© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lessons Learned From Bradley Center's Construction

Milwaukee's downtown was growing when the Bradley Center was built.

The Grand Avenue Mall and Reuss Federal Building were just opening when the city struck a deal for the construction of the Bradley Center, according to Bill Drew.

He was head of the Dept. of City Development at the time, in the 1980s, and is now watching Milwaukee struggle with the challenge of whether and how to build a new downtown arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. The NBA has given the city until 2017, or the league will grab the team from its new owners.

They and former owner Herb Kohl have pledged $200 million – not quite half of what would be needed to replace the Bradley Center. Now debate swirls around a potential public investment in a new venue and a location.

Drew says Milwaukee enjoyed other advantages in the 1980s, perhaps most notably, that philanthropists Jane and Lloyd Petit paid for the Bradley Center, so leaders did not have to worry about financing.

What dynamic existed then that would be useful for the planning of the new area? Drew says,"There was total trust between the parties involved to make the right decisions."

If there is a regret Drew has about the Bradley Center project, he says it is the design of the parking structure to the west. "It is an architectural monstrosity," Drew says. He says parking structures can be styled to blend into the neighborhood and complement nearby businesses.  

Drew says it's good the new Bucks' owners and the NBA have given the community deadlines for moving on a new arena, otherwise, he says, "this debate could go on for an endless time period, until somebody made a decision."

Related Content