Arena construction bolsters economic development

The Bucks’ new arena is about 55 percent complete, and every day, it’s getting easier to imagine a revitalized downtown Milwaukee.

In addition to bringing a state-of-the-art entertainment district to Milwaukee, the construction project is bringing job opportunities to local companies and construction workers. As part of the Bucks’ development agreement, at least 40 percent of construction hours must be logged by city and county residents. As of July, construction hours for local workers exceeded 41 percent, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal.

The development agreement also requires the project to retain at least 25 percent of construction fees from disadvantaged businesses, including minority-owned businesses. On this front, too, requirements are being exceeded. According to a Business Journal report, construction fees from disadvantaged businesses were at more than 30 percent in July.

Wisconsin-based Hooper Corp. is installing a complete plumbing system for the arena. According to the electric power and mechanical company, it is committed (along with general contractor Mortenson Construction and the Bucks) to ensuring that 40 percent of the workforce and materials for the project are locally sourced.

Many businesses from southeast Wisconsin are playing a vital role. The Bucks announced a partnership with Milwaukee Tool, which is sponsoring the construction site and providing workers with access to its entire catalog of tools and accessories. J.H. Findorff & Son of Milwaukee are managing the construction of the parking structure north of the arena. Other Milwaukee County subcontractors for the entertainment district project include Dawes Rigging, JCP Construction and Terraco n.

“This is something that is being built by people from Milwaukee for the people of Milwaukee and Wisconsin,”said Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry. “We’re extremely happy with where we are to date.”

Hundreds of workers are on site bringing the 714,000-square-foot arena to life. But the project is not just about numbers, Lasry said, it’s also about the people who are working behind the numbers.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet with and talk to a lot of the people who are working on it,” he said. “We have great people who are really building careers. That’s something that we’re proud of and excited about.”

Milwaukee’s next generation of skilled-trades workers is also benefitting from the construction project. The city and the Bucks each contributed $375,000 to workforce training programs. Over the summer and fall, a few dozen¬†MPS students will receive stipends to work on the arena in a pre-apprenticeship program.

Bradley Tech High School “Tech Terns” are in on the $524 million project. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Tech Terns will get one-on-one time with mentors in the various trades. The students will regularly visit the construction site, where they will apply what they learned in the classroom in a real-world setting. Bradley Tech students also helped construct the Bucks’ recently finished Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center, which will serve as the team’s downtown training facility.

When it’s completed, the arena is slated to hold more than 17,000 fans for basketball games. If construction finishes according to schedule, the complex will be ready for the 2018-2019 NBA season. The entertainment district will also play host to big-name touring musicians and other sporting events throughout the year.