Another Nail in the Arena's Coffin?
UW Milwaukee wants it's basketball team playing on or near it's east side campus.
If it happens, the Milwaukee Arena loses another reason for being. And, it will give further evidence that the millions spend renovating the historic downtown venue were millions wasted.
The Journal/Sentinel's Don Walker broke the story late Monday afternoon. AD George Koonce says the school is considering either expanding the Klotsche Center or building a whole new structure near the campus, if not on it. It sounds as though student funds and private donations would cover the cost.
That wasn't the case when the Wisconsin Center District shelled out tax-generated dollars in 1998 to bring the Arena up to speed--the Bucks had left for the Bradley Center ten years before, along with Marquette and the Milwaukee Admirals. UWM moved from the Klotsche to the Arena but the students haven't followed. I blogged about the lack of kids in the seats at the game against unbeaten Butler a few weekends ago, wondering how a D-One program can draw so little support from the students who go there. If moving the Panthers back to the east side does the trick, more power to UWM. Will the rest of the area's fans follow? Some of the folks commenting to Walker's story on JS Online question the availability of parking and bars/restaurants near campus. Kids in the seats would be great, but you need the locals to buy tickets, too, if the program is to generate the kind of dollars a division one NCAA program can kick up.
What will become of the Arena, if and when the Panthers leave? It'll remain an under-utilized venue, too small for some things and too large for others. A white elephant with a full history but a relatively empty calendar, it will stand as a silent tribute to our community's lack of foresight when it comes to planning it's needs for such facilities. It'll have company, though.
The Milwaukee Theater sits right next door.