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WUWM’s Chuck Quirmbach reports on innovation in southeastern Wisconsin.

American Family Insurance Announces Plans For Downtown Milwaukee, Miller Park

Chuck Quirmbach
The name Miller Park will come off the Milwaukee baseball stadium by the end of the 2020 baseball season.

Madison-based American Family Insurance says it will create a multi-purpose office in downtown Milwaukee in the next two-three years.

The project was announced Tuesday — the same day the Milwaukee Brewers announced that American Family is buying the naming rights to what is now called Miller Park.

The team says after the end of the 2020 baseball season, the Brewers naming rights deal with MillerCoors will end, and the name Miller Park will disappear. American Family hasn't revealed the new name for the stadium, which has been called Miller Park since it opened in 2001.

American Family Chair and CEO Jack Salzwedel  says the downtown office will contain high-tech work such as data analytics and business innovation, insurance agent recruitment and development, and areas focused on community issues and investment.

Salzwedel spoke to the news media, following a news conference at Miller Park. He says American Family looks forward to an expanded Milwaukee presence.

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
American Family Insurance CEO Jack Salzwedel speaks at a news conference Tuesday at Miller Park.

"It's different from Madison. Madison doesn't have as much racial and ethnic diversity. Milwaukee does. So, it's an effort for us to expand racial and ethnic diversity, tech talent," he said.

Salzwedel says American Family is looking to build, renovate or lease ''a pretty significant building in downtown Milwaukee to make that happen."

He says acquiring the naming rights to the baseball stadium, "is a piece of the puzzle that fits right in. It helps us with name recognition, employment brand recognition. It's got a good diversity base, in terms of the players." The cost of the 15-year naming rights deal was not disclosed, but is likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Salzwedel says there's no image conflict with his firm, which offers several different types of insurance coverage, including auto, taking over the name of a ballpark where fans often drink alcohol and are urged to drive home safely.

“We’re not promoting additional drinking or anything like that. This is just a brand play for us," he explained.

Salzwedel says when the Brewers approached American Family last fall about a naming rights deal, "We already had some of these other plans in place and it just kind of fit in with everything we were talking about."

He says some of the downtown Milwaukee jobs will be newly-created. He also says some workers could be relocated from other offices. He declined to say how many people will be employed downtown. But Salzwedel added, "I would say for us, it's not a small number."  

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says he's known of American Family's building plans for several months. He added the Department of City Development will now step up its work with the company.

"We're going to roll up our sleeves and see what we can do to be a really active partner with them," Barrett said.

At the same time, Barrett says even though MillerCoors' naming rights deal for the stadium will end next year, he doesn't see the beer maker reducing ties to the area.

"They clearly are still the [official] beer sponsor for the team, and I think their presence is going to remain really strong," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

"They clearly are still the [official] beer sponsor for the team, and I think their presence is going to remain really strong," Barrett said.

MillerCoors' Wisconsin General Manager Jim Kanter also rejected the idea of reduced commitment.

"We've been here 163 years. We just re-upped with the Wisconsin State Fair. We still have a long deal with Summerfest. We're great partners with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Fiserv Forum. The Green Bay Packers we still have," Kanter said.

As far as the end of naming rights for the baseball stadium, Kanter said, "We're just looking at things differently, as business continues to evolve."

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