In a bold cross-promotional move, Milwaukee County Parks has announced a deal to rebuild the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory Domes at no cost to taxpayers.
Rather than spend upwards of $75 million to repair the three structures – erected in the 1960s and closed recently after a chunk of concrete fell from the top – the County has inked a pact with Denmark-based LEGO Group that will tear down and rebuild the entire complex.
LEGO will foot the entire cost of the project, said County Executive Chris Abele in a press conference Thursday.
"Instead of patchwork repairs that might hold for a while, or might not," Abele said, "we’ve entered into a partnership that will rebuild the Domes, potentially forever. And with LEGO rebuilding the Domes, we know they’ll be colorful and comparatively lightweight but super strong. I mean, you know how hard it is to get LEGOs apart without a brick separator.
"And Milwaukee taxpayers won't have to spend a dime. Everything is awesome!"
LEGO CEO Christian Christianesen agreed.
"We will rebuild your ample Domes with our finest injection-molded bricks, in a variety of colors, to ensure that they will continue to serve as an eye-catching Milwaukee landmark for decades, if not centuries to come," Christiansen said at the press conference held in the Mayfair Mall LEGO Store.
Initially, there were fears that the cost to repair or replace the Domes would skyrocket.
"Whatever happens next at The Domes is going to cost a lot of money – the high estimate for refurbishing The Domes is $65-75 million," parks director John Dargle said in a statement on March 4. "Therefore, it is important that we take our time to ensure that we spend taxpayer dollars on a plan that best represents the community's wishes."
This new sponsorship/partnership has changed that. When the project is completed by the summer of 2050, the Domes will be re-christened, "The LEGO Park Horticultural Conservatory."
Construction crews are expected to begin demolition of the current Domes this summer. In the meantime, LEGO is in the process of enlisting hundreds of Milwaukee- and Chicago-area Lego Club VIP card holders to help build the new Domes.
A series of monthly "Domes builds" will be held at Milwaukee’s LEGO store, as well as at the LEGO Discovery Center Chicago in Evanston, Ill.
Contributors to the construction of the new Domes will get a limited edition mini-figure of Chris Abele when the project is complete.
Some, however, are concerned about the colorful, delightful building materials.
"If they're going to do this, they better make sure none of those pieces winds up left on the floor," said Milwaukee resident and regular Domes visitor Duane Halbech, 41. "As any parent can tell you, accidentally stepping on one of those things hurts like hell."
Alderman Bob Donovan, who is currently running for mayor of Milwaukee, added in a statement that the proposal is ridiculous. He suggested instead that "one of them high-minded architectural fellas" design a large fabric tent that could be stretched across the domes to secure them in place.
"Like a good ol' fashioned over-the-shoulder boulder holder," he said.