Paul Mathews, president and chief executive officer of the Marcus Performing Arts Center, will soon retire after 21 years of leading the downtown Milwaukee venue. Mathews will stay on with the organization to help raise funds for a campus master plan that involves expanding the center’s plaza, establishing a flexible great lawn for events and completing a host of interior improvements. In a recent interview with BizTimes Milwaukee associate editor Lauren Anderson, Mathews discussed his upcoming retirement and the future of the Marcus Center.
Update on the campus master plan
“We’re still in the quiet phase of fundraising, which has been largely my responsibility, with our development team. Our first priority continues to be the exterior of the building, which considerably opens up the exterior and the grounds to the south of the building, and focusing on a new membership club that we want to add to the building, which will improve our ability to generate additional earned income. We’re homing in on enough dollars, enough pledges, to launch that project. I expect that to be happening within the near future.”
Why retire now?
“It’s both personal and professional. I’m 68 and my wife retired about two years ago and this is now my 21st year, so I’ve enjoyed a pretty good run with the Marcus Center … As grandparents we have a short window to really be able to spend time with (our grandchildren). So it just felt like the right time … I just felt it was time to pass the baton onto someone new and I’m really excited about the new leadership coming in and leaving this center on really solid ground.”
The future of the downtown arts scene
“I’m very excited about what has happened under the Marcus Corporation’s leadership to make Saint Kate an arts hotel … I think it puts the Marcus Center in a really key spot downtown for future development and that’s why it’s really important that we complete the changes we want to complete with the campus master plan. Once Fiserv Forum opened, that generated a whole new interest in downtown development in general … We still look forward to the redevelopment of our parking structure site. I think it lends itself to mixed-use development of some sort and that could include more arts facilities.”
The impact of “Hamilton”
“Nothing but positive … In the 2018-’19 season, in order to become a subscriber for “Hamilton”, we required people to, if they wanted the best choice, buy a subscription to last year’s season. That drove up our subscription sales by over 40%. That is a huge increase for us … It’s not only “Hamilton” that’s been significant for us. We’ve had “Dear Evan Hansen”. We have the “Lion King” coming up for the first time in the Marcus Center … It’s important for us that we’re attracting programming that is going to attract younger audiences.”