Last month, the Madison-based concert promoter Frank Productions/FPC Live revealed its proposal for a new music venue complex in Milwaukee’s Third Ward on land leased from Summerfest. The 108,000-square-foot complex would host two venues, one with a 4,000-person capacity and another with an 800-person capacity. Construction would begin this year, with hopes of opening after Summerfest 2023.
That proposal has met some resistance, however, most vocally from other venue owners in the city, who say that the Live Nation-affiliated venues would steal bookings and business from them. “Summerfest will make money by helping an out-of-town conglomerate potentially take business away from local companies,” Urban Milwaukee’s Bruce Murphy argued in an article that outlined a number of concerns about the venues.
Those weren’t the concerns that dominated a listening session at the Milwaukee Public Market earlier this week featuring Frank Productions CEO Joel Plant and Charlie Goldstone, co-president of FPC Live. As Piet Levy reported for the Journal Sentinel, that meeting was heavy on concerns from Third Ward residents, who worried that the new venues could create noise and parking headaches, and would blight views for condo residents.
Plant addressed those concerns by explaining the venues would host about 135 events a year, and many of them would be far under the combined 4,800 capacity the venues could host — it would be extremely rare for both venues to host sold-out events.
This week on Tap’d In, Radio Milwaukee’s weekly music podcast with me and Piet Levy, we dig into the controversy surrounding the venue complex, which is not yet a done deal, Piet explains, although there are not a lot of legal avenues for the city to oppose it outside of the Licenses Committee, which grants alcohol licenses. The plans will also need approval from the Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board and the City of Milwaukee Board of Harbor Commissioners, but it’s unlikely those processes could prevent FPC Live from building the complex completely.
I also press Piet on the question that’s top of mind for many music fans in the city: Will these venues bring more concerts to Milwaukee? The answer to that is a little more complicated, Piet explains. Having these venues will create greater financial incentive for Live Nation to route some more of its artists through Milwaukee, so it stands to reason that would bring more shows to the city. Some bands that have been playing the FPC-owned Sylvee in Madison but not Milwaukee could end up here now, too, for instance.
But, as Piet points out, there aren’t really a ton of artists in the 400-4,000 draw range skipping the city right now. Some artists might skip Milwaukee on the initial leg of their tours, but usually they end up playing here eventually. The artists most likely to truly skip Milwaukee are still arena-tier acts like Drake or Taylor Swift, who are more likely to play multiple nights in Chicago than add a Milwaukee stop to their tour these days.
There’s a lot for us to chew on. Hear us get into it all on this week’s episode, which you can stream below.
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