By Drew Olson Special to Published Nov 08, 2007 at 5:34 AM

Ron Robinson never had a problem coming up with ideas for Fanatics Sports Central, the upscale sports bar he co-owns at 185 N. Jefferson St.

"The concept is pretty much pieced together by what I would want in a sports bar," Robinson said during a recent afternoon at the bar. "What would I want if I was a betting man in Las Vegas, or I played fantasy football and wanted to watch my scores?

"I wanted a place where I could watch games on a lot of TVs, but then I thought 'What else would I want to stay interested?' I thought about a place to play a game of Madden or another video game, a place to play pool or darts or an online game.

"There are so many different avenues to keep you busy. I wanted it to have a little something for everybody. I wanted to have something for the ladies as well, but I mostly wanted it to be a guys' paradise."

As is often the case, the planning was easy. Implementation - finding a site (behind the Milwaukee Magazine offices), negotiating a lease and getting the business up and running - was tougher.

"I was walking around with the plans in my pocket for seven years," said Robinson, whose family runs barbecue restaurants in St. Louis and Chicago.

"I showed them to everybody I knew. Now that the bar is open, a lot of people said 'You didn't tell me it was going to be this nice!' And then I said, 'I showed you the plans.'"

Fanatics features 42 high-definition screens, including a 150-inch set in a video wall that is the focal point of the bar. In front of the video wall, Robinson has placed 15 leather chairs and two rows of booths, each with an adjustable speaker system.

"It's sort of like Las Vegas, but I actually got the idea in Barcelona, Spain," Robinson said. "We changed the concept by adding a second row."

The "stadium" area is non-smoking. Smokers are asked to light up near the bar or by the pool tables near the front door. "I'm a smoker myself, but I don't want people who are bothered by smoke to feel uncomfortable," Robinson said. "So far, nobody has complained."

Although he is excited about the game room and the video game area, both of which will host leagues (Madden, darts, foosball), Robinson's favorite part of the bar was a late addition to the building plan -- raised, enclosed luxury box that can seat up to 15 people in leather chairs and love seats with independent TVs and speakers.

"That's something that I really like," Robinson said of the box, which can be reserved for parties and special events.

Although the kitchen isn't finished, Robinson expects to get approval soon. "I didn't want to miss too much of the football season," he said. "Once we get the kitchen up, we will really start promoting."

Without a lot of advertising or fanfare, the bar has attracted big crowds for football weekends. On Saturday, a near-capacity crowd of about 300 watched the Wisconsin-Ohio State game.

"They drank so much beer we had to call for an emergency delivery," Robinson said. "That's kind of a crowning moment for me. I was just shocked. It was like it finally came together."

Although he hopes to expand his concept to other locations, including a possible outlet near the airport in Waukesha, Robinson expects to be busy at the flagship for some time. 

"We've got to get this one going," he said.

Robinson obviously believes in multi-tasking. As he spoke, construction workers were busy with the buildout for a martini lounge that will adjoin Fanatics. That bar, which will share a kitchen with the sports bar, will feature a wraparound deck outside.  


Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.