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Reported Potawatomi project would add to crowded concert environment

The Potawatomi tribe's reported concert venue would sit just to the west of their hotel and casino in the Menomonee Valley.
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino; paysbig.com
The Potawatomi tribe's reported concert venue would sit just to the west of their hotel and casino in the Menomonee Valley.

The Pabst Theater Group’s Vivarium is still a few weeks away from its first show. The ink is barely dry on the city’s approval of the FPC Live-backed venue near Fiserv Forum. Now, it seems we have yet another new entry to Milwaukee’s live-music scene courtesy of the Forest County Potawatomi Community.

According to a report from the Journal Sentinel’s Daniel Bice, the Potawatomi plan to build a $200 million concert venue on sites formerly owned by Cargill in the Menomonee Valley. The parcels cover a little more than nine acres and sit just west of the tribe’s hotel and casino.

Bice spoke with “a source familiar with the project” who indicated the new space will have a capacity of 6,000 people, and that the tribe will try to secure the necessary approvals this year in advance of breaking ground early in 2025. It should be noted that Potawatomi officials declined to comment on the report, which presents a “neither confirm nor deny” situation.

If the project moves forward, it adds yet another knot to an increasingly tangled concert environment in Milwaukee. FPC Live originally planned two venues at the Fiserv Forum site — with capacities of 800 and 4,000 people — but ultimately opted for the 4,500-capacity venue approved by the city in early December.

That initial announcement by FPC Live (part of Live Nation Entertainment) spurred a big reaction from the area’s other venues, which have made several moves in the past few years to shore up their support. Pabst Theater Group has been particularly busy on that front, with executive director Gary Witt helping found the National Independent Venue Association in 2020 and the group itself joining the nationwide Theater Alliance that also includes such iconic venues as New York’s Radio City Music Hall and Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.

Eagles Entertainment — which operates The Rave / Eagles Club — aligned itself with another collective when it formalized a partnership with the SaveLive network last February.

The Potawatomi are no strangers to the live-entertainment space, having operated the Northern Lights Theater for more than two decades before its final show in January of last year. At the time, I noted that “subtractions have been relatively rare” when it comes to Milwaukee’s concert venues. With the reported 6,000-seat facility essentially replacing the 600-seat Northern Lights Theater, it appears my math was a little premature.


Milwaukee’s mid-sized concert venues

Reported Potawatomi venue
1901 W. Canal St.
Capacity: 6,000

BMO Pavilion
130 N. Harbor Dr.
Capacity: 5,000

Proposed FPC Live venue
1051 N. Phillips Ave.
Capacity: 4,500

Miller High Life Theatre
500 W. Kilbourn Ave.
Capacity: 4,087

Eagles Ballroom
2401 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Capacity: 3,500

Riverside Theater
116 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Capacity: 2,450

Uihlein Hall at Marcus Performing Arts Center
929 N. Water St.
Capacity: 2,125

The Rave Hall
2401 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Capacity: 1,800

Bradley Symphony Center
212 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Capacity: 1,800

Pabst Theater
144 E. Wells St.
Capacity: 1,279