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Marcus Center's Future an Open Question

Ed Bierman
The Marcus Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The structural problems at the Mitchell Park Domes have been a reminder for many that Milwaukee County has responsibility for many cultural institutions in the area. Places such as the Milwaukee Public Museum, the zoo and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, where you might go to see the symphony, ballet or a touring Broadway show.

But a curious line in the deal that made building a new basketball arena possible last year threw the future management and operation of the Marcus Center into question by potentially placing it in the hands of the Wisconsin Center District. The story behind that decision, and the questions that have thus far gone unanswered, is featured a reportby writer Larry Sandler in this month's Milwaukee Magazine.

It seems County Executive Chris Abele is behind the provision, but Sandler says it's unclear why. 

"All we know about why the County Executive wanted it is what he says. He says that 'it would create efficiencies, improve customer service, allow possibilities for additional revenue and eliminate duplicative expenses.' But as I have found with the County Executive, when you try to dig a little deeper and ask questions about what that really means then you don't really get an answer," he says. "When I looked into it what I found is that it doesn't seem like there are duplicative expenses, it doesn't seem like there is duplication between the Marcus Center and the Milwaukee Theater." 

But Sandler says that while the reasons for this move are unclear, it's not unusual. The County Executive has worked to unload some cultural institutions, like the Milwaukee Art Museum.

"At the last County Board meeting of the term they also approved a deal tosell the Milwaukee Art Museum's buildings to the museum management," says Sandler. "The Milwaukee Public Museum is looking at whether maybe it should be moving out of its building into a building of its own and there are these questions about the Domes... So you put all of this together and you see kind of a trend."

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