The Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center is the soon-to-open new home of NBA basketball team the Milwaukee Bucks. Scheduled to open this autumn, the venue will replace BMO Harris Bradley Center as the Bucks’ new 17,500-capacity arena. In the third part of our Project Profile series, Raj Saha, general manager at the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center, gave TheStadiumBusiness the lowdown on the venue.

TheStadiumBusiness: How long has the project taken from start to finish?

Raj Saha: The Milwaukee Bucks broke ground on the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center in June 2016. The arena is set to open, on schedule, in the fall of 2018.

TheStadiumBusiness: What is the estimated cost of the project?

RS: $524m.

TheStadiumBusiness: How was the location of the arena decided upon?

RS: Located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, the 730,000-square-foot venue will be the centrepiece of a 30-acre district, which will include an expansive public entry plaza connecting to a new entertainment block, parking deck, Bucks Training Center and other commercial and residential uses to be developed over the next 10 years.

TheStadiumBusiness: Who are the key players in the project?

RS: These were the major partners:

Project manager/Bucks representatives: CAA Icon

Construction manager: Mortenson

Architects: Populous (lead), Eppstein Uhen Architects and HNTB

Mechanical engineer: M-E Engineers

Structural engineer: HNTB and Walter P. Moore

Founding partners: BMO Harris Bank, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, Johnson Controls and Miller Brewing Company, along with a (to be confirmed) naming-rights partner.

TheStadiumBusiness: What is the overriding vision behind the project and what are its key goals?

RS: To create a new way for Milwaukee to live, to work and to play. More than just an arena, the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center is the central hub for recreation in Milwaukee, connecting communities, neighbourhoods and generations… for generations to come.

TheStadiumBusiness: What are the main design elements of the arena?

RS: Offering incomparable sightlines, customer service and amenities, the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center will include 17,500 seats for basketball and up to 18,000 for concerts, and will offer 34 luxury suites and three clubs.

The arena design pays homage to Milwaukee’s architectural heritage and the region’s design. It features an intimate bowl optimised for basketball viewing with the majority of the seats in the lower level closer to the action, while still providing the flexibility to host hockey games, end stage and centre stage concerts, family shows, circuses and ice events, as well as open-floor exhibitions.

Both the upper and lower levels will load from the top down, creating a more efficient seating pattern free of breaks. The design caters to the next generation of fans, featuring open and transparent concourses, additional social spaces within view of the action, and a variety of experiential and premium seating options. Additional operational efficiencies include vastly improved load-in/load-out capabilities that will allow the facility to accommodate a wider variety of concerts and shows.

The exterior design for the new arena is inspired by Milwaukee’s proud architectural heritage and bold outlook, coupled with the region’s natural environment of rivers, lakes and forests. The hand-crafted zinc patina exterior, punctuated by nodes of glass to highlight activity within, will create an iconic architectural image that will anchor the surrounding development.

TheStadiumBusiness: What sort of new technology will be incorporated?

RS: The technology at the new stadium is designed for ease-of-use for both teams and broadcasters, as well as enabling the optimum experience for fans. Best-in-class Internet, Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, high-speed access control, a new beacon-enabled mobile app, a state-of-the-art all digital IP Audio-Video network, and production room are key components of this technology architecture.

TheStadiumBusiness: What major challenges have been overcome?

RS: Due to the tight footprint, we were challenged by the amount of square feet we could have on the event level of the arena. We had to accomplish room layouts vertically on the project and build a mezzanine level between the event and main concourse levels. Even with the tight footprint, we were still able to accomplish our goals of putting the loading docks in the place where we wanted them the most. (We have six enclosed loading bays as opposed to one that we had to work with for the past 30 years).

TheStadiumBusiness: How will the arena benefit the Bucks from a revenue-generating perspective compared to the team’s old home?

RS: At the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center, the Bucks will retain all arena net revenue. The team had a less favourable arrangement as a third-party tenant at its former home. Furthermore, at the new arena, the Bucks can generate present-day value for traditional arena assets versus the opportunity at the 30-year-old Bradley Center.

TheStadiumBusiness: Where do you see the arena five, 10 or 15 years from now?

RS: In five to 10 years, the new arena will just be hitting its stride as a catalyst for the redevelopment of downtown Milwaukee. As future phases of development surrounding the facility continue to come to life, it will be the crown jewel in the centre of a new neighbourhood, an interactive hub that connects the city and draws visitors from around the Midwest into the community.

The Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center will be much more than just the new home for the Milwaukee Bucks. Designed to reflect the heritage, history and personality of Milwaukee while actively projecting progress, accessibility and a renewed sense of community, the state-of-the-art, 730,000-square-foot arena will be the hub of entertainment in Wisconsin and the engine that drives growth in downtown Milwaukee.

Images: Milwaukee Bucks