Marquette partners with Bucks to build athletic and research facility on campus

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:15 pm

Marquette University, in partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks, will likely fill a seven-and-a-half-acre plot of land acquired by the school last fall with a new facility housing intercollegiate and professional athletics as well as initiatives related to academic research and campus health and wellness.

University president Michael Lovell, Ph.D. announced the partnership and project plans Thursday afternoon during his first presidential address.

Lovell’s presidential address mimicked the style of his September inauguration as he expanded on several research, entrepreneurial and growth ventures he has teed up for Marquette.

The university’s new multi-purpose building, which has yet to be christened a price tag, was among the highlights of his remarks. The land expected to support the new facility is located in the 800 block of Michigan Street, adjacent to the eastern edge of Marquette’s campus in downtown Milwaukee and south of the Straz Tower residence hall building at 915 W. Wisconsin Ave.

The facility will be outfitted with indoor playing fields for the school’s lacrosse and soccer programs, an indoor track and what Marquette officials call “a world-class athletic performance research facility.” While enhancing student access to recreation and fitness opportunities, the project will also provide faculty and students a setting to perform research in sports performance, medicine, nutrition and rehabilitation. That research will benefit both Marquette student-athletes and professional athletes, according to the university.

Together, Marquette and the Bucks aim to make Milwaukee a place where athletes from around the country and world want to come to improve their athletic performance, Lovell said.

Marquette spokesperson Chris Stolarski said the Bucks also have an interest in using the facility for their own athletic purposes. What that use looks like has not been specifically defined, but one option could involve including training courts in the center.

“I think we’ll have to continue to test the site capacity,” said Lora Strigens, recently named associate vice president for finance and university architect. “Obviously a lacrosse field and indoor track take up…a significant amount of land area as would an indoor practice facility, but I think we’re exploring options and are open to looking at how we can accommodate both should that materialize.”

Marquette’s varsity basketball teams as well as its volleyball team will continue to train at their campus home, the Al McGuire Center, according to Bill Scholl, vice president and director of athletics at Marquette.

He expressed uncertainty in the prospect of the Bucks calling the new center one of its training facilities.

“Whether or not basketball becomes part of the rec sports mission down there (at the center), I don’t know,” Scholl said. “I mean it could, I guess.”

The Bucks, however, will be instrumental in the planning, development and construction of the new facility, Stolarski said, citing this partnership as one that Lovell hopes is ongoing.

The team’s leadership has not yet made a financial commitment to the joint project as the project remains in its preliminary stages, but owner Wes Edens is confident that an array of corporate partners will be interested in supporting the facility, according to Lovell.

Along with corporate partnerships, a pool of philanthropic gifts and research grants will back site development.

And if the two entities build the center right, they will pull “significant research dollars into the region,” Lovell said.

While Lovell was vague in communicating a timeline for the project, he and other Marquette officials plan to complete an “accelerated design phase” over the next 60 days, followed by a few months of detail design and programming.

The construction phase will likely span 18 to 24 months.

“Our goal obviously is to move as quickly as we can with this, so we’ll do everything we can to accelerate the design and programming of the process,” Strigens said.

It is not yet clear what part of the seven-and-a-half parcel the new center will be situated on, though Lovell said that based on initial estimates it occupy most of the land. The site will also include room for parking.

Construction of the new site means that two buildings currently occupying the land will need to be torn down, according to Lovell.

The new strategic partnership also cues an expectation that Marquette’s men’s basketball team will play in the Bucks’ new arena, Lovell said, though that has not been made a done deal.

“I’m not sure,” Lovell said in regard to the prospect of Marquette playing in a new arena. “As far as I’m concerned, yes.”

He added that Marquette athletics represents the Bradley Center’s second largest tenant and would contribute significantly to community efforts to populate a new arena with as much activity as possible.

Throughout conception and design discussions of an arena, the Bucks have included Marquette in “just about every step of the way,” Lovell said, adding that it is an exciting initiative for the university.

“Playing in a pro sports arena – it’s just a competitive advantage in terms of recruiting student athletes and what we can do in terms of outreach to our community and having that facility for our fan base and our alumni,” Lovell said.

Marquette has not been part of any discussions related to what kind of financial contribution it would offer a new arena, Lovell said, particularly since other developments likely surrounding the structure need to be taken into consideration.

“Once I think we get further down the road, we will have that opportunity to discuss that, but we haven’t had that yet,” he said.

Additional campus progress

Lovell also used his presidential address to discuss both progress and plans in line with his goal to transform Marquette into a more innovation-driven and entrepreneurial-minded institution. Along with doubling the university’s research funding throughout the next five years, Lovell will allocate more attention to the quality of its graduate education and entrepreneurship. On this note, Lovell plans to break the vice provost for research position and dean of the Graduate School position into two distinct roles. Jeanne Hossenlopp, Ph.D., who previously filled both positions as one, will serve as vice president for research and innovation. Kevin Gibson, Ed.M., Ph.D., associate dean of the Graduate School and associate professor of philosophy, has been appointed interim dean of the Graduate School.

The university president also plans to relocate the school’s Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship to a larger, more central space on campus. The center will be equipped with additional support staff who can advance its startup initiatives.

Another innovation priority centers on activating Marquette’s Strategic Innovation Fund, which has ballooned to $6 million since September. A University Innovation Council led by Hossenlopp will soon begin vetting about 200 proposals from campus faculty, staff and students ready to flesh out their innovation projects.

Off campus, Marquette aims to have a presence on the sixth floor of the Global Water Center, located in Walker’s Point, by the end of the year. University leaders and faculty, including Hossenlopp and university architect Strigens, are spearheading the design of the space Marquette occupies.

Lovell also made news with the announcement of a $5 million personal gift from Dr. Michael and Mrs. Billie Kubly, founders of the Charles E. Kubly Foundation, which is dedicated to helping individuals impacted by depression. The couple’s gift will be used toward the creation of the Charles E. Kubly Mental Health Research Center in the College of Health Sciences. Included in the Kublys’ donation is funding for an endowed senior professorship, funding for more faculty, and funding to cover cutting-edge cellular and molecular research concentrations.

The new center will require the university to raise another $10 million, according to Lovell.

Additionally, Marquette is moving closer to establishing a university police department, Lovell said. The structure of such a department is in its early stages. The process follows legislation signed into law last year enabling Marquette to “enter into agreement with either the state or a local law enforcement agency to operate a university police department,” the university said.

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