League announced for Milwaukee pro soccer team coming to Iron District development

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The developers of the $160 million, 11-acre Iron District MKE have struck a deal with the USL Championship league to establish a professional men’s soccer club in downtown Milwaukee.

Tampa, Florida-based USL Championship is the second-highest level of professional soccer in the U.S., behind Major League Soccer. The second division league has 27 clubs in major metropolitan markets including Miami, San Diego, Las Vegas, New York City, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Detroit and Indianapolis.

Starting in 2025, Milwaukee’s USL expansion team will play home games at the 8,000-seat stadium slated to be built as part of the mixed-use Iron District, which is being developed by Grafton-based Kacmarcik Enterprises and Kenosha-based Bear Development on a mostly vacant plot northeast of the Marquette Interchange.

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Officials from Kacmarcik Enterprises, Bear Development and USL announced the franchise agreement at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“This is an announcement we’ve been working towards behind the scenes for years, and I’m thrilled to bring high-level professional soccer to the city of Milwaukee,” said Jim Kacmarcik, chairman and chief executive officer of Kacmarcik Enterprises, which owns the rights to the USL Championship franchise. “Major cities have professional soccer clubs, and we’re proud to deliver that to Milwaukee – a premier sports city with a rich soccer culture that runs deep throughout our community.”

Kacmarcik also owns the Forward Madison FC pro soccer team, which launched in 2019 as a charter member of the division III USL League One.

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“Based on what we’ve seen in Madison, we know that Jim Kacmarcik and Milwaukee Pro Soccer will ensure the new club is a top-tier soccer organization, providing best-in-class facilities for its players, a world-class soccer experience for its fans, and a commitment to having a positive community impact,” said Justin Papadakis, USL chief operating officer and chief real estate officer.

The club, officially known as Milwaukee Pro Soccer, has launched a public campaign to name the team. Fans can submit their ideas by filling out a brief online survey. The input will also be used to inform decisions around the team’s crest, colors and overall aesthetic, according to a news release.

The announcement of the USL expansion team marks the establishment of the first professional outdoor soccer franchise in Milwaukee since 2002, when the Milwaukee Rampage dissolved. At the time, the Rampage played in the A-League, which represented the second-highest tier of professional soccer in the U.S. and was a precursor to the current USL Championship, according to the release.

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In addition to the Milwaukee Pro Soccer USL Championship franchise, the Iron District stadium will be home to Marquette University’s men’s and women’s soccer teams and men’s and women’s lacrosse teams.

The Iron District development site – bounded by North 6th Street on the east, Michigan Street on the north and the Marquette Interchange to the west and south – was previously owned by Marquette University and was purchased by the developers in June for $12.5 million.

“It was important to us to sell this land for the Iron District MKE to a strategic partner that would revitalize this high-profile corridor within Milwaukee’s Westown neighborhood,” said Marquette University President Michael Lovell. “Together with Milwaukee Pro Soccer, the USL, Kacmarcik Enterprises and Bear Development, we are accomplishing that.”

Construction on the Iron District MKE is expected to break ground later this fall, starting with the complete deconstruction of the former Ramada hotel at 633 W. Michigan St. Other site prep and construction activities will soon follow.

“With our agreement with USL Championship now in place, we are ready to begin construction,” said S.R. Mills, chief executive officer of Bear Development. “Whether you’re traveling from the south or west of Milwaukee, we view Iron District MKE as a transformational gateway to the city that will serve as an asset to the Westown neighborhood and all of downtown.”

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