Back in January, Marquette president Dr. Michael Lovell announced that the university would be constructing a fieldhouse just south of Straz Tower on West Michigan Street. The announced plan was to use the recently purchased property in the 800 block of Michigan for that project.
Since then, though, things have changed regarding ownership of the property in the general vicinity of that initial purchase that might suggest that the fieldhouse will be bigger than originally indicated.
The original purchase included 4.6 acres that the state was selling that used to be part of the Marquette Interchange as well as the building that used to house UMB Fund Services before they moved to Schlitz Park. It did not include Butch's Steakhouse, located at 555 N. James Lovell Street. That changed in early April, though, when the university snagged that acre for $690,000. As part of their story on the purchase, Milwaukee Business Journal got the university to confirm that the steakhouse land will be used for the fieldhouse.
That's not the only thing over that way that Marquette has bought. In late April, Marquette finalized the purchase of a building left vacant at 525 N. Sixth Street when Herzing University moving their operations to Menomonee Falls. That cost the university just short of $1.5 million. Then, in June, a limited liability company registered to Marquette general counsel Cynthia Bauer paid $3.8 million for the land that is currently occupied by the Ramada Milwaukee Downtown, located at 633 W. Michigan Street. The university confirmed that purchase, given that the LLC's registry address is Zilber Hall on MU's campus, but due to a lease with the Ramada's owner, the hotel will stay operational for the time being.
All of that has taken the university's holdings along Michigan Street from this:
And that's a ton of frigging land. Three full square city blocks worth of it, all for roughly $15 million.
Maybe I'm just drawing a conclusion here. Admittedly, the university refused to state that the Herzing or Ramada purchases had anything to do with the fieldhouse plan. Here's the quote from Milwaukee Business Journal:
As with its other latest land buy, a spokesman said, "Our purchase of this property reflects our university strategy to continue to reach beyond our traditional boundaries and extend further east into downtown. We do not yet have specific plans for the property."
"This purchase, like similar properties we have acquired this past year, reflects our long-term commitment to develop the east side of our campus. We are looking forward to being even closer to downtown to continue our collaboration with our many partners in the area."
So there is that. Plus, there is a freeway exit that dumps out onto the intersection of James Lovell & Clybourn, and maybe the city and the state don't want people taking that exit to be forced to turn right, as left would just send them back onto the freeway. So maybe James Lovell Street can't be torn up in the service of building a bigger fieldhouse.
That wouldn't preclude the university from building a skywalk to a parking structure where the Ramada and the old Herzing building are over there on 6th Street, as one of the main points of building the fieldhouse would be to host regular season lacrosse games in it, and the people attending said lacrosse game are going to need to park somewhere. After all, Marquette averages over 1,300 people per men's lacrosse game, with a peak of 4,575 in attendance for this past season's game against Duke.
We're probably still a long ways off from even putting a shovel in the ground to get this project started, so maybe I'm just letting my enthusiasm run away from me.
Then again, what else is the university going to do with that property so far away from the heart of campus?