Populous unveils a swooping new arena, downtown entertainment district for the Milwaukee Bucks

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Conceptual renderings of the Milwaukee Bucks new arena, and the surrounding entertainment district, were release April 8. (Populous, HNTB, Eppstein Uhen, Milwaukee Bucks)

Conceptual renderings of the Milwaukee Bucks new arena, and the surrounding entertainment district, were release April 8. (Populous, HNTB, Eppstein Uhen, Milwaukee Bucks)

Fans of Milwaukee‘s premier basketball franchise got a glimpse Wednesday of ambitious plans to develop up to 30 acres of land around a “futuristic” new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Conceptual renderings of the Milwaukee Bucks new arena, and the surrounding entertainment district, were release April 8. (Populous, HNTB, Eppstein Uhen, Milwaukee Bucks)

For weeks the NBA team’s imminent announcement was well-known locally, but its details only recently came into focus.

Renderings of the new arena by a Populous-led design team that also includes HNTB and Eppstein Uhen Architects show a curved, asymmetrical roof sweeping over a glassy atrium with graphic detailing in the Bucks’ signature green.

But as eye-popping as the stadium itself are plans to develop up to 3 million square feet of office, entertainment, retail, residential, hotel, commercial space and parking structures over the next decade and a half. Along with plans to revamp the city’s lakefront park and redevelop Northwestern Mutual’s headquarters with a 32-story, Pelli Clarke Pelli-deigned tower, the Bucks’ announcement constitutes a transformation for downtown Milwaukee.

Conceptual renderings of the Milwaukee Bucks new arena, and the surrounding entertainment district, were release April 8. (Populous, HNTB, Eppstein Uhen, Milwaukee Bucks)

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel outlined what they called a “game-changing proposal”:

The development would include a 700,000-square-foot, 17,000-seat arena; a 60,000-square-foot public plaza, anticipated as a sort of live entertainment space on what is largely a city-owned parking ramp at the corner of N. 4th St. and W. Highland Ave.; and arena parking across the street in the Park East area. Total amount of space just for that portion of the development: 1 million square feet.

Another surprise, sources familiar with the Bucks’ plans said, is the Bucks’ intention to build a state-of-the-art practice facility as soon as possible on Park East land just east of The Brewery development. The Bucks’ practice facility is in leased space at the Archbishop Cousins Center in St. Francis; the team would have to buy out the lease.

The new stadium would occupy a site between Fourth Street and Sixth Street from State Street to McKinley Avenue, at the heart of a growing entertainment district north of the team’s present home, the BMO Harris Bradley Center. That arena, which opened in 1988, would be demolished to make room for either a hotel, commercial space, or new offices.

In a press release the Bucks’ management said the new arena “will seamlessly link with active development on all sides, including Old World Third Street, Schlitz Park, The Brewery, the Milwaukee riverfront, Water Street and the Wisconsin Center.”

But those plans float on unsettled budget negotiations that include up to a quarter of a billion dollars in public financing. Gov. Scott Walker initially promised $250 million in state bond money, but some members of the state legislature have balked at the amount. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett supports the plan, offering $25 million in city support, including $17 million in infrastructure improvements on and around the proposed new arena site.

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