Group formed to oppose concert venue development near Fiserv Forum

Rendering of FPC Live's proposed concert venue development near Fiserv Forum. Credit: Eppstein Uhen Architects.

Last updated on August 22nd, 2022 at 02:25 pm

Opponents of plans for a concert venue development near Fiserv Forum have formed a group to fight the project.

FPC Live, an affiliate of Madison-based Frank Productions, plans to build a $50 million development with two concert venues, one with a capacity of 4,000 and the other with a capacity for 800, at the former Bradley Center site south of Fiserv Forum. The site is controlled by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Los Angeles-based Live Nation, one of the world’s largest live entertainment companies, owns a majority stake in Frank Productions. Opponents of FPC Live’s Milwaukee development say they are concerned that Live Nation’s tremendous industry influence will result in a significant number of acts performing there to the detriment of existing concert venues in Milwaukee.

“Live Nation is just like Walmart,” said Craig Peterson, executive director of the group opposing the FPC Live project, called Save MKE’s Music Scene LLC. “They come into a community with uncompetitive pricing, put the independents out of business, shutter neighborhood businesses and displace workers. The only difference is Walmart doesn’t charge outrageous service fees to enter their buildings. Live Nation/Ticketmaster does.”

Peterson is the chief executive officer and president of Milwaukee-based public relations firm Zigman Joseph.

Prior to unveiling its concert venue development plans near Fiserv Forum, FPC Live planned a similar development in the Historic Third Ward near the Summerfest grounds. Peterson also led an opposition group to that project, which included Third Ward residents and business owners.

Peterson also led opposition to the Pabst City development in 2005, which was a plan to convert the former Pabst brewery into an entertainment district that would have included a House of Blues concert venue. That project was also opposed by some existing concert venue operators. The Pabst City project died when aldermen voted against a tax incremental financing subsidy for the project. Later Milwaukee developer Joseph Zilber bought the former brewery and initiated a project to transform it into a mixed-use neighborhood.

Peterson named several Milwaukee music venues that he says would be harmed by the FPC Live development.

“Live Nation’s proposed development threatens the very existence of Turner Hall, Cactus Club, (Miller) High Life Theater, Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater, Shank Hall, The Rave, and many other iconic neighborhood music stages, which have made Milwaukee’s live-music scene a jewel among the nation,” he said.

Peterson said Save MKE’s Music Scene will oppose any zoning changes to the former Bradley Center site that includes the FPC Live project.

“The Live Nation proposal is a direct threat to the future of the Turner Hall Ballroom,” said Emilio De Torre, executive director, Milwaukee Turners, Inc. “Live Nation will be directly across the street from us. They want their artists and concert tours to appear at their venues, which cuts out the independent venues like us. This threatens our viability and very existence, which relies upon revenue from live concert performances.”

“It is great that Live Nation is around to bring in stadium and arena shows, but there is no need for them to come to small town America and wipe out mom and pop concert venues and promoters,” said Peter Jest, owner of Shank Hall. “The land would much better be used for a hotel to attract more conventions, that seems to be the main focus in town. I am sure we will lose conventions if Milwaukee does not have enough hotel space, but I don’t think we will lose any concert acts because we do not have yet another 4,000-capacity concert venue in town.”

“In years past a promoter would book an act and build a relationship all the way up to arena level,” said Jest. “Those days are gone as Live Nation just waits until the acts get big and throws an absurd amount of money at them. The small promoters and venues just get the bands on their way up and on their way down, and now Live Nation wants that too. Having a California- based big concert conglomerate, known as the Walmart of concert promotion, wipe out small Midwest businesses is not good for anybody, except Live Nation stockholders.”

“Live Nation’s proposed venues are scalable,” said Kelsey Kaufmann, owner of the Cactus Club in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. “As exemplified in other cities, Live Nation facilities can be adapted to hold crowds of 100 or 4,000. The Cactus Club can’t compete with a publicly-traded corporation for acts. In Chicago, independent venues have organized against Live Nation’s multi-venue Lincoln Yards development with the understanding it is a direct threat to their existence. Live Nation is a threat to Milwaukee’s live music culture, our artists, communities and neighborhoods.”

Wisconsin Center District president and CEO Marty Brooks on Friday also expressed concern about the FPC Live project and said it would hurt the WCD’s Miller High Life Theatre and the Wisconsin Center.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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