FPC Live is proposing a two-room concert venue complex in Milwaukee’s Deer District – replacing its recently dropped Historic Third Ward plan while creating more live stages downtown.
FPC Live announced Monday it plans to develop the facility on the northeast section of the former Bradley Center site.
That vacant lot, south of Fiserv Forum, was created when the Bradley Center was demolished in 2019 after the arena replaced it as a site for Milwaukee Bucks games, concerts and other events.
The land is owned by the basketball club. The venue would use 1.6 acres of the 5.7-acre site, with the rest set aside for future developments that could include a hotel, restaurants and apartments.
“If you asked us to take a magic wand and figure out how to use an acre and a half of land on the Bradley Center site, to have a music venue that’s ripe and innovative is just perfect,” Peter Feigin, Milwaukee Bucks president, told the Journal Sentinel following a press conference announcing the development.
“We’re excited about the growth of traffic it’s going to have, the adjacency to the larger building, and the diversification of content.”
Similar to discarded Third Ward plan
The $ 50 million FPC Live venue will mirror what was planned for the Third Ward: a 108,000-to-110,000-square-foot, multi-level complex with a 4,000-person-capacity room and an 800-person-capacity room. Both rooms will primarily be ballroom-style, with about a third of the capacity devoted to reserved seating, FPC Live co-president Charlie Goldstone said Monday. The venues will also feature private suites.
Those venues are expected to host more than 135 events annually, drawing around 200,000 people. Feigin also hinted the venue could host Bucks watching parties and other events beyond concerts.
“As you get deeper into uses and functionality and flexibility, this is an venue where you can do almost anything,” he said.
The venue’s entrances will face the Deer District plaza, similar to Fiserv Forum.
“Security and safety are paramount to everything we do,” Feigin said Monday. “When you think about the orientation of this building, ingress and egress, how pedestrian traffic looks, all of those things are important to how we have oversight, how we are proactive in securing not just the Deer District but the entire downtown …. It’s on top of our minds at all times. “
City officials seem receptive
FPC Live, the Madison-based division of Live Nation-backed Frank Productions, plans to begin development this year. That’s pending zoning approval from the Common Council and Mayor Cavalier Johnson.
Johnson spoke favorably about the project at Monday’s press conference, while Ald. Robert Bauman, whose district includes downtown and the Third Ward, told the Journal Sentinel in an interview this month that the Deer District would be a “better fit” than the initial location.
“I want more tourism dollars spent in Milwaukee. I want more employment in our hospitality industry right here in Milwaukee,” Johnson said Monday. “I want more positive activity down here downtown in the Deer District and throughout Milwaukee. And I want an even greater number of entertainment options in Milwaukee as well. With today’s announcement that sounds like exactly where we’re headed.”
The facility is to open by late 2023, and would dramatically increase FPC Live’s already growing clout in the Milwaukee concert market. Serving as the local promoter for Live Nation, it stages more concerts at Fiserv Forum than any other promoter. FPC Live is also the preferred promoter for concerts at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater and BMO Harris Pavilion at Maier Festival Park, outside of Summerfest.
“We are excited to further enhance the relationship between FPC Live and the Milwaukee Bucks with the addition of these two spectacular venues,” said Michael Belot, senior vice president of Bucks Ventures and Development.
A pivot from Third Ward site
Monday’s news comes just 10 days after FPC Live announced it was dropping plans for an venue complex near the southern entrance to Maier Festival Park.
In a joint statement with Milwaukee World Festival Inc., which operates Summerfest and owns the Third Ward site, FPC Live said it was abandoning that effort for unspecified “multiple reasons.”
Those likely included opposition from nearby condominium owners who feared the new venue would bring more noise, traffic and other disruptions to their neighborhood.
“We still think (the Third Ward site) was great but we engaged in an honest public process and ultimately decided with Milwaukee World Festival to move on, which is what a good company should do when they’re acting in good faith,” Goldstone said. said in an interview Monday.
“We began looking for available sites years ago and identified a handful, and this has always been a prime site for us given the synergies with the Deer District, with Fiserv Forum, with all of the entertainment venues that are literally across the street,” Frank Productions CEO Joel Plant told the Journal Sentinel Monday.
“People are accustomed to coming to this location for events from across the region.”
Opposition from nearby residents isn’t expected to be a major factor with the former Bradley Center site.
While there are nearby rental units, those closest to the site – Verdigris Apartments, 333 W. State St., part of the Journal Square mixed-use project – are still under construction and don’t yet have people living there.
Opposition expected from local venues
There could still be opposition from rival venue operators – who protested FPC Live’s Third Ward plans.
FPC Live’s proposed venue is expected to become the local stop for Live Nation tours at the theater and club level that have traditionally been routed through the Rave, the Miller High Life Theater and other Milwaukee venues.
Rival venue operators would likely have less leverage to make their case with the land being provided by the Milwaukee Bucks owners instead of a nonprofit, community-based organization such as the Milwaukee World Festival.
Also, FPC Live’s venue will be privately financed, creating several dozen full-time jobs and 600 part-time jobs, as well as construction jobs, and the complex will pay “tens of millions” in property taxes, Plant said Monday. The company is also planning to open new Milwaukee offices near the Deer District this summer, with full-time employees ultimately working out of office space at the new venue, Plant said.
Pandemic assistance draws scrutiny
Nevertheless, Frank Productions and Live Nation are under some increased scrutiny following a Washington Post report that published Sunday.
As the Journal Sentinel reported in November, FPC Live received 10 million from the $ 16.25 billion federal Shuttered Venue Operator Grant program – despite the fact that Live Nation owns a controlling interest in Frank Productions.
Publicly traded corporations, and businesses that are majority owned or controlled by public companies, were deemed ineligible for the SVOG funds, Andrea Roebker, spokeswoman for the Small Business Administration, which administered the grants, previously told the Journal Sentinel.
The Washington Post report looked at multiple companies that were subsidiaries of Live Nation, or had significant financial backing from the live music juggernaut, that received grants from the SVOG, including the $ 10 million FPC Live claimed.
However, those grants in question did not appear to have violated the law or any rules set by the SBA, the Post reported. While Live Nation owns a controlling interest in Frank Productions, Plant told the Post that Live Nation has a minority stake in FPC Live, a point he also mentioned at a public forum about the proposed Milwaukee venue in January.
“We have mechanisms with Live Nation to lend us money that we did not access during COVID,” Plant told the Washington Post. “The intention of the (SVOG) program was to keep people employed and keep businesses operating and it did that. There was a pretty complicated and thorough set of rules and guidelines promulgated about the program; We read through them carefully and we are eligible at the FPC level to receive the funds. ”
Asked about the article and obtaining SVOG funds, Plant again told the Journal Sentinel “we followed all the rules.” He also said Monday the company would not ask for any financial assistance from the city for development.
In a December interview with the Journal Sentinel, Plant stressed that no SVOG funds would be used to construct a new Milwaukee venue.
Iron District plan proposed last week
Meanwhile, FPC Live’s announcement comes just three days after plans were announced for a downtown mixed-use project that includes a new concert venue.
Dubbed the Iron District, it is to be developed on 11 acres bordered by North Sixth Street, West Michigan Street and the I-794 / 1-43 interchange.
The Iron District will feature a professional soccer stadium, hotel, apartments and a 3,500-seat indoor concert venue. The stadium and venue, both yet to be named, are currently slated to open in early 2024.
That venue will be operated by Pabst Theater Group and a larger concert promoter that hasn’t been named.
That raises the obvious question: How many indoor concert venues can Milwaukee sustain?
Feigin for one welcomes the Iron District news, even though it will also include a rival venue.
“Growth is success,” he said. “We’re happy that the whole market is raising up and the development of other venues is a great signal for the whole market.”
Downtown Milwaukee already includes Fiserv Forum as well as four concert halls operated by the Pabst Theater Group: Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater, Miller High Life Theater and Turner Hall Ballroom. And the Rave, which stages general admission concerts in multiple rooms, including the 3,500-person-capacity Eagles Ballroom, operates on the near west side.
Gary Witt, Pabst Theater Group chief executive officer, said the Iron District venue would serve national touring acts that prefer general admission ballroom-style layouts, vs. the fixed seating at his company’s Pabst Theater and Riverside Theater.
And the concert industry – which was growing consistently for a decade before the pandemic – could do record business in 2022. Concert trade publication Pollstar projects that the top 100 tours this year will collectively gross $ 5.63 billion and collectively sell about 65 million tickets, a 12% jump from 2019.
In previous interviews with the Journal Sentinel, FPC Live’s Goldstone has emphasized that new and upgraded Milwaukee venues have dramatically increased concert offerings in the city in recent years.
Fiserv Forum has outperformed the former Bradley Center since its 2018 opening – becoming the nation’s 25th-highest grossing arena for concerts in 2019.
And the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, which reopened last summer following a $ 51.3 million renovation, was ranked 15th in the world for the number of tickets sold in 2021 among amphitheaters, according to concert trade publication Pollstar. With 20 concerts booked for 2022, it will be the venue’s busiest year since 2004, when it was known as the Marcus Amphitheater.
On Monday, Goldstone stressed that their proposed venue will be a major boost to the concert landscape.
“The (existing) venues have served Milwaukee really well for the past decades, but these venues will serve Milwaukee really well for the next five decades,” Goldstone said.
“When we talk about competition at the level that we operate on, we are competing with other cities for talent. The cities with the best venues and the best investments and the best fans win. We’ve got the fans here, now we need. the investments. “
More:A new concert venue, along with a hotel and professional soccer stadium, are planned for downtown Milwaukee’s west side.
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Tom Daykin can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Instagram Twitter and Facebook.