Do you remember way back in 2015 when Marquette announced that they would be building a fieldhouse for soccer, lacrosse, track and field, and golf along Michigan Street south of Straz Tower? Do you remember a year later when the university announced that Aurora Health Care would be a partner in said project? How about when the university announced new plans for an athletic performance research center at a new location across the street from the McGuire Center nearly two years after the Aurora announcement?
Any of this ringing bells for you?
As you can tell, that fieldhouse never got built, and the land along Michigan Street between the Marquette Interchange and 6th Street has never been developed into anything else. That is apparently going to be changing relatively soon, as Marquette announced on Friday that they have sold the land in question to Bear Development. They will, in turn, build what the university is calling “a vibrant sports and entertainment district” which includes quite a bit of things potentially interesting to the MU community at large.
The most notable item on the list is the 8,000 seat soccer stadium. It will become the home field for Marquette men’s and women’s soccer along with men’s and women’s lacrosse, while the teams will continue to practice at Valley Fields. I think it’s pretty wild that sometime relatively soon, the Golden Eagles will be playing in what amounts to a state of the art soccer and lacrosse facility. The press release from Kacmarcik Enterprises, Bear Development’s partner on this project, says that “a professional soccer league affiliation will be announced soon,” and that sounds an awful lot better than building an arena and crossing your fingers that something happens. Kacmarcik Enterprises is run by Jim Kacmarcik, who is the lead owner of Forward Madison FC, the USL League One team headquartered in Wisconsin’s state capitol. I’m guessing he knows a thing or two about organizing a new pro soccer franchise at the USL level, one step down from Major League Soccer.
In addition to the soccer stadium, the area will also include, or at least is planned to include “an indoor concert venue, a full-service hotel, multi-family residential housing, retail, and food and beverage elements.” The concert venue is expected to seat 3,500 people and will be operated by the Pabst Theater Group. The hotel is planned to be 140 rooms and overlook the soccer stadium. It certainly seems like having all of those things essentially right on campus could be a boon to the university.
It appears that the project will be jumping off pretty soon, starting with the demolition of the abandoned hotel at the corner of 6th and Michigan. Kacmarcik Enterprises expects the stadium to be ready for activity in the spring of 2024. I suspect that means that Marquette won’t actually play a soccer or lacrosse game in the building until the fall of 2024, but it’s entirely possible that the first event in the building could be a regular season home finale for MU lacrosse that spring.
This is all speculation of course, as we won’t know exactly when the teams can play until work actually begins on the construction. As we outlined at the top, this isn’t the first plan for this land, nor is even the second time this century that someone has made some sort of promise relative to MU’s soccer facilities. Anyone else remember Tom Crean’s comments about making a donation to renovate Valley Fields waaaaaay back in the day?
Keep your eyes and ears open for new developments, as always…..