The Milwaukee Admirals, AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators, are making a short but perhaps the biggest move in franchise history. Harris Turer, Governor and principal owner of the team since 2005, announced at a press conference Wednesday that the team will be moving across the street to the UWM Panther Arena this fall.
The deal, which took almost a year to hammer out, has the Admirals investing $2M toward improvements in the locker rooms, concourses and common areas and other amenities to enhance their fans experience. In return, the team will share in the concessions and merchandise sales, which was not the case at their home since 1988, the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Wisconsin Center District will kick in an additional $4.3M in improvements to the 66-year old facility over the next three years as part of the 10-year agreement. The team will get more favorable dates as they move up on the pecking order.
The Ads will be the anchor tenant of the building, the first sports-specific arena built after World War II in 1950. The UWM Panthers men’s basketball team, The Milwaukee Wave of the MASL and the Brew City Bruisers roller derby league also play there. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee paid for naming rights a couple of years ago. That deal has eight years remaining.
“This is a real public-private partnership,” Turer said following the presser. The team and the WCD worked together to come to an agreement that worked for all parties. “The main thing for us is going to be the sharing of the revenues,” Turer added. “It is a more intimate setting and will be a lot of fun.” The arena seats about 9,000 for hockey. The Admirals are averaging just under 6,000 a game at the BC, which seats almost 19,000.
When asked whether the post-game concerts, a staple throughout the season, Turer said: “We haven’t worked out all the details yet but we certainly hope so.” The organization gives tens of thousands of dollars to charities like Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin through the team’s Power Play Foundation and that will continue.
When the new ownership of the Milwaukee Bucks made plans to build a new arena, it looked from the beginning that hockey would be left out of the equation, forcing Turer and President Jon Greenberg to look for a new home. They didn’t have to search very far nor for very long.
It’s actually the second run for this franchise in the building, which saw many milestones during the growth of the team. They started out as an amateur club team in 1969 called the Wings. They played their games on Saturday nights at the Wilson Park Arena on the city’s south side. The Admirals (an appliance store sponsor sold Admiral TVs and changed the name) went on to join the United States Hockey League, winning the title on April 10, 1976.
Hall of Fame hockey announcer Lloyd Pettit and his wife Jane Bradley Pettit, bought the team from Bill Chimo in bankruptcy court during the off-season. They joined the IIHL in 1977 until the league disbanded in 2001 when they joined the AHL. The 18-year partnership with Nashville will not be affected by the move.
The building, then known as the MECCA Arena, hosted a game between the IHL All-Stars and the soon to be Gold Medal winning US Olympic Hockey Team in Lake Placid. The Miracle on Ice boys, including former Admiral Buzz Schneider, played to a 4-4 tie, three weeks before they upset the Russians in the semifinal.
The novelist Thomas Wolfe opined that “you can’t go home again.” The Admirals are going to do their best to prove him wrong.