Official: Convention center expansion plan includes basketball arena
The Frontier Airlines Center once was known as the Midwest Express Center, then became the Midwest Airlines Center as the airline evolved. Image by Journal Sentinel files
MILWAUKEE - City leaders have had discussions about a proposed expansion plan at the Frontier Airlines Center that would include a new basketball arena, an official confirmed Wednesday.
"The convention center would expand to Kilbourn Avenue," Wisconsin Center District Chairman Frank Gimbel told me. "The construction plan would include a new basketball arena on top of it."
Gimbel compared the idea to other 'multi-use' arenas like New York's Madison Square Garden and Chicago's United Center.
"There is no question that creative architects and engineers could (do the same in Milwaukee)," he said. "Tenants can do things below the level of the basketball court."
A bold expansion plan would be expensive, but it's essential for Milwaukee, according to Gimbel.
"Our center is not big enough to attract large conventions to Milwaukee," he explained. "Expansion is critical."
Who would finance it?
"In the current political climate, you won't see anyone standing up and giving an ovation to creating a new sales tax in order to build that kind of a facility," Gimbel admitted.
Naming rights deal
Gimbel is actively searching for a new naming rights partner, as reported by the Journal Sentinel's Don Walker.
"We've had some conversations with some folks," he confirmed. "While we're not yet at 'signature time,' we have found some folks who have some interest in our building."
The current naming rights deal runs until July 2013.