By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jan 26, 2017 at 12:36 PM

This morning, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. announced a new 10-year partnership between Summerfest and American Family Insurance.

The new deal makes American Family Insurance the first presenting sponsor in the festival's history, as well as the naming rights sponsor and the key partner on the construction of the upcoming 23,000-seat new amphitheater. Effectively immediately, the festival's full official name will now be Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance, and the new amphitheater will be named the American Family Insurance Amphitheater.

"As we prepare to celebrate our 50th – 50 years in the music business – we're excited about the festival's future, for Henry Maier Park, and we're excited for what this partnership will bring for this community, this region and this state," said Ted Kellner, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. chairman.

"This partnership is good for American Family, it's good for our employees, it's good for our agents, it's good for our customers and it's really good for the most important thing for us, and that's our communities," said American Family Insurance Chairman, CEO and President Jack Salzwedel.

In addition to presenting status and its title sponsorship on the upcoming amphitheater replacement, the new partnership between Summerfest and American Family Insurance comes with two additional components. For one, the festival will build a new North Gate and community plaza in the hopes of joining the grounds with Downtown Milwaukee as well as the new developments associated with the Lakefront Gateway Project.

Secondly, the two companies will create new music education activities for Milwaukee students, as well as participate in community outreach in specific local neighborhoods. 

"We believe strongly in helping our communities in our cities, not just to survive but to thrive, and we believe this investment does exactly that," Salzwedel said. "We're going to reach beyond the Summerfest gates to include educational musical outreach programs that are going to positively benefit young kids in Milwaukee and in the central city. We believe that American Family can be a positive force for community impact with this partnership."

In addition to announcing its new partnership at this morning's press conference, Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. and several speakers – including Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton – paid tribute to Steve Marcus and the Marcus Corporation, the former naming rights sponsor for the amphitheater as well as a critical provider of funds for its original creation and improvements over the years. 

"We are grateful and honored and humbled to be following in the legacy of the Marcus family, in terms of the amphitheater," Salzwedel added. "Their family's inspiration and original investments in the community has been absolutely extraordinary, and we feel very privileged to be able to follow in the footsteps of that family with this venue."

"We completely got it; we understood it was time to relinquish our naming rights and to let the next generation prepare this festival for the next generation," said Greg Marcus, representing his father and the Marcus Corporation at today's announcement. "It's bittersweet that we're moving on from here, but we understand how important this is for the community."

After his comments, Greg Marcus also accepted an award from Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. for his father's contributions and support to Summerfest over the decades. 

The start of construction on the new amphitheater is tentatively scheduled for 2019, with the hope of being ready to open in 2020. It will be a new construction, rebuilt on the same footprint as the current amphitheater with the same number of seats (18,000 plus 5,000 in the lawn). However, they hope to save the roof in the rebuild and rehabilitate it for the new amphitheater. 

As for the new North Gate, construction is set for late this year with completion ready for the 2018 Big Gig. 

"American Family is very proud to put our name on this venue," Salzwedel added, "and I would just say here's to making great music together for a long time."

As for this year's Big Gig, the 50th anniversary will run June 28 through July 9 – with an off-day on July 3 – with Pink, Zac Brown Band, Red Hot Chili Peppers and two nights of Tom Petty so far set to take the main stage. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.