Basketball arena design leaked?

Nope, of course not.  Even if I had seen the plans for the arena, I wouldn’t tell you guys!  I do, however, have something to show you guys that I’m sure you’ll find just as awesome as I did.

UWMFreak board member, pep band player and architecture grad student Joe Rice recently came to the new house to show me his masters thesis.  He then made me even happier by giving the go-ahead to share the thesis with all of you, as he has already presented it to a very interested group of UWM’s elite architecture professors.

As many readers here know, the Wisconsin Paperboard Corporation has been looking to leave Milwaukee’s East Side for several years, as the campus neighborhood has changed significantly since the company’s beginnings in 1936.  It has become a logistical nightmare for the good people at WPC, and they are looking to leave the tight squeeze for trucks and the high taxes on the property behind.  In his thesis, Joe obliges, bringing the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in to purchase the land and use it for…athletics.

Joe’s project, named Cambridge Gardens for the street it’s on, adds a basketball arena to the current building at a southwest-to-northeast angle and creates a sort of “Panther Avenue” of the street leading up to the front doors.

Imagine the basketball dreams that lie at the end of this street of hoops.

If that doesn’t get your jaw dropping, I don’t know what will.  It’s the beginning of a journey that could give you an idea what the future of Milwaukee Athletics could look like, if those in charge could get the right people to open their pocketbooks and all the little guys like us to donate our small shares.  The end of Cambridge Avenue is enticing; the existing building of Cambridge Commons, new to the freshmen class in 2010, which is now also the home of the UWM Foundation and the Grind as well as some other retail space that could easily house a sports bar or Panther gift shop, is off to the left.  To the right, Joe created a sort of Panther Plaza that connects those coming from the neighborhood to the south and from mass transit to the arena, ticket office, Cambridge Commons and private space that he has set aside for my sports bar that I’d run if I could get someone to pay for it.

The Plaza oozes Panther Pride and provides a significant meeting space for fans to meet before the game.

The space before the arena is so intricate and it really doesn’t include any hard buildings, so you can see how Joe used open space to create an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation heading into Gameday as well as a logistical space that helps foot traffic and doesn’t clutter up the area.

The Plaza's capabilities go beyond a meeting place for athletics and a space for foot traffic; here, Joe illustrates how a farmer's market can really liven up the space when games aren't going on.

It’s a great space that separates the people who park in the facility with the people who arrive on foot from the south and from mass transit.  At the end of the plaza but before crossing the street to the arena, game attendees will find themselves at the ticket office.

While waiting in the cold for tickets isn't exactly the best way to spend five minutes in January, Joe decides that since most fans have tickets already, separating the casual fans from season-ticket holders will avoid a cluster by the front doors.

As you can see, the basketball arena (which I’m calling the Joe-rena) is built into the existing 1936 facility built for the Wisconsin Paperboard Corporation.  This allows the university to save on some building costs while also giving a nod to the neighborhood’s past.

Once inside, Panther fans will find themselves inside a spacious atrium that opens up to a lot of what the arena has to offer.

As you could see from the outside, the Joe-rena features a LED lighting sign that carries the Milwaukee Athletics logo on the outside.  Because it’s LED, it can be changed to show those inside and outside different messages while still allowing light to get through.  For instance, fans can leave to messages on information for the last game, and fans coming in can see promos for five-packs and sales in the Panthers fan store – that, by the way, is on the right after you enter and can also be accessed from the street on non-game days.

So what about the arena itself?  Well, I’ve got several shots and will show them all to you, but this is the sort of “money shot” that Joe had accompanying the presentation:

As you can see, the arena sells beer (for those who don’t know, alcohol sales are not against NCAA rules on-campus, they are sold at the discretion of the CEO of each university) and has what looks to be an incredible southwest facade that features four separate size glass panes formed for amazing effect.  If you can find anything similar in college basketball, hats off to you – it’s the kind of thing that separates the arena from others around the nation, a real identifier for the basketball program.

The student section is somewhat small, but if need be several other sections on either side can be included for the Klotsche Krazies.  On the left is the second deck, the point of view is from the second deck end zone corner, and off on the right is several sky box suites for some of our biggest boosters and corporate sponsors.

This view comes from the southwest corner of the arena.  The suites mentioned before are on the left, that bright spot in the middle is a party suite next to the parking ramp entrance, the second-deck end zone is to the right of that, and glass to the right features several rooms: the coach’s offices, more box seating, and a recruiting room where coaches from the three arena teams – men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and volleyball – can host recruits in full view of the state of the art facility.

This southeast-side point of view picture from the second deck shows just how many good seats there are in the facility – these “cheap seats” have very good basketball sight lines, maintaining the good qualities of our current U.S. Cellular Arena space.

Our final shot from inside the bowl of the arena comes from the second deck end zone, with seats that show in full view the tremendous video board, iconic glass facade and student section.

I swear to God I didn’t stick myself in here.  Joe’s thesis included three characters in a story of using the facility – Jimmy the student, going to a game; Rob the coach, looking for a new Pantherade to make his players run faster and jump higher (I couldn’t make this up); and some other random university employee who lives in the neighborhood, taking his family to a game at the facility to the north.

This space shown here is the party suite I alluded to earlier, a large space that opens up for seating at the games and can be host to pre-game and post-game gatherings as well as events outside of gameday itself that the university would like to put on in its most lavish facility.  The great thing about this suite is that not only does it open up to the arena, it also brings in light from the outside through its use as a second great facility – the suite for the facility in the north.

Milwaukee soccer is all about Engelmann Field…er…Stadium.  The wonderful facility is historic, it is the home to our most successful programs, and it is a true jewel of college soccer.

It is, however, on prime real estate that the university’s Master Plan sees as a sort of courtyard like those at Ivy League universities.  I don’t know if that’s the best idea for the space, but if they’re hell-bent on moving the soccer stadium, Joe is willing to give in if they let him built this beast of a stadium.  Located directly north of the Cambridge Gardens Joe-rena, the soccer stadium seats more than Engelmann while keeping the intimate feel of the current stadium.  The main grandstand is carved into the current WPC factory’s first two floors, making way for the upper floors to be converted into parking for the basketball arena and soccer stadium.  Views of the parking garage on top are blocked by the lighting equipment for the soccer stadium, which are centered by the soccer program’s shield in enormous form – it’s Milwaukee’s stadium.

The north end of the soccer pitch contains an expanded student section that are still close to the opposing goalie.  The party suite from the arena is visible on the south end, as is a “green wall” that uses rainwater on the facility for good use and brings another iconic touch to the facility, like the Wrigley Field ivy.

North of this soccer stadium is a 3,500-seat baseball stadium that wasn’t gone into too much detail by Joe but is no less amazing.  It features hill-like spaces for those who don’t want to go into the facility to see the game, as well as an enclosed stadium that goes way beyond anything we’ve ever seen with the Hank.  Of course, the space for the football stadium could just as easily house a 20,000-seat grandstand opposite a 5,000-seat smaller bleacher section, but that’s just an idea I had.

So, what do you think?  Be sure to like this post on Facebook and share it on Twitter so we can get this great work done by Joe out to the masses!


  1. JBom

    September 30, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Hope they can get something like this developed over the 5 years or so. It would add so much to the East Side and create a real sense of campus identity for UWM.

    If even half of this was implemented, it would be a huge achievement and cornerstone for UWM’s 21st Century vision.

  2. Jimmy Lemke

    September 30, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    You’re absolutely right JBom. The real arena, I’m told, will be built on the primary campus, but I still feel as though the university needs to grab a hold of that land before some idiots try to come in and just plant a bunch of trees.

  3. Patrick

    October 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    It looks really good on paper, but at what cost? Will UWM kick in money to help upgrade the infrastructure (roads, utilities, etc) in that neighborhood? It would be easy for students to attend events at a location like this, but ease of access would be a major problem for those coming from outside the campus area. The East Side is practically legendary for having few parking spaces, and the streets are especially narrow in the winter, during your peak basketball season. And this is assuming successful athletics programs for decades while facing another (or continuing) economic recession. Students are already facing the brunt of the economy, and face increased seg fees on an almost annual basis.

    Let’s also not forget this plan would consume numerous acres of existing green space, something for which Milwaukee has been lauded numerous times over the past century. Could this plan (or another) walk the fine line between protection and progress?

    While staring with starry eyes at a great plan for the true Black and Gold faithful, we must take time to blink and realize this is merely a thesis for now. But I eagerly look forward to UMW expanding its Athletics venues on or close to campus in the coming years. Thanks for posting this, Jimmy!

  4. Jimmy Lemke

    October 3, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    As part of his project, Joe had to account for transport and parking for everyone that would be in the area. The project includes a three-level parking garage for several hundred spaces. The current bus system for getting students from North to campus would be in place, so parking on campus and showing a game ticket (or Student ID) would get you on the bus to the area.

    The increased student seg fees of $25 per semester are going towards an arena – so there’s some of your money. In other places, we can raise for the rest. Using the existing facility cuts down big on material costs. I don’t know about consuming acres of green space. Maybe one or two, but largely the facilities here are going on the factory’s land up to the Urban Ecology Center, which is nothing but a bunch of dirt right now.

    The problem with the green space of Riverside Park is that all the space it was lauded for when Olmstead put it together (The Riverside-Newberry Blvd-Lake Park design) has changed dramatically, and now there’s no need to protect what is there beyond current laws.

    Also part of his project, Joe had to make sure it didn’t violate those laws, which clearly state that nothing should be seen from the riverbed over the trees. The only thing north of the new dorms is the smokestacks of the WPC, which would be removed as part of Joe’s plan.

    This is merely a thesis, and I’m sorry to say nothing this radical will be done with the property. I’m sure the real arena will be placed somewhere in the current Klotsche Center footprint, and it will bring people to the main part of campus.

    I have a better idea for the space Joe uses. Football stadium. But that’s just me.

  5. dutch41283

    November 4, 2011 at 10:56 am

    All thing look great, but what about this idea, with the notion that the AD is considering looking into football and possible other sports would the idea of making Englemann more of a multi-use stadium make more sense?

    I mean if and of course it is a big if due to the money that it would take, football returns why not get it so that we could have soccer and football in the same location, granted of course this would then mean field turf would have to be a must. Also if we would want to go D-1 in football wouldn’t the stadium need to hold over 30K? Granted these are all things that are very far down the road considering we don’t even have a official football team (not trying to short side the club team).

    Also what about making the “Cambridge Gardens” open to use for hockey as well? It is possible to do basketball and hockey in the same arena and would be a good way to maybe make the inclusion of hockey as a major addition to the AD.

    But of course this is part of things that are still up in the air to a degree but I do agree seeing things like this are amazing no doubt and the fact that a current Panther was responsible makes it even more impressive to me.

    Go Black and Gold!

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