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Summerfest’s Miller Lite Oasis stage to get overhaul

The organizers of Milwaukee’s Summerfest music festival are drawing on familiar faces for the festival grounds’ next big renovation project.

On Monday morning the nonprofit organization Milwaukee World Festival Inc. announced that it plans to renovate the Miller Lite Oasis stage at Henry Maier Festival Park, which plays host to a number of events on the city’s lakefront.

Included in the project will be a redesigned stage facade, a new Miller Lite Brew House bar, video-screen improvements, new bar areas, expanded hospitality areas and a reconfigured marketplace and retail store.

Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects is in charge of the project’s design and Brookfield-based Hunzinger Construction Co. will oversee the construction work. The two firms have a lengthy history of working with Milwaukee World Festival.

Rich Tennessen, president of Eppstein Uhen and client executive for projects related to the festival grounds, said Summerfest and other events all preclude work at Henry Maier park during the summer. “Obviously the best weather (for building) is the festival season,” he said.

But because a lengthy series of festivals largely makes the summer off-limits, most projects must take place during the cold and snowy months of the year.

Tennessen said Eppstein Uhen’s relationship with Milwaukee World Festival dates to the construction of Marcus Amphitheater nearly three decades ago. The stage, which is usually used to present headlining acts at music festivals, was built in 1987.

More recently, the festival grounds underwent $35 million worth of improvements. Those construction projects, completed between 2010 and 2012, included a new entrance gate and pavilion, more dining and restrooms and revamped concert venues. Hunzinger and Eppstein Uhen both worked on the projects.

As for the work on the Miller Lite Oasis, Hunzinger officials placed an advertisement in The Daily Reporter’s JobTrac section announcing they are seeking subcontractors for the project. The ad states that subcontractors are being sought for various sorts of work, including masonry, carpentry, roofing, sheet metal, flooring and painting, among others.

Milwaukee World Festival officials expect the renovation work to finish in time for Summerfest’s 50th festival in summer 2017.

Don Smiley, president and chief executive of Milwaukee World Festival, said in a statement that the project marks the renewal of the corporate partnership between the Summerfest organizers and MillerCoors.

“We are absolutely thrilled to once again renew our partnership and work with MillerCoors to renovate and upgrade the Miller Lite Oasis,” he said.  “Their generous contribution to the project reinforces their commitment to Milwaukee, Summerfest and music fans everywhere. Together, we will transform the live performance venue with an exciting new look and a thrilling experience for fans, artists and our community alike.”

The Oasis stage was last improved in 2006 and has continued to prove popular with the throngs that attend Summerfest every July, according to a news release. With this latest project, Summerfest organizers are trying to ensure the state remains a favorite among fans for years to come.

Before the work can get underway, though, at least one governmental approval will first be needed. Because Milwaukee World Festival leases the festival grounds from the city, the construction project will need the blessing of the Board of Harbor Commissioners.

Summerfest will run next year from June 28 through July 9. The music festival draws about 850,000 people each year on average to see more than 800 acts perform on 11 stages. The music festival first took place in 1968.

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