BMO Harris buys naming rights to Bradley Center

The Bradley Center has a new name and, perhaps, a more specific expiration date.

BMO Harris Bank announced Monday that it bought naming rights to the home of the Milwaukee Bucks and Marquette men's basketball, which will now be known as the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

It's part of a six-year, approximately $18 million partnership with several businesses, including Harley-Davidson, Kohl's, Northwestern Mutual and Rockwell Automation. Specific contract lengths and contributions were not disclosed.

The deal comes as Milwaukee Bucks owner Sen. Herb Kohl is pushing for a new arena. And if a new building isn't in place by the time the new sponsorship deals run out, the Bucks' future in Milwaukee will be in doubt.

"That would not be a good place to get to," Kohl said. "I can't anticipate what would happen, but that would not be a good place to get to."

Kohl acknowledged that Monday's announcement was a step toward establishing a more firm timeline to put a new arena in place.

"Yes, there is a timeline here," Kohl said. "We're talking about five years, an extension for five years here, and there is a recognition on the part of all parties that by then, something positive is going to happen."

The Bradley Center opened in 1988, making it one of the NBA's older arenas.

The 77-year old Kohl, who is retiring from the Senate, has pledged a "significant" contribution toward the construction of a new arena out of his own pocket, but has said he believes the project probably would need contributions from the public and the local business community.

And while he is confident it will happen, he knows that won't be an easy sell.

"It's a heavy lift," Kohl said.

The Bucks have made the playoffs once in the past six seasons. Their average attendance last season was 14,718, fifth-lowest in the league.

"It's always better if you're winning," Kohl said. "We understand that. It drives attendance, it drives revenue, it drives success."

The Bradley Center was funded by a $93 million contribution from philanthropist Jane Bradley Pettit, who named it in honor of her father. Her children, David and Lynde Uihlein, issued a statement of support; the family previously had opposed selling naming rights to the arena.

Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce president Tim Sheehy called Monday's announcement a "bridge" to a new facility.

"All good things have a lifespan, and at some point, the Bradley Center is not going to be able to support the economics of the games that are played here," Sheehy said. "So we're going to have to look to the future. So by a bridge, we're talking about a six-year bridge that gets this community in a position to discuss the future of NBA basketball and other events. The clock is ticking. And this is a great milestone, but it's one brick in the road toward our future, and our future is going to include a new facility at some point."

The deal also establishes a special seating section for Bucks games and other events that will be available to not-for-profit organizations.


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