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An Inside Look at the New Arena

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As winter nears, progress on Milwaukee’s soon-to-be iconic landmark keeps moving forward

I remember the weeks back in summer of 2015. They were long, excruciating seven day periods in which I, along with many other Bucks fans, were unsure of the team’s future. I’d come home from work, get all the latest on the arena situation, and spend hours calling not only my local legislators, but ones from every corner of the state. I wanted to ensure my voice was being heard by everyone in regards to the arena funding bill. Those weeks were some of the most nerve-wracking days of my sporting fandom, as the prospect of losing your team is gut-wrenching.

Fast forward to today — October 5, 2017. I was lucky enough to be part of a group of media that saw the progress of the new arena. On my way around, it was unbelievable to realize just how far this project has come. From the desolate wasteland of the Park East to now a structure that will soon serve as the “Crown Downtown” for Milwaukee.

Our tour started in the Mortenson Construction trailers, as we donned the orange vests, a hard hat, some gloves, and eye glasses. From there, we headed toward the arena entrance. Once we got in there, we walked up to the mezzanine level, which looked down on the arena floor itself. And folks, it’s coming along:

You can’t see much of the outside sky once you’re submerged in the belly of the beast. That’s because construction workers are rallying towards their next big accomplishment of the project.

“We are moving toward total enclosure of the building as our next big milestone,” Bucks President Peter Feigin said.

Windows in the lobby of the east atrium were scheduled to begin being installed today and tomorrow. After that process is completed and projects elsewhere around the arena are finished, Feigin and others are anticipating a total enclosure to be on tap for late November. Once that’s completed, workers will embark on an interior heated structure.

In the above video, you can notice how the seating bowl is nearly completely set. You might also see how the floor is taking shape to that of an ice rink, which will be used for entertainment performances and possible Frozen Four NCAA hockey tournaments. Remember, the Admirals have made the UWM Panther Arena their home.

From there, we were guided to the one of the arena’s concourses, where we saw work on two escalators being completed in the east atrium:

When it’s going to be all said and done, there are going to be nine escalators in the east atrium, all of which are coming along soundly. For those who might prefer the exercise and walk up to the levels of the arena, you’re in luck:

I feel as if that grand staircase is going to be an iconic feature of the new home. I can tell it’s going to look sweet. Once it’s completed, it will end up leading to a Bucks merchandise store that will be open to fans every day of the year.

This was one of my big takeaways from the day. Just the overall sense of space and open air that this arena is going to have compared to the Bradley Center is awesome. No more being slammed together in the concourse like a can of sardines.

The massive windows that face the skyline are going to be something that the Bradley Center didn’t have, as one can go all the way to the top of the panoramic level and look at the downtown nightlife (you can also see the skyline from the second level). Add that to the list of “Woah, that’s awesome.”

It’s always unfortunate how the workers in the Bradley Center were near completion and thought to themselves, “Wait, we forgot the windows!” and then decided to build an entire add-on of just windows (Okay, that’s probably not how it worked, but you get my point). With this new arena, we won’t have to feel like we’re always in a prison cell (although I’m going to miss the Fortress on 4th Street nickname). We’ll actually have windows, and lots of them!

Our next and final stop took us back outside, where we were showed the installation of the zinc panels on the exterior of the arena. When these were first announced in the renderings, I was a little iffy on the colors. But after seeing it in person and up close, I’m 100 percent for them. Take a look for yourself:

As my tweet shows, the zinc panel installation will continue through the winter.

“This is really beginning to show you what the exterior of this building is going to look like,” said Feigin. “And I promise you, it’s going to look cooler at night.”

I’m in agreement with Feigin. With the transparent windows and the cream masonry, the zinc really pops. It’s something different and something that’s Milwaukee-esque. I know that sounds cliche, but that’s really how I feel about it. It’s something unique that’s not typically seen around the league.

Last, we got a look at the progress being made on the new parking structure that’s being built just north of the arena. You might remember that the city-owned structure used to sit on Highland Avenue was torn down to make room for the entertainment plaza.

This is one of the coolest features of the new arena — a skywalk leading into the stadium:

How awesome is that going to be when the weather is 0 degrees outside? You park your car and walk straight into the arena. A simple, yet innovative perk that many Wisconsinites will be happy about.

As Feigin took questions before we headed back to the trailers and concluded our tour, I tried to wet the beak and get any information on possible naming rights.

“No updates,” said Feigin. “We’re working towards it.”

We’re 11 months since the first structured steel column — it’s pretty crazy how fast these workers are moving along on this behemoth of a project. Every time I go past the arena, I’m always in amazement. I’m just as excited as all of you. I can’t wait to sit down in my cushioned seat and have my first beer in the new arena while watching the Bucks obliterate their opponents by 25 points. It’s on the horizon and I’m pumped.

“This is going to be beyond expectations,” said Feigin. “It’s going to be a real sense of pride and ownership for the state.”

Get ready, Milwaukee.