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Bye Bye, Bradley Center

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“You’re 5,000 Candles in the Wind”

The 2017-18 season will be the last that the Bucks call the BMO Harris Bradley Center home. This offseason we will be chronicling the nearly 30 year history of the Bradley Center before it leaves Milwaukee’s downtown for good.

Last year during the Bucks’ 2nd Annual Block Party, a groundbreaking ceremony took place for the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center. One year later, the WESC’s exoskeleton has emerged from the BMO Harris Bradley Center’s shadow and taken a shape of its own. Before we dive into the Bradley Center’s history, let’s get familiar with the future home of the Bucks.

The Buck Ultimatum

Back in 2013, NBA commissioner-to-be, Adam Silver, toured the Bradley Center and deemed it unworthy of hosting NBA-level competition in the future. This started a discussion as to whether or not Milwaukee was a viable destination for an NBA franchise. The league would not hesitate to uproot a small market franchise in favor of trying out a new small market, or giving a former larger market a second chance (hey there Seattle). If the Bucks did not comply with Silver’s ultimatum it was likely that the franchise’s fate would be sealed.

Wanting to avoid another ill-fated transaction with Seattle, the new ownership group, along with a $100 million pledge from former owner, Herb Kohl, ponied up a combined $274 million for the new arena. The remaining $250 million of the $524 million tab came at the expense of Milwaukee County and Wisconsin residents in the form of bonds, decreased state aid for the city, and an increase in Milwaukee County and state taxes. When all interest is paid off the public’s total contribution to the arena will be in the $400 million range. The public funding bill zipped through the Wisconsin State Assembly, Senate, and signed by Governor Scott Walker in just one month’s time.

The Bucks signed a 30 year lease to play their home games at the WESC and Marquette University also signed on to play their home games at the new arena. The Wisconsin Center is the owner of the arena, while the Bucks are the acting operators of the new space, hence the need for a lease.

Home Is Where You Make It

The WESC’s principal architect firm, Populous, was the same firm that designed the Bradley Center (Populous was known then as HOK Sport Venue Event). On top of creating yet another arena for Milwaukee, the Kansas City firm will have a hand in the 27 acre development around the WESC. That development will include a parking structure directly north of the arena, a sports science and community health center to the northwest, and spots labeled as “Future Development” fill in the gaps. The “Live Block” area directly East of the WESC will feature community space, dining, and retail spots that will be available year-round.

The Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction is managing the arena’s construction; you may recognize their handiwork if you tuned into a Minnesota Vikings home game, they built U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The building is on schedule for the Fall 2018 opening. Our very own rachaelhoops (that’s her legal name now) chronicled her adventure out to the construction site over Memorial Day Weekend via Facebook Live.

The inside of the WESC will also bring about a new and improved seating layout that sacrifices some seating capacity (18,717 down to 17,500), for more favorable sight lines. The top-loaded, bowl shape of the lower and upper levels will mitigate any disruption in fan noise as well as having more seats in the lower level; this combination will lead to an overall louder arena. The WESC will have fewer suites than the Bradley Center, but more club level options will be available (renderings here). The arena will also function as cost-effective and environmentally efficient as possible. The Orlando Magic’s Amway Center is LEED Gold certified (very good) and is being used as a blueprint by the Bucks to save money on operating costs.

Came In Like A Wrecking Ball

As you can see from the aerial map, the Bradley Center is not included in the “Future Development” spot that currently occupies the Center’s map space. The demolition is scheduled to take place six months after the WESC opens. For those keeping score at home that puts the demolition date around April 2019. Moving everything inside the Bradley Center is a logistical nightmare on its own. There is 30 years worth of memorabilia that has to be accounted for and transported over to the new address. There is no word yet on whether there is going to be an auction for Bradley Center seats or other stadium memorabilia. Once the dust settles the area will be paved over and buildings will rise from its ashes. The Harley-Davidson entrance could become a Starbucks that patrons enjoy a nice Tall Mocha at while reading George Karl’s book, taking breaks every now and then to look out the window and see Milwaukee residents and visitors walking in the same spots where Giannis Antetokounmpo was Euro stepping into our hearts.