Summerfest announces new amphitheater, north gate, sponsorship

MILWAUKEE  -- A major makeover is coming to the ‘Big Gig’. Summerfest is getting a new amphitheater as it teams up with American Family Insurance.

As of Thursday, the event deemed the ‘world's largest music festival’ will now be known as 'Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance'.

Summerfest officials are calling this partnership announcement the most iconic day in the history of the event approaching its 50th anniversary.

"There was more excitement about this than there was for any other partnership that we've had," said American Family Insurance President Jack Salzwedel.

It's a change that will take some getting used to. For the past three decades, Marcus Corporation was the event's main partner.

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"There was a document, but we're relinquishing the rights,” said Marcus Corp. President Greg Marcus.

Marcus said it wasn't a tough split.

"When they came to us and said we have this tremendous opportunity that's going to be transformational and ensure Summerfest's survival for the next generation, how could we say no?" said Marcus.

The transformation will begin in late 2017, turning a field north of the grounds into a community plaza, followed by a grand entrance at the north gate.

Two years down the road, construction will begin to turn the Marcus Amphitheater into the new American Family Insurance Amphitheater. Leaders estimate the project will cost $35 million. The concert venue complex is expected to be completed in 2020.  

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"The roof would be rehabilitated both on the exterior and the interior but other than that it will be a rebuild in the same footprint with the same number of seats," officials explained.

As for this year's festival, hundreds of thousands might only notice the new name and its signage; however this partnership plans to extend into the community and the classroom.

"They're going to see these activities in neighborhoods in schools so they'll see this outreach happening throughout the city not just down here on the grounds," said Alderman Ashanti Hamilton.

VIDEO: Summerfest announces a new partnership and major renovations


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