By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 20, 2022 at 11:11 AM

There is a new sports and entertainment complex plan for a long dormant downtown site.

Grafton-based Kacmarcik Enterprises and Kenosha's Bear Development have agreed to purchase an 11-acre parcel of a large site owned by Marquette University for the project.

MU plot of landX

The new Iron District MKE plan – designed by Kahler Slater – will include an indoor concert venue to be operated by The Pabst Theater Group, a hotel, multi-family residential units, retail, food and beverage and a new stadium to house a professional soccer team.

The Iron District name is reference to Milwaukee's blue collar, manufacturing history.

Six years ago Marquette University announced plans for a complex on the 12-acre site it owns between I-794, North 6th Street, Michigan Street and the Marquette Interchange, but that development – an Athletic and Human Performance Research Center – was ultimately scaled back and built on 12th and Wells Streets.


Located in the heart of Downtown, at the north end of the 6th Street Viaduct and near freeway entrance and exit ramps, the site is easily accessible. The southeast corner of it is located a block from The Hop streetcar terminus and the Intermodal Station, and it is a block from the MCTS bus routes along Wisconsin Avenue.

An aerial view rendering of the location.

The concert venue will have a capacity of 3,500 and is expected to host more than 300 events annually, including up to a 100 nights of performances by national touring acts.

“This amazing new venue is another rung on the Pabst Theater Group’s ‘artist and fan developmental ladder’ and will help artists to choose Milwaukee as a city to not only launch their careers but support them as they continue to return and as they grow," said Gary Witt, president and CEO of the Pabst Theater Group. 


"The location is a perfect fit for a concert venue. It has plenty of parking and easy access to trains, buses, and highways.”

This news arrives just a week after FPC Live and Summerfest announced that a Third Ward multi-venue development will not move forward in that location.

“This is the right place for us to be, working alongside great partners like Kacmarcik Enterprises and Bear Development and getting to expand our venues’ potential in the same space as an exciting new professional soccer stadium,” added Witt.

“As an almost 20-year-old independent Milwaukee business, we are honored to carry the torch for live performances in Milwaukee into the future, along with other independent local powerhouses like The Rave, the Cactus Club and Shank Hall.”

The proposed stadium would seat 8,000 and serve not only has the home field for Marquette’s men’s and women’s soccer teams but also for a professional soccer team.

A press release says, “A professional soccer league affiliation will be announced soon.”

In addition to soccer, the stadium is expected to also host community events, recreational programming and other sports. The field will have synthetic turf.


“Milwaukee is one of the great sports cities in the United States, and we are excited to bring professional outdoor soccer to the community,” said Jim Kacmarcik, who is chairman and CEO of Kacmarcik Enterprises, as well as the lead owner of Forward Madison FC, Madison’s USL League One soccer franchises. He is also CEO and owner of Kapco Metal Stamping.

“The beauty of soccer is that all across the world, communities rally behind their city’s club to support the players, the team and each other.”

The 140-room upscale hotel will be owned by Bear Development and plans call for a bar and restaurant overlooking the stadium. A brand affiliation was not announced Friday.

Along the western edge of the land will be 99 multi-family housing units. No information was released about whether or not the units will be market rate, affordable or a mix.

The timeline is an ambitious one, with groundbreaking expected later this year and a projected completion in spring of 2024.

A former Ramada Inn will need to be demolished. Tenants of two other buildings on the site will be relocated. 

MU plot of landX

“We are thrilled to work with the City of Milwaukee and other community partners to transform a long-dormant site into a vibrant sports and entertainment district, furthering opportunities to live, work and play downtown,” said S.R. Mills, Bear Development CEO, in Friday’s news release.

Although the new project isn’t a Marquette-led one, it will sit alongside the campus and host its soccer teams.

“I would like to thank the Kacmarcik Enterprises and Bear Development leaders for aligning with us on a development that supports Marquette’s own strategic and campus master plans,” said Joel Pogodzinski, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Marquette.

“We are excited for this project's impact on Milwaukee, our nearby neighborhood and our campus community.”

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.