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Soccer stadium would anchor mixed-use sports and entertainment district planned in downtown Milwaukee

Indoor concert venue, hotel, residential development also part of development plans

Iron District MKE rendering from Kahler Slater.
Iron District MKE rendering from Kahler Slater.
Image from Google.

Grafton-based Kacmarcik Enterprises and Kenosha-based Bear Development plan to create a mixed-use development in downtown Milwaukee that would be anchored by an 8,000-seat soccer stadium.

Kacmarcik Enterprises and Bear Development announced today that they have agreed to purchase an 11-acre parcel from Marquette University to develop a sports and entertainment district. The site is bounded by North 6th Street on the east, Michigan Street on the north, and the Marquette Interchange to the west and south. In 2016, Marquette University unveiled plans to build a 250,000- to 300,000-square-foot athletic performance research center on the site, but later dropped those plans and instead built a smaller athletic facility at a different location.

In addition to the soccer stadium, plans for the development including an indoor concert venue, a full-service hotel, multi-family residential housing, retail and food and beverage.

“We are thrilled to work with the City of Milwaukee and other community partners to transform a long-dormant site into a vibrant sports and entertainment district, furthering opportunities to live, work and play downtown,” said S.R. Mills, Bear Development CEO.

The soccer stadium will be the home of the highest level of professional soccer in Wisconsin and will serve as the home field for Marquette University’s men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams. The professional soccer league affiliate will be announced soon, according to a news release.

“Milwaukee is one of the great sports cities in the United States, and we are excited to bring professional outdoor soccer to the community,” said Jim Kacmarcik, chairman and CEO of Kacmarcik Enterprises, and the lead owner of Forward Madison FC, Madison’s USL League One franchise. “The beauty of soccer is that all across the world, communities rally behind their city’s club to support the players, the team, and each other.”

USL League One is third-division professional soccer league in the United States. The second division is the USL Championship league and the top division is Major League Soccer.

The downtown Milwaukee soccer stadium would also host community events, recreational programming, and other athletic uses. The field, which features a premium, synthetic turf surface, will be used from March through November, hosting approximately 200 events. The size of the soccer stadium could be expanded later if necessary, Mills said.

Adjacent to the soccer facility will be a 3,500-person indoor concert venue operated by “one of the world’s premier concert promoters” and the Pabst Theater Group in partnership with Kacmarcik Enterprises, according to a news release. The facility will host national touring acts 80-to-100 nights a year and more than 300 events a year in total.

“This amazing new venue is another rung on the Pabst Theater Group’s ‘artist and fan developmental ladder’ and will help artists to choose Milwaukee as a city to not only launch their careers but support them as they continue to return and as they grow,” said Gary Witt, president and CEO of the Pabst Theater Group. “The location is a perfect fit for a concert venue. It has plenty of parking and easy access to trains, buses, and highways, and it’s only a stone’s throw from downtown. This is the right place for us to be, working alongside great partners like Kacmarcik Enterprises and Bear Development and getting to expand our venues’ potential in the same space as an exciting new professional soccer stadium. As an almost 20-year-old independent Milwaukee business, we are honored to carry the torch for live performances in Milwaukee into the future, along with other independent local powerhouses like The Rave, The Cactus Club, and Shank Hall.”

The announcement about the plans for the indoor concert venue as part of this project comes after plans for a similar venue near the Summerfest grounds were dropped last week. FPC Live, an affiliate of Madison-based Frank Productions dropped its plans for an indoor live music venue facility (with two venues, one with a capacity of up to 800 and the other with a capacity of up to 4,000) after neighbors in the Third Ward, and others, raised concerns. FPC Live, a joint venue between Live Nation and Frank Productions, indicated it would seek another location for the project.

Directly attached to the indoor concert venue planned by Kacmarcik Enterprises and Bear Development will be a full-service, 140-room hotel. Plans for the upscale hotel, to be owned by Bear Development, will feature a full-service bar and restaurant overlooking the soccer stadium.

The western edge of the development site will have 99 multi-family housing units, according to the project plans.

The project is scheduled to break ground later this year, with the stadium and entertainment elements projected to open in spring 2024.

The site is mostly vacant but has three buildings: an office building and a former Ramada hotel building and a building formerly occupied by Herzing University. Part of the office building will be used for parking and some of its interior walls will also be reused, Mills said. The rest of the building and the other two buildings will be demolished.

No dollar figure was given today for the project. Mills declined additional comment today, but indicated that financing for the project is in the works and could include a request for tax incremental financing from the city.

Rendering from Kahler Slater.
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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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