1950. Franklyn Gimbel, chairman of the Wisconsin Center District, which owns and operates the UWM arena, Milwaukee Theatre and the Wisconsin Center convention center, has been adamantly opposed to giving up the arena.
Marquette’s lease at the Bradley Center expires in March 2017. Brian Dorrington, a Marquette spokesman, said President Michael R. Lovell has met with the Bucks owners multiple times “to get a better understanding of their overall vision and plans.”
“These discussions haven’t dealt with one specific aspect of the project, but rather the comprehensive vision for the new arena, the overall development plan and Marquette’s prospective role,” Dorrington said. “President Lovell has often stated that he feels it is important that Marquette is at the table for the region’s most important discussions, and we are continuing to work to gain a better understanding of the Bucks’ detailed plans.”
The Bucks say many parties are involved in discussions over the effort to build a new arena downtown.
“Marquette is an important stakeholder in the arena discussion,” Bucks team spokesman Jake Suski said. “We plan to work closely with them and important stakeholders as we move forward for the benefit of the entire community.”
The Bucks also have met with UWM officials, and interim chancellor Mark Mone has said the university’s goal is to maintain a presence at the UWM Arena. If the UWM Arena is demolished to make way for an alternative facility, UWM has said it wants an alternative facility.
Francis Deisinger, a local attorney and a backer of UWM Athletics since the late 70s, says he is frustrated by the talks so far.
“My biggest frustration is it doesn’t have to be this way. Why does it have to be here?” he asked of the UWM arena site.
Deisinger noted there are other sites available in the downtown area.
“This would be very much like the destruction of the Chicago & Northwestern depot on the lakefront — the difference being that while the trains had stopped running to that beautiful building, the arena is still a living, working building,” he said.
The issue isn’t the Bradley Center’s size (at least from the Bucks’ perspective), it’s its lack of 21st-century accouterments. On the other hand, Marquette doesn’t come close to selling out the Bradley Center unless Wisconsin plays there. The Bradley Center is far too big for UWM. Marquette has the Al McGuire Center, and UWM has the Klotsche Center, but neither on-campus facility means NCAA Division I minimum capacity requirements.
Some schedule irony: Marquette is hosting Wisconsin Saturday. Marquette refuses to play UW-Milwaukee or UW-Green Bay, believing that that would be beneath the Warriors … I mean Golden Eagles … I mean Gold … I mean Golden Eagles. (Translation: A Marquette loss to Milwaukee or Green Bay would look really bad.) Wisconsin not only plays all the other in-state schools, but even plays road games against them.
Whether or not taxpayers should pony up the funds for a new Bucks arena, that decision has consequences on others.