Naming rights for Bradley Center sold to BMO Harris

The Bradley Center has a new name and new life.

Representatives of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, the Bradley Center, the Milwaukee Bucks and BMO Harris Bank announced Monday that, beginning immediately, the Bradley Center will be known as the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The new name has already appeared on the electronic sign outside the nearly 24-year-old facility.

The name change also represents a shift in position for Lynde Bradley Uihlein and David V. Uihlein Jr., the daughter and son of the late philanthropist Jane Bradley Pettit. It was Jane Bradley Pettit's $93 million donation that led to the construction of the Bradley Center in memory of her father, Harry Lynde Bradley. Four years ago, the family said selling the naming rights would degrade their mother's gift.

The BMO Harris contribution, coupled with significant sponsorship commitments from Harley-Davidson, Kohl's, Northwestern Mutual and Rockwell Automation as well as other companies, totals more than $18 million over six years.

The BMO Harris naming rights component of the financial commitment is believed to be more than $1 million a year.

In all, the additional revenue amounts to a significant financial shot in the arm for the Bradley Center and its major tenants, and is expected to provide a fiscal bridge of sorts between now and potential construction of a new multipurpose arena.

MMAC president Timothy Sheehy said the injection of new revenue is "the beginning of the story and not the end of the story" toward a potential public-private partnership that could result in a new arena.

"Great cities make those kinds of investments in the future," Sheehy said.

"If we're going to be successful here at the Bradley Center and be successful going forward, we will need the support of the owner, the business community, the city and the state," Sheehy said.

Brad Chapin, BMO Harris' executive vice president, called the announcement "an important day for our community."

"It's about stepping up and playing the role we have historically played and will continue to play, not only in this community, but other communities where we live and work, where we employ people and where we have customers," Chapin said.

Of prime importance was the family's support for the name change. "We are grateful for the community's support in working to ensure the continued viability of the Bradley Center," the Uihleins said in a statement. "And, we support solutions that preserve the integrity of our family's gift to build the Bradley Center as well as ensure the success of the Bucks as Milwaukee's franchise."

"The Bradley Center will remain on this building for as long as this building exists," said Marc Marotta, chairman of the Bradley Center board.

Sheehy worked with the Bradley Center and the Bucks to secure additional corporate support to give the Bradley Center new revenue. Marotta said the injection of financial support will help extend the life of the building. At the same time, it buys time to discuss, plan and potentially build a replacement.

"We do have to make the case out there and bring people along faster than we have normally brought them along about what value it is to have a venue that enables us to be a big-time city, a viable sports and entertainment venue," Marotta said.

Sheehy has dubbed the sponsorship effort the Champions of the Community. Other corporate supporters include A.O. Smith Corp., Actuant, Addison Clifton LLC, Associated Bank, Bank Mutual Corp., Baptista's Bakery, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Fiduciary Management Inc., Fiserv Inc., Fred Luber, Manpower, MGIC, the MMAC, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, MillerCoors, Park Bank, Potawatomi Bingo, PS Capital Partners LLC, Robert W. Baird & Co., Victory Personnel Services, Waukesha Metro Products and WE Energies.

Marotta and Steve Costello, president of the Bradley Center, said the additional revenue would enable Bradley Center officials to maintain the building and extend its life. Currently, the Bradley Center has a plant fund - a kind of rainy-day fund - totaling $2.1 million. Years ago, it was as high as $10 million.

The Bradley Center is viewed as an arena that does not meet current NBA standards. It is considerably smaller, in terms of square footage, than most newer arenas, it has no club seats (most arenas have more than 2,000); and it doesn't have enough lower bowl seats.

BMO Harris also announced a separate six-year sponsorship agreement with the Bucks. The bank also has a sponsorship deal with the Chicago Bulls.

The Bradley Center annually draws about 1.5 million people a year to sporting events, concerts, family and special events. It is the home of the Bucks; the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League; the Marquette University Golden Eagles men's basketball team, members of the Big East Conference; and the Milwaukee Mustangs of the Arena Football League.

The announcement also is likely to speed up announcement of a new, multi-year lease between the Bradley Center and the Bucks. The Bucks did not have a lease this past season, but Marotta said the infusion of new corporate support could lead to a multi-year lease.

"This should be enough to get us from today to a new arena," Marotta said. (source Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)