When you visit Summerfest this year, you'll see a shiny new Miller Lite Oasis area with about a half-dozen bars, a new Miller "brew house" serving beer straight from the valley, improved sightlines, a new Summerfest merch store and more.
Here's your first look.
Summerfest Executive Director Don Smiley was on hand this morning to show us around:
The upgraded, nearly three-acre area was announced last September and work began in October.
"As we approached this project, there were several opportunities to address," Smiley said. "One was improved sightlines. Two, was create new hospitality areas, both for MillerCoors and for the public.
"Three, was to redevelop the Williamsburg Marketplace, which dated back to the 1970s. The Williamsburg Marketplace is where we set up a tent, and we had the Summerfest store. Also, other vendors could come in and rent space and sell their wares."
That market has been replaced with a new 3,500-square foot retail building, which sits just southeast of the Miller Oasis area. It is bright red, and there is no chance you'll miss it.
As for the other opportunities, sightlines have been improved for fans by removing some visual obstructions. Sightlines were upgraded for VIPs, too, with the expansion to the south of the hospitality deck.
A new long bar on the opposite site of the area adds a 100-foot bar at ground level, plus a new "Level Up" experience that for $100 includes a private bar, restrooms, seating and flat-screen TVs. The ticket also includes two drinks, appetizers and Summerfest admission.
The view from the Level Up deck.
The Level Up terrace can accommodate 100 guests and, with a wristband, those guests can come and go as they like from 6 p.m. until midnight, when the festival closes.
There are new high-definition video screens at the stage and a new covered Miller Lite "brew house" – pictured below – that will serve beer from Miller tanks filled with just-brewed beer from the Valley.
The stage structure is not new, but it has been redesigned with contemporary wood and brick finishes. The entire project was designed by Milwaukee's Eppstein Uhen Architects.
Work was still ongoing during our visit, but Smiley said it will all be complete in time for Pride Fest, slated for June 9-11.
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.