Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm
The executives who plan to take over the management and promotion of the Milwaukee Mile say they also plan to announce a deal next year to build a hotel next to the historic racetrack.
Milwaukee Mile Marketing LLC is led by chairman and chief executive officer Craig Stoehr and president Andrew Randall.
"It’s a priority for us," Stoehr said of the hotel project. "We’re moving as quickly as possible."
The Wisconsin State Fair Park Board of Directors recently selected Milwaukee Mile Marketing to take over management and promotion of the track. The deal is contingent on approval by the State Building Commission.
As part of the deal, Milwaukee Mile Marketing would acquire 9.35 acres of vacant land along Greenfield Avenue between the State Fair Park Expo Center and 77th Street from the state. Milwaukee Mile Marketing plans to attract commercial development to that property, including a hotel and racing-themed stores and restaurants.
"One of the things we want to create is a Milwaukee Mile Wisconsin racing museum," Stoehr said. "There’s so much history. There’s a lot of great racers that came out of Wisconsin. It would be a great thing."
Another possibility for the commercial development near the track is a Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant. Scott Acker, the owner of a Quaker Steak & Lube franchise in the Madison area, the only Quaker Steak location in the state, plans to open a restaurant in the Milwaukee area. He recently dropped his plans to open a Quaker Steak location in Greenfield and is looking for another site.
"We’re interested in that type of thing," Stoehr said. "It’s going to be a retail entertainment complex."
Acker, a Waukesha resident, said he would consider opening a Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant at the Milwaukee Mile, but has not been contacted yet by Stoehr or Randall.
"We’d really like to be in the Milwaukee area somewhere," Acker said. "But, it’s really got to be a fantastic site."
Stoehr and Randall expect a hotel would provide a major boost to the City of West Allis, State Fair park and the Milwaukee Mile.
The city, which has 61,254 residents, only has a small number of lower-end hotel rooms, said city development director John Stibal. Businesses in West Allis, including tenants that have moved into the Summit Place office complex, the redeveloped former Allis-Chalmers factory, want a decent hotel in the city to serve their visitors, he said.
The hotel also would help attract more events to the Expo Center at State Fair Park, which has lost millions of dollars in recent years.
The Milwaukee Mile also has lost millions after State Fair Park resumed operating it in 2003 for the first time in 60 years.
Last year, a study by HVS International said that a limited-service hotel at State Fair Park would be feasible. However, the study indicated that a hotel better than a lower-end hotel would need a subsidy from the city, Stibal said. City officials would consider any proposal, but would be more likely to provide a subsidy to a hotel offering a higher level of service, he said.
"If they came to us with a Hampton Inn-type proposal, we would be interested," Stibal said.
Three firms responded to a request for proposals for hotel projects put out by the city. All three proposals suggested hotels with about 100 rooms: Arlington Heights, Ill.-based Arlington Property Development LLC proposed a hotel similar to a Hampton Inn with meeting rooms and a restaurant; Chanhassen, Minn.-based AmericInn International LLC also submitted a proposal; and Art Smith, president and CEO of New Berlin-based Keystone Travel Services, is leading a group that wants to develop a Wingate Inn.
Stibal said he has heard of a fourth firm interested in developing a hotel at State Fair Park, but the company has not contacted him or submitted plans to the city.
Milwaukee Mile Marketing LLC is meeting with all of the developers interested in building a hotel at State Fair Park. Ultimately, they will select a hotel developer and bring a proposal to the city.
"We’re in very preliminary stages," Stoehr said. "We’ve met with the people who responded to the RFP from the city to see what their plans were and what they were thinking."
The commercial development is a key part of the plan to making the Milwaukee Mile profitable again, Stoehr said. Milwaukee Mile Marketing will lease the promotional rights at the racetrack for 18 years, at about $1.9 million a year. The lease term and payments will cover the state’s existing debt service requirement for the Milwaukee Mile.
Milwaukee Mile Marketing also plans to increase revenue by improving attendance for the races held at the track and by attracting more corporate sponsorships.
That could include selling the naming rights to the Milwaukee Mile, Stoehr said.
"We will have the right to do that," he said. "That is a longer-term objective to look at naming rights opportunities."
The Milwaukee Mile is the oldest operating motor speedway in the world. Racing began there in 1903. Even if the name of the track was sold to a corporate sponsor, Milwaukee Mile would probably remain part of the name to preserve that history, Stoehr said.
"I don’t think we would change the name," he said. "If we did, it would incorporate the ‘Milwaukee Mile.’"
Naming rights could also be sold for parts of the racetrack facility, Stoehr said.
"There are a lot of sponsorships in the sport of racing already," Randall said.
The biggest races held at the Milwaukee Mile each year include the Champ Car weekend, Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and NASCAR Busch Series. To fill the seats for those events, Stoehr and Randall say they will increase the marketing and promotion of the track.
The new guys
The top executives of Milwaukee Mile Marketing LLC are:
Craig Stoehr, chairman and chief executive officer
Stoehr, who was born in West Allis and raised in Oconomowoc, is a member of Grand Prix Group Worldwide Ltd. He is the former CEO of the Class I World Powerboat Championship and also worked on legal and business development matters for the 1994 and 1998 World Cup soccer tournaments. Stoehr is the founder and managing partner of Badger Pacific Equity Partners, a real estate investment company that is sponsoring the Milwaukee Mile deal.
Andrew Randall, president
Randall is the former president of the Wisconsin division of U.S. Bank. Randall played a key role in U.S. Bank’s sponsorship of the Champ Car World Series events in Milwaukee and Cleveland.