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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


The breakneck pace of work at the new Milwaukee Bucks arena ensures one thing — something's different every day.

As construction work zooms along, with a grand opening fewer than six months away, major decisions are still to come on the business front.

Lights are on in the luxury suites and about a fourth of them are nearly completed. All but a handful have been sold.

Flooring is finished in many areas. One nearly completed concession stand sports a handsome cream city brick backdrop.

On a recent day, Bucks President Peter Feigin was hustling over to inspect and sign off on soda dispensers and bathroom fixtures.

It's warm and toasty inside, with far less din from heavy machinery and cranes laboring inside the bowl. Now, you're more likely to see workers running polishing equipment or measuring trim than those who were climbing the girders and hanging drywall not so long ago.

"Every day we set foot in this arena we are just amazed by its progress," Feigin said.

Less than a year ago, the site was a blustery, chilly place as the structural steel framing was set. Workers needed live animal traps to capture and relocate unwelcome critters such as raccoons and opossums that wandered in.

The workforce of a few hundred grew to more than 800 in the fall and is now being gradually drawn down, said Jesse Kemp, senior project manager for Mortenson, the construction manager for the $524 million project. There are about 600 workers on the site now.

The building is 84% complete, and on time, Kemp said. Almost all of the seats are installed and protected with plastic sheeting, and workers are busy preparing the retractable seats in the lower bowl.

All of that is critical, because the Bucks have booked a string of shows, starting less than six months from now. The building must be fully functioning before that, because the team plans a slew of grand opening events before the first chord is struck or first basket sunk.

As construction zips along, several key unknowns remain on the business front and chief among them is the naming rights for the facility.

The Bucks were seeking a deal worth $7 million to $10 million over 20 years. Feigin hoped to have a deal in place last summer and then thought it could be landed by the fall. Last week he said there was nothing new to report on that front.

The naming rights are a critical matter for the Bucks' finances because the team will run and maintain the building.

A number of local companies — Johnson Controls, Miller Brewing Co., BMO Harris Bank, Froedtert Hospital and Harley-Davidson — have become partners but there have been no local takers for the naming rights.

Feigin shifted his focus to national or international companies that want to tap into the NBA's growing international audience fueled by superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Outside, on the east side of the arena, work continues on the entertainment block, several buildings that will be connected by a plaza and beer garden. The Bucks have not announced details about the tenants or themes for those structures.

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February 26, 2018


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