Filling the Park East void with a new arena? Makes too much sense, doesn't it?
Suspend disbelief for a second.
Imagine a time when Milwaukee agrees that the Bradley Center is a dated NBA facility and that a new arena needs to be built to keep the Bucks here.
Yeah, I know it's a lot to wrap one's head around, so I'll give you a second.
Okay, let's proceed.
Doesn't it make immense sense on all manner of levels to put any such new development in the Park East corridor? Developer Gary Grunau says so, telling JS business reporter Tom Daykin that the large, long-vacant parcel north of Juneau would be perfect. Grunau says it's big enough to accommodate the kind of building needed to replace the BC, a structure with a huge footprint for things like restaurants, shops and other "revenue streams" the NBA team says it needs.
It's nice to hear someone with cred trying to move the chains on this issue. The MMAC bought the city five years with it's BMO Bradley Center sponsoring arrangement, time that is supposed to be used to figure out the next step. Grunau's comments are the first I've seen in public, and they have merit. Milwaukee has to do this right, if it is to do it at all. We don't need another kinda-sorta-big-enough venue (see "Frontier Airlines Center"). If $300 mil or more is to be spent, let's get the most out of our investment.
Some worry about tying up such a large parcel during what is sure to be a protracted debate about the merits of the project, but someone needs to show me where the line is forming to snarf up vacant Park East parcels. If there is one, I'm not seeing it. That's why Grunau and others met last week to talk about how best to market the vacant land that right now is nothing more than home to sea gulls. The only local business they benefit is your nearest car wash.
Which is the bigger point. Those who want a new arena have to make their mission bigger than the Bucks--this is about downtown, about Marquette basketball, about expanding the local NCAA basketball presence (why not shoot for a Sweet 16 or Final Four?). It's about a top-shelf entertainment venue that can support the needs of the nation's top acts. It's a chance to turn vacant land into new bars, restaurants, hotels, shops and residences--tax-generating development that will pay off the cost of the Park East demolition, a concern of Mayor Tom Barrett's but again, how much money is the current dirt pile generating for that effort? Even if the new arena doesn't pay property taxes, what about everything else around it that happens because of that development? Barrett is pitching the existing BMO/BC parking lot as a possible spot, but it sounds like it's too tiny to support the kind of arena a 21st century NBA team needs.
Let's think big, people. Let's get this debate started. This is an opportunity that isn't just knocking--it's threatening to kick the door off the hinges. Voices need to be heard, and the debate needs to be enjoined.
Tough questions need tough answers. And, thinking big sometimes means suspending disbelief.