Tag Archives: stadium

Packers look to expand plans for entertainment, retail district around Lambeau

Early interest in the Green Bay Packers’ proposal for an entertainment, retail and residential district around Lambeau Field has the franchise already thinking of expanding its plans.

The Packers recently announced plans to develop the Titletown District on 34 acres around the stadium, including 30-50 townhouses overlooking a public plaza.

Strong interest in the development could mean expanding it to as many as 70 townhouses, said Packers vice president and general counsel Ed Policy. 

The Packers’ plan includes Lodge Kohler, a four-star hotel and spa, Hinterland Brewery and a Bellin Health sports medicine clinic west of Lambeau Field. Policy said there has also been a lot of interest in 180,000 square feet of commercial space on the north side of the district.

“We have talked to a lot of prospective tenants. The reaction … has been tremendous,” Policy said.

Initial investment in the project, including land acquisition and infrastructure improvements by the Packers, is estimated at $120 million to $130 million.

Packers CEO Mark Murphy wants a specialty grocery store within walking distance of the townhouses, Press-Gazette Media reported. Policy said it’s one of a number of concepts being discussed, and that it would not be a standard 70,000-square-foot grocery store. 

The Packers filed project documents with the Village of Ashwaubenon this week. After the village approves its plans, which could be about 90 days, site preparation can begin. The three anchor developments and the public plaza could be ready by the beginning of the 2017 NFL season. 

Reject taxpayer subsidies for Bucks ‘entertainment’ mall

The law that provides state funding for the Milwaukee Bucks arena also gives the team owners the right to build arena “public plazas,” which would be used to generate revenue exclusively for the team.

The city proposes spending $20 million to create these misnomered “public spaces” to enrich the Bucks, not to serve public interests. They would help expand a Bucks-controlled entertainment monopoly, as mandated by the NBA.

According to State Bill 209, Section 229.46, “The professional basketball team or its affiliate shall be entitled to receive all revenues related to the operation or use of the sports and entertainment arena facilities, including, but not limited to, ticket revenues, licensing or user fees, sponsorship revenues, revenues generated from events that are held on the plaza that is part of the sports and entertainment arena facilities, revenues from the sale of food, beverages, merchandise, and parking, and revenues from naming rights.”

Among the alarming implications of this clause is that no festival or market could be held on these plazas by any vendors except the Bucks or their affiliates. “Free” concerts and other events would be hosted solely to increase revenue streams for the Bucks.

The now-public spaces to be co-opted are Fourth Street between Highland and Juneau and the city-owned Fourth Street garage. The city would hand over the well-kept garage to the Bucks, pay to raze it and forgo nearly $1 million a year in parking revenue. Then the city would pay $35 million to build a new garage and split the income with the Bucks. (At first, the Bucks demanded all income.)

This proposal really creates a third tier in our beleaguered park system. In addition to different calibers of parks for haves and have-nots, we are starting to have privately controlled public spaces. Who in fact owns and controls these pseudo-public parks? 

The state, county and city are already giving 30 now-public acres to the hedge-fund moguls who own the Bucks. Thus far, no government entity has mandated the creation of anything to benefit taxpayers in return — nor has public input been sought. 

“BucksTown Plaza” will have nothing in common with Chicago’s Millennium Park, where people are free to carry in food and drinks and enjoy a wide range of free programming for all ages, 365 days a year. Brave New World Fourth Street will serve other gods.

The Common Council can hold the line on how many more public assets taxpayers will hand over to the Bucks. Instead of these extravagant giveaways, alderpersons can reject this proposal and push to start over and renegotiate a better deal. They can support only the arena and not the pseudo-public spaces, which will house strip-mall chain restaurants. That will only help to destroy downtown Milwaukee’s unique charm and compete unfairly with nearby local businesses.

Call to action

You can help prevent this from happening by lobbying officials before the final vote is taken, possibly as soon as Sept. 22.

Contact your alderpersons at 414-286-2221. You also can call Mayor Tom Barrett’s office at 414-286-2200 or email

In addition, you can attend the public hearings in Room 301-B of City Hall, 200 E. Wells St. Citizens will be allowed to speak briefly. The schedule is:

4 p.m. Aug. 31: The comptroller’s report on subsidy costs and other information will be presented.

9 a.m. Sept. 15: The Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee will consider the proposal.

9 a.m. Sept 16: The Finance and Personnel Committee meets.

What to tell city officials:

1. Do not tear down the city-owned Fourth Street garage and forego nearly $1 million a year in revenue by giving the site to Bucks’ owners for their privately owned “entertainment” mall. If we don’t tear down the garage, we won’t need to build a replacement two blocks away at a cost of $35 million.

2. Do not accept the 50-50 split in revenue from the proposed new garage after paying 100 percent of its building costs.

3. Do not give the Bucks public assistance to over-saturate the local tavern market. The Bucks mall would siphon business from about 60 restaurants and bars near the arena, especially on Old World Third and Water streets.

4. Do not hand over for free the 1-acre Sydney Hih lot, appraised for $1 million, to Bucks owners to do with as they please. Instead, sell it for full market price to a developer with an immediate, viable plan.

5. Reject this mall plan and so-called public plazas designed to exclusively generate revenue for Bucks owners. Designate that city subsidies support only arena construction.

— Virginia Small

The cost of doing business with Boss Vos

Formalizing a decision already hinted at in 2013, the National Basketball Association included as a condition of  the Milwaukee Bucks’ sale that a new arena be constructed to house the team. If a new arena was not constructed, the league could buy back the team, potentially resulting in Milwaukee losing the Bucks as our professional basketball franchise.

In the subsequent months, ideas have circulated and rumors spread about the specifics of constructing a new arena. The discussion about a new arena involves business, community, political and financial leaders. Some details, such as the likely location of the new arena, have been released to the public. However, with an expected price tag of upwards of $500 million, the financing of the new arena remains very much an open question.

A substantial amount has been secured from team ownership, private investors and former team owner Herb Kohl. However, there will almost certainly be a need for some sort of state funding as part of a larger financing deal. Enter GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Appearing on a Sunday morning talk show UpFront with Mike Gousha, Vos said, “As I said this week, having one of the Bucks new owners go and greet Barack Obama on the tarmac in the middle of the Mary Burke campaign probably wasn’t the wisest decision.”

Vos has made numerous similar statements that he will withhold state aid for the arena because of new co-owner Marc Lasry’s support for Democratic political candidates. To be clear, Lasry has never made any contribution to any Wisconsin Democrat. He is not a partisan politician. However, he has donated to national candidates, and that is enough for Vos to hold a massive development project hostage.

Vos is threatening to hold up any public financing for a new arena as a way to send a message to Wisconsin’s business community: It’s OK for businesses to be politically involved, as long as they’re involved for Republicans.

Vos has never spoken out against Jon Hammes, the developer leading the redevelopment of the Park East freeway in Milwaukee who’s a donor to Republican candidates and conservative causes. Vos has been silent about the millions of dollars in campaign contributions made to Republicans by recipients of state aid from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Vos was only too happy to lead the charge in favor of a proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin after the company donated $700,000 to Republican candidates.

Vos’s actions are petty and disgraceful. His transparent pay-to-play politics damage Wisconsin’s image for other businesses considering expansion into Wisconsin. Our business leaders deserve a better partner in state government than someone who imposes a political litmus test on all state aid to business.

The debate over plans to build a new arena in Milwaukee is understandable. The implications of the eventual plan are far reaching and will impact the city and the region for decades. There are many legitimate issues on all sides, and finding a way forward will require compromise and collaboration. There is no room for political extortion. There is no room for Vos’s petty games.

Boss Vos crossed a line. Every Milwaukee elected official, community leader, and business leader should denounce him, and his attempts to undermine Milwaukee for his own political ends.

Saul Newton is a research assistant at the progressive advocacy group One Wisconsin Now.

Fair play vs. corporate welfare in Milwaukee

Amid the fall political campaigns, a dynamic grassroots movement for justice in Milwaukee made headlines, reminding us that change does not necessarily come from politicians but from people working together in their communities.

The organization Common Ground is providing much-needed pushback to the steam-rolling effort by business leaders to get hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. The BMO Harris Bradley Center is just 25 years old but is said to lack the latest technology and luxury boxes necessary to make a sufficient profit and satisfy the NBA.

Wall Street titans Marc Lasry and Wes Edens recently bought the Bucks for $550 million. The NBA laid down an ultimatum for a new arena to be built in Milwaukee by 2017, and Lasry and Edens offered to kick in $100 million. Former Bucks owner Herb Kohl said he’d throw in another $100 million. It’s the remaining $200 or $300 million that taxpayers might be asked to contribute.

In the midst of an aggressive campaign to woo support for this latest corporate welfare scheme, Common Ground made waves with its own proposal, “Fair Play: A Campaign to Foster Greatness in Public Spaces.”

The basis of “Fair Play” is a devastating report about the crumbling, hazardous conditions of parks and recreation facilities in Milwaukee County and a detailed proposal for revitalizing them. That report, “Envisioning Fair Play,” is available at www.fairplaywi.org. Read it and weep. It dramatizes through quantitative data and photographic evidence the disgraceful neglect of Milwaukee’s public spaces.

In the report, architectural and landscaping plans show how improvements can be made at different sites, with startling cost comparisons. The new Bucks arena will have 18,000 seats at a cost of $27,777 per seat. Comprehensive improvements at Vincent High School will cost the equivalent of just 320 Bucks seats. Lincoln Park’s makeover can be done for only 221 Bucks seats.

Common Ground demands that if hundreds of millions of public dollars are spent to subsidize the privately owned Bucks, at least $150 million must be allocated to repair Milwaukee’s parks and recreation facilities. If you agree, tell your alderman or county supervisor ASAP.

It’s infuriating how politicians continually privilege private interests with tax breaks and subsidies while ignoring neighborhoods and public spaces — the places where most of us actually live. When owners can slap down a half billion dollars for a team at the same time that team members are paid millions annually and game tickets are unaffordable for half the people in the city, why should the public be expected to pay up?

But what about the economic impact?! 

Most studies of publicly funded sports venues — including those by the libertarian Cato Institute and the conservative Heartland Institute — reveal exaggerated impact projections and little or no economic boosts for local economies.

But Milwaukee’s image!

What kind of blinders must people be wearing to worship the image of a luxury, high-tech playpen while streets, housing, schools and parks decay around them?

I applaud Common Ground, a coalition of groups that is doing focused, effective work on this public funding issue and other fronts like rehabbing foreclosed properties and establishing the Common Ground Health Cooperative, an affordable insurance option.

Get involved

Common Ground meets the third Monday of each month at 2375 N. 25th St. For more, go to www.commongroundwi.org or call  414-751-0755.

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Audubon: Glassy new Vikings stadium poses serious threat to birds

The National Audubon Society says the new Minnesota Vikings stadium poses a serious threat to migratory birds and calls for quick action by the team and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority to protect animal welfare.

State guidelines require bond-funded buildings to protect birds from window collisions, but the Vikings and the MSFA have rejected calls to use safer types of glass that could help prevent birds from colliding with the stadium’s huge glass windows.

“We’re talking about a billion dollar stadium here, and the cost to save perhaps thousands of migratory birds  — and make the Vikings a global leader in green stadium design — is about one-tenth of one percent of that,” said Audubon Minnesota executive director Matthew Anderson. “Hundreds of millions of dollars of public money is going to build this stadium, and we know the people of Minnesota do not want their money killing birds. The Vikings recently approved spending millions and millions of additional dollars to make sure the stadium is ‘iconic’ — surely they also want to make sure it’s not a death trap. We’re asking them to change their minds and do the right thing.”

According to scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Institution, up to 988 million birds are killed annually in the United States by collisions with buildings, especially glass windows. The new Vikings stadium will feature nearly 200,000 square feet of glass.

Audubon, in a news release, said it has worked with building owners and managers in Minnesota and nationally for many years to reduce bird collision mortality through its BirdSafe/Lights Out program. As part of this program, Audubon volunteers survey downtown buildings in the Twin Cities and have found more than 125 species of native migratory birds that have fatally collided with windows since 2007.

Audubon first met with MSFA and the Vikings in May 2013, after the stadium design was unveiled.

As early as December 2012, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had urged the stadium to incorporate bird-safe design into the new building. A few months later, a special committee of the Minneapolis City Council recommended that the stadium adopt Audubon’s suggestions to create a bird-safe structure through glazing techniques and special site lighting.

Audubon staff communicated regularly with stadium developers until this April, when they were told that another meeting would be scheduled before a July 15 decision on the type of glass to be used. That meeting was canceled, and Audubon staff were told on July 17 that there would be no change in the stadium glass choice to protect birds.

“We are grateful that the MSFA will be incorporating some of our recommendations regarding lighting design and operations, but lighting is just one part of the problem,” said Joanna Eckles, bird-friendly communities manager for Audubon Minnesota. “The huge expanses of glass, especially facing a new park, are a real cause for concern. Our request was that they meet either the state requirement or the nationally recognized LEED standard for bird safety. In the end, they did neither.”

Go For the Food: NJ options for Super Bowl foodies

Buffalo wings and chicken fingers, take a breather. Crab dip and curly fries, sit this one out. For Super Bowl foodies, New Jersey offers a mash-up of delicacies representing just about every culture on the planet.

Those fortunate enough to have tickets to the game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., will be able to gorge on American, Mexican, Asian and Italian specialties, done with a local flair, in the “Home Food Advantage” food court. Club seat ticketholders will get an even more varied menu including sushi, sliced beef tenderloin and garlic shrimp with peppercorn demi-glace, blue crabcake with pickled baby bok choy and lemon aioli, to name a few of a host of offerings.

The food court dishes have local roots, such as Nonna Fusco’s homemade meatballs, inspired by stadium chef Eric Borgia’s grandmother (based on some diligent first-person research, they are the real deal).

For everyone else, a 20-minute drive in any direction from the stadium will land you in the middle of any of a number of ethnic enclaves brimming with culinary treats. And you won’t even have to pay a bridge or tunnel toll.

Borgia, who worked as executive chef for baseball’s San Diego Padres before coming to work for Delaware North Companies when the stadium opened in 2010, wanted to create a local-themed food court that brought to mind a New York/New Jersey street fair, minus the funnel cakes and $1.99 three-packs of tube socks. Ideas came during several days of food touring around the area, Borgia said.

“We drove around to food trucks and little holes-in-the-wall where people eat lunch,” he said. “We wanted to do street food, but we wanted to make sure it was authentic.”

Located on the ground floor of the stadium, it is a street you’ll wish you lived on. It’s comfort food gone rogue, starting with a stand where you can score a linebacker-sized grilled cheese sandwich featuring two varieties of New York State cheddar pinned between thick slices of Texas toast. Add a slab of bacon on a stick dipped in jalapeno-infused maple syrup and make sure your cardiologist is on speed dial. Next door, Lucky’s serves Asian dishes, including noodle soup and pork-and-chicken steamed buns with pickled slaw and Sriracha aioli.

For meat lovers, there’s Liberty Sausage and its “kitchen sink” sandwich, combining grilled chicken sausage and hot dog with potatoes, peppers and sauce, or a pork sausage sandwich with fresh spinach and roasted garlic. Nonna’s, in addition to its heavenly meatballs, serves pasta and antipasti and is adding a roast pork and broccoli raab sandwich for the Super Bowl. Tacos Raqueros’ burritos and tacos should provide enough heat to take your mind off the fact that it is February and you are outside.

Trying to sum up the multitude of food options in the surrounding area is like trying to analyze “Hamlet” in a tweet, but here goes:

The best Cuban sandwiches can be found on almost any corner in Union City, outside the Lincoln Tunnel and overlooking the Hudson River. A few miles north along the river is Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater, billed as the largest Japanese supermarket in the country. Head back up and over the hill and you’re in Palisades Park, where Korean food reigns. Nothing warms better than curry, and Jersey City’s Newark Avenue, in the Journal Square area, is chock-full of Indian restaurants. In downtown Jersey City, don’t miss Taqueria, one of the area’s best taco joints, as long as you don’t mind the uber-hipster vibe.

Newark, which will host Super Bowl media day on Jan. 28, is home to the Ironbound neighborhood, known for its Portuguese and Spanish flavors and dishes of paella big enough to feed a 53-man roster. Newark also has Hobby’s deli, and Calandra’s Italian family bakery, both of which have attained well-deserved legendary status. Equally revered is Fiore’s in Hoboken, where the fresh “mutz” (mozzarella) melts in your mouth and the friendly servers make what some consider the perfect sandwich. For cheaper eats and an authentic New Jersey experience, Libby’s Lunch (Paterson) and Rutt’s Hut (Clifton) are masters of that humble American staple, the hot dog.

If You Go…

METLIFE STADIUM: E. Rutherford, N.J. Food court map, http://www.metlifestadium.com/docs/default-source/stadium-map/metlife-stadium-fan-map.pdf?sfvrsn=6 .

MITSUWA MARKETPLACE: Edgewater, N.J.; http://www.mitsuwa.com/tenpo/newj/eindex.html

IRONBOUND DISTRICT: Newark, N.J.; http://www.goironbound.com/portal/