The BMO Band-Aid
I have never cared for the obliteration of traditional sports venue names for the sake of the almighty dollar.
Candlestick Park was never Monster.com Park, 3Com Park, or any derivation thereof. The home of the Oakland A's and Raiders has been called the Oakland Coliseum, Network Associates Coliseum, Overstock.com Coliseum, McAfee Coliseum, and now O.co Coliseum. The home of the Miami Dolphins already has had the corporate names of Pro Player sports apparel, Land Shark beer, and Sun Life Insurance, and is expected to have yet another new name within two years.
Good grief. Since it is nearly impossible to keep them all straight, I simply choose not to try. For example, U.S. Cellular Field is still "New Comiskey" and for Heaven's sake, the original home of the Bucks shall and forever be the MECCA Arena.
I would say something snarky about Miller Park, but that is what it has always been. Besides, even if there were no dollars attached, Fred Miller did so much to bring the Braves to Milwaukee before his tragic plane crash in 1954 that it would not have been completely out of bounds to honor a city baseball pioneer with his name on the game's finest cathedral.
My point is not to denigrate the outstanding contributions of BMO Harris Bank, nor the other "Champions of the Community" that have heroically stepped in and slapped an enormous, albeit temporary, bandage on the aging home arena for the Bucks, Golden Eagles, Admirals, and Mustangs. The news is both fantastic and encouraging.
But that still doesn't mean "BMO Harris Bradley Center" will ever colloquially be used when anyone utters the name of the late Jane Bradley Pettit's $90 million gift to the community she so dearly loved back in 1985. I cannot imagine that even BMO Harris would expect that after the building has been such a central figure of the landscape of the city for the last quarter-century.
"The Bradley Center has a net annual economic impact of more than $80 million in metro Milwaukee," Tim Sheehy, President of the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce said Monday morning announcing the official name change. "It's a tremendous community asset and job creator."
The news itself of course was welcomed for a facility that was built just a few years too soon. Today, the HVAC system needs repair, the lighting is outdated, the suites look exactly as they did in 1988, and just general maintenance and upkeep dictate that until a suitable replacement can be built, the Bradley Center will continue to soldier on.
Unfortunately, if there was any possible way the old MECCA could have lasted another decade, the mistakes of construction of the mid-1980s, and the very need for a replacement could have been avoided.
The footprint of the building is too small. There is not an attached entertainment district. The Wisconsin Center operates independently right next door and features two venues that have been colossal wastes of money – the always empty white elephant that is the Milwaukee Theatre, and the almost as empty Frontier Airlines Center. And while it is debatable how much those venues hurt the Bradley Center, they certainly don't help.
Looking at the events calendar for the old auditorium, there are a grand total of seven (!) events that are booked in the next 12 months. And while the Frontier Airlines Center is being utilized more often, outside of the annual events like the boat show and the auto show, there are no conventions that you could consider major heading to our fair city, driving traffic (and life) Downtown.
That leaves the Bradley Center to drum up what business it can during the long, cold, desolate winters. And while it was spectacular when it opened, in retrospect it was more of an indictment of what we did not have in our community: a major indoor civic facility.
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