Admirals Officialy Moving to the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)
So long BMO Harris Bradley Center. Hello UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Milwaukee Admirals will be officially moving to the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena for the start of the 2016-17 season after being approved by the Wisconsin Center District for a 10-year lease. The lease also includes a mutual option for a further 5-years.

Report by Rich Kirchen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Milwaukee Admirals will contribute $2 million and the Wisconsin Center District $4.3 million to upgrade the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, which will add the hockey team as a tenant starting with the 2016-2017 season.

The capital projects will be completed over the next two to three years and include a new kitchen, a new Admirals locker room and general updates to the 66-year-old arena.

“The arena needs to be brought back to a level that we know it’s capable of being,” Admirals owner Harris Turer said in an interview with the Milwaukee Business Journal. “It’s just gotten a little old and tired. We really want our fans to be able to come to games and just see a really beautiful place.”

The 10-year lease with a five-year mutual option extension was approved Wednesday morning by the Wisconsin Center District board. The public Wisconsin Center District owns the arena at 400 W. Kilbourn Ave. in downtown Milwaukee.

The lease will produce a positive financial result for the Wisconsin Center District and taxpayers, said board chairman Scott Neitzel. Adding 38 Admirals home games per year greatly increases the viability of the Panther Arena.

“From the community standpoint, I think it’s wonderful,” Neitzel said in an interview. “It keeps the Admirals downtown in Milwaukee and therefore it meets what I think is the mission of the Wisconsin Center District — to continue to bring as many people to downtown Milwaukee as possible.”

The Wisconsin Center District also owns the Milwaukee Theatre and the Wisconsin Center convention hall.

The Admirals, who play in the American Hockey League, had no other viable options for a home rink after the BMO Harris Bradley Center closes in 2018. The Admirals need a new home rink because they were not in the plans for the new Milwaukee Bucks arena that will replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Turer said he is excited about the new home rink and what he considers successful negotiations with the Wisconsin Center District leadership. The Admirals have played at the Bradley Center, which was a gift to the community from former owners Jane Bradley Pettit and Lloyd Pettit, since the venue opened in 1988.

“I had no desire to sell the team and that would have been a terrible thing for our community,” Turer said. “I’m just grateful that we have a home.”

Turer said he is not sure yet what he will spend the $2 million on other than a general facelift and modernizing of the Panther Arena. He would like to improve the concourse areas, main lobby and concession stands.

Turer, who bought the Admirals 11 years ago, said the team has been losing money at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. He said the Wisconsin Center District lease will result in profits because the team for the first time will receive a split share of merchandise revenue and a share of concessions revenue.

“This allows the Admirals to be a financially viable entity and that means a lot to me,” said Turer, who is the grandson of Master Lock founder Harry Soref.

The Wisconsin Center District will fund its portion of the arena improvements with part of a $5.25 million bond issue the board also approved Wednesday.

The district did make a couple of significant improvements after UWM agreed to a 10-year naming rights deal in June 2014. The district spent $1.1 million on a new scoreboard and video board at the Panther Arena and is replacing all the permanent seats in UWM black and gold colors over a three-year period.

UWM has 10-year naming rights agreement for the arena. The Admirals would like to add some signage at the arena but need to negotiate that with UWM officials, Neitzel and Turer said.

UWM and the Milwaukee Wave indoor soccer team also agreed to some flexibility in scheduling games to accommodate the Admirals, Neitzel said.

The Admirals lease at the BMO Harris Bradley Center runs through 2016-2017 but the team and Bradley Center officials have discussed an early exit from that agreement.

The ol’ MECCA will be seeing plenty of upgrades because of this move by the Admirals. A new locker room will be needed to match that of what the team has at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and the upgrades won’t be performed purely from a player experience, either. The fan experience is going to a focus as well. Upgrades to the concourse, lobbies and concession stands will be a point of focus during the course of this lease. As reported by Kirchen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel there are $6.3 million in upgrades in works with the Admirals set to contribute $2 million and the Wisconsin Center District set to contribute $4.3 million.

There will be a press conference this afternoon at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. I will be on-hand to take that all in and, hopefully, provide a Chatterbox later this afternoon with different parties associated with this move being able to shed some insight on this huge news for the Admirals.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

12 thoughts on “Admirals Officialy Moving to the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena”

  1. At least now my money will be going to the Admirals instead of being siphoned off to the Bucks.

  2. Here is the average attendance for last year. Average attendance for each team last year. Average attendence for Admirals starting in 2001 I assume that most of the teams in the AHL play in similar arenas. As you can see Hershey has the best attendance. They play in a 10,000 seat arena. The GIANT Center has 7,700 seats in the Lower Level and 2,800 seats in the Upper Level. The arena also has 688 Club Seats and 40 Luxury Suites. Wheelchair and companion seating is available on all levels. The arena opened up in 2002. If the Panther arena is updated to these standards then it would seem like a good place to play.

    It is pretty amazing to me that in a city that has to be at least in the top five in population as to AHL cities does not have better attendance. Charlotte is ahead of us by just a bit, but Charlotte is not exactly a haven for hockey, nor is San Antonio. For a team that was in the play offs 12 straight years and won a Calder Cup, the Ads should be drawing much better.

    I will ask this again. As the Bradley Center was built primarily to attract and NHL team and I assume to have a bigger place for the Bucks to play, how did the manage to get so many concessions as to revenues they would receive from the admirals especially when it came to merchandise. As the arena was funded by the Bradley family, was arena controlled by a board of directors? I assume the Bucks, Ads, another sports that were played there like indoor soccer, paid to lease out the arena. Who got that money? When there is a concert or some other attraction I assume there is a lease or rental agreement. Does the arena get money from sales of tickets or does the attraction just pay a rental or lease fee. Who gets the money?

    Before the financial crunch hit it might have been a better time to build a new facility. It could have been the same seating capacity wise, but better than moving into a 66 year old facility that at some point would seem to outlive it’s viability.

  3. sanford, the BC was built by the Petits, but it wasn’t owned by them. They donated the building to the city and/or state (not sure which). So the city and/or state run the facility, and there is a board of directors that oversees the activities of the building.

  4. I knew it was given to the city. Pretty sure it was donated to the city. But the Bucks seemed to get all the advantages

  5. They got the advantages because they brought in the money. Honestly, Admirals games don’t bring much money in. In fact I wonder if the BC loses money to host Admirals games.

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