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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

The Milwaukee Bucks arena's outdoor plaza and "Live Block" will be used up to 150 days a year, and attract city residents and suburbanites with a craft brewery, concerts and 3-on-3 basketball tourneys, team owners and executives say.

"I want to give people a reason to get out of their houses in the suburbs in the middle of the winter and drive downtown," Wes Edens, one of the Bucks' principal owners, said in a recent interview.

"I think there's a lot of reasons to want to do that and I want to give people a reason to live down here as well."

The Bucks are looking at a combination of ways to "activate" the plaza now under construction on what was N. 4th St. in front of the new arena. That plaza lies on the east side of the $524 million arena the team is building just north of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Supported by $250 million in taxpayer money, the arena is scheduled to open in time for the 2018-'19 NBA season.

The plaza will be fronted by three buildings, one of which will include a brewery, team officials say. The complex will be connected by a beer garden to N. Old World 3rd St.

"This will become in many ways one of downtown Milwaukee's only outdoor rooms," said real estate developer Blair Williams, who is working for the Bucks on the entertainment district. "The goal here is for this to become a forum for Milwaukee."

The plaza can be configured to include a temporary outdoor stage for concerts for up to 12,000 people, Williams said last week in a speech to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee.

"That plaza really matters," Williams said. "That plaza is intended for heavy programming."

He said that in addition to the 55 to 65 Bucks and Marquette University Golden Eagles basketball games (depending on playoffs), the plaza will be used for many other events.

"We'll also have a similar number of program dates on the plaza," he said. "Roughly 150 days a year we will be programming the spaces and activating the environment."

The Bucks originally planned for the Live Block to be up and running when the arena opens a year from now. That timeline has slipped, and the size of at least one of the buildings - one that in earlier renderings showed a brewing tank - has been reduced from four to two stories.

The Bucks say they'll reveal details about the tenants, presumably including the brewery, in a couple of weeks.

Two of the Live Block buildings will be up and enclosed by the time the new arena opens, Williams predicted. The actual businesses will open much later.

"We should have most of the Live Block players — a substantial number of them — open when we go deep into the playoffs" for the 2018-'19 season, Williams said. That would be late in the spring of 2019.

The Bucks will have the plaza fired up long before then.

"If you can think of it, we have planned for it in the infrastructure and design of this plaza," Williams said.

"We have three-on-three basketball court layouts. We have futsal tournament layouts. We have viewing party layouts, we have ice skating rink layouts," he said, adding that farmers and craft markets are also in the works.

The ultimate plan, Bucks officials say, is to make the arena a day and night district of downtown. For that to happen, the team needs to attract a corporate tenant for the parcel it controls just north of the new arena.

"If you think long term, we'd like to have a balance of uses," said New York real estate executive Mike Fascitelli, another of the team's owners.

"Some entertainment, retail, we'd like to have residential — we've started on one," he said, referring to an apartment building underway next to a new parking garage north of the arena.

"And we'd like to have some corporate entity and ancillary retail - not like mall retail," Fascitelli said. "If you had that mix, it will fit well with the parking uses and with the traffic patterns. That's our goal."

Edens and Williams said that close attention is being paid to the plaza and Live Block. Edens said he was very involved in those plans.

"What I'm personally very focused on are developments that give people a reason to come to the area besides when a basketball game is being played," he said. "That's the top of my list."

Edens said that although he lives in New York, he taps his roots when considering the development around the arena.

"My experience growing up in Montana, which I think is quite consistent with here, is that people want to do things," Edens said.

"They want to be active. And they don't let weather dictate what they're going to do every day."

"Wisconsinites, like people from Montana, are a pretty hardy crew and I think we need to find good reasons for them to do things that they're engaged with, that they feel great about and that's what I'm going to focus on."

Williams told the Rotary Club that one measure of success will come in the depths of winter.

"Success will be measured when it's a Tuesday night in February and there's not a game. If there are people there, we're winning. If there's not, then we need to plan better."

Williams added: "If we do this right, the arena will be just one of the buildings in there."

 

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