Commentary: Am Fam makes an impact in Milwaukee

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“How does American Family Field sound?”

That’s what I wrote in this space a year ago, commenting on the Milwaukee Brewers’ decision to sell the naming rights for its stadium to a new sponsor. Recently, American Family Insurance announced that the new name for Miller Park will be…American Family Field.

Hey, sometimes you just get lucky.

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A lot of Brewers fans are upset about the name change because we are all used to the Miller Park name, which has been the stadium’s title since it opened in 2001. Change is hard. Plus, the Miller Park name just seemed perfect for a Milwaukee baseball team called the Brewers.

But we should all be excited about the investments American Family, a Fortune 500 company based in Madison, is making in Milwaukee.

Besides the naming rights sponsorship for the stadium, providing revenue to help the Brewers remain competitive, American Family is also the naming rights sponsor for the largest stage at Henry Maier Festival Park, and the presenting sponsor for Summerfest.

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Announced in 2017, the Summerfest sponsorships led to a $53 million project to rebuild the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, which will be completed this year. The roof of the amphitheater has been raised 26 feet, to accommodate equipment needs for modern concerts. Other improvements will include a new seating bowl, new restrooms, accessibility enhancements, hospitality areas, new and wider concourses and increased food and beverage options. Originally known as the Marcus Amphitheater, the 18,000-seat (plus lawn seating for 5,000) venue cost $12 million to build and first opened in 1987.

Last year, Summerfest operator Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. announced it had entered a preferred promoter agreement with Madison-based Frank Productions Concerts to promote concerts at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater and BMO Harris Pavilion.

The moves to upgrade the amphitheater and hire an outside promoter appear to be paying off. So far five concerts have been announced for the amphitheater this year, in addition to the concerts that will be held there during Summerfest. That is a significant increase in activity for the venue.

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Less visible to the general public, but even more impactful for Milwaukee, American Family plans to establish an office downtown, moving 200 to 250 employees there from Pewaukee and creating an additional 150 jobs. The company will renovate and expand the 110-year-old former Mandel printing building, near Fiserv Forum, to create its downtown Milwaukee office location.

And that’s not all. American Family also recently committed $50,000 to support the new STEAM & Dream program at Sherman Phoenix in Milwaukee. The funds will be used to help K-12 students and young adults pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

American Family says it is committed to partnering with organizations in Milwaukee to create meaningful economic and social impact. That’s outstanding. Can’t wait to see what other initiatives the company will engage in here.

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