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Milwaukee Common Council approves Deer District concert venues that could host 4,800 people

Construction is scheduled to begin later this year, with the spaces set to be located on the northeast part of the old Bradley Center site.
fpc live music venues
Posted at 11:31 AM, Nov 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-01 18:17:13-04

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Common Council gave its final approval Tuesday of a proposal to bring two concert venues that could host 4,800 people in the Deer District.

The council unanimously approved the venues' zoning plan, besides one excused vote, Tuesday morning.

FPC Live, part of Frank Productions and the driving force behind the proposal, expects the venues to host 135 events and bring 200,000 fans downtown every year.

Businesses catering to the Deer District crowd, Bucks President Peter Feigin, and Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson meanwhile have given the project their blessing.

FPC Live expects to spend $50 million on the project. They say they will not ask the city of Milwaukee for any money for the projects. The company hopes the projects will create more than 500 construction jobs, as well as several dozen full-time and 500 part-time jobs once the buildings are complete.

Frank Productions is majority-owned by Live Nation, which merged with Ticket Master more than ten years ago - becoming of the world’s largest entertainment companies.

One of the venues will have a capacity of 4,000 people, while the other will hold 800 people.

Construction is scheduled to begin this month, with the venues set to be located on the northeast part of the old Bradley Center site. Backers hope the facilities are complete by 2024.

FPC Live says it is Wisconsin's largest concert promoter. Alongside Frank Productions and Live Nation, they produce almost 550 events every year in Milwaukee and across the state. They own and operate The Sylvee, Orpheum Theatre, Majestic Theatre and High Noon Saloon in Madison.

“The more people we can have attract to downtown the better,” said Jake Dehne, who owns Lucky Clover Irish Pub and Red White Blue, only about a block away.

Dehne also owns State Street Pizza, which would be one of the closest food options to the new venue.

“Milwaukee still is not a destination like a lot of other cities, where you have action every night of the week,” he said. “We need more people down here on a more regular basis.”

But concert venues with roots in Milwaukee have been fighting back against the proposal. Some of the city's biggest venues argued the new venues would threaten 'the very existence of Milwaukee's vibrant local music scene.' They allege the new venues would take hundreds of shows from The Riverside Theater, The Rave/Eagles Club, The Pabst Theater, Turner Hall, The Milwaukee Theater, The BMO Harris Pavilion, Shank Hall, and Cactus Club. Wisconsin Center District CEO Marty Brooks has also spoke out against the development.

Many of those places are thought of as the heart of Milwaukee, and its music scene. They have been steadfast through Milwaukee’s ups and downs.

“They want their artists and concert tours to appear at their venues, which cuts out independent venues like us,” said Emillio De Torre of Turner Hall. “This threatens our viability and very existence, which relies upon revenue from live concert performances.”

From the perspective of city leaders, this is an investment that requires no subsidy and fills up vacant, underutilized land. It will be a tax-paying entity that will also create jobs.

“There’s room for growth in Milwaukee,” Dehne said. “There are spaces that need to be filled and competition is healthy in a capital market. All the bars here on Old World Third Street pretty much offer a similar product – food and drinks. We compete for business. Then the Bucks added even more competition with the Deer District, but we’re all doing fine. It's the growth of the area overall.”

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