At the very end of last Wednesday’s press conference unveiling renderings for a new Downtown multi-purpose arena and entertainment district, a reporter asked a fairly innocuous question of Milwaukee Bucks president Peter Feigin:
This will be the home for the Milwaukee Admirals and Marquette, as well – is that the working plan?
"Yeah, I think our working plan is very flexible," Feigin said. "As we figure out what the final design is who the participants are, and how we form the partnership with the state, with the city and with the county. But, we’re very excited. I think our questions have kind of died down. We’re extremely confident we can get this done and we’re going to get this done in partnership with our friends in city hall and the county courthouse and at the capitol."
Feigin’s non-answer answer spoke volumes, however.
From the beginning of the arena discussion, the Bucks ownership group has evaluated the cost-benefit of including ice in a new arena, which some speculate could add an additional $30 million to the price tag.
While the new arena has been touted as a "24-hour a day, 7-day a week, 365 days a year" multi-purpose facility, the subject of the Admirals and the nearly 40 dates it occupies at the BMO Harris Bradley Center has been a non-starter for the Bucks ownership group.
And, not just in public forums, either.
"We don’t know what’s going on and we’d like to have those discussions," Admirals owner Harris Turer said. "We’ll see what happens."
The initial fear, of course, is that after nearly five decades in Milwaukee, the Admirals would be forced to move – or that Turer and his investors would be forced to sell or shutter the team – if they were not part of a new Downtown arena.
But, as the franchise’s future has become more cloudy when it comes to the proposed entertainment district and a new arena, some rays of hope have emerged just a few blocks south.
Sources tell OnMilwaukee.com that the UWM Panther Arena, which once housed the Admirals and is the current home to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s basketball programs, the Milwaukee Wave, the Brew City Bruisers roller derby league and special events like the circus and Disney on Ice, could be a viable "new" home for the hockey team.
OnMilwaukee.com learned that $300,000 to $400,000 in upgrades would be needed, as well additional costs, such as glass for the boards and other hockey-specific materials, but the facility can produce ice and keep it ready for play.
"It’s doable," a source said. "Absolutely doable."
The Bucks and their design team were clear that the renderings and the design elements presented last week were very preliminary, but with the desire to keep the overall price tag at around $500 million and a desired deadline of late June for public funding to be in place, time is running short for the Admirals and their future in a new arena.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.