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Summerfest unveils plans for a new north gate entrance, music park

Summerfest unveils plans for a new north gate entrance, music park Banner Image

A plaza with interactive musical elements and lighting will be built outside of a new north gate at the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee.

Plans for that new north gate for the Henry Maier Festival Park along Milwaukee's lakefront were made public Wednesday. Summerfest organizer Milwaukee World Festival Inc. is leading the project.

Summerfest’s rebuilt north gate will include a new ticket building, and modernized turnstyles for people waiting in line to enter the festival grounds. Those changes will ease the congestion for people waiting in line and add space for the metal detectors that are now used at Summerfest’s gates, said Robert Gosse, Milwaukee World Festival director of design and construction.

Construction could start on the new gate in late September for completion in time for the 2018 festival season, Gosse said.

“This new entry way to Henry Maier Festival Park will enhance the festival experience for our fans as well thousands in our community who visit the lakefront,” said Don Smiley, president and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival. “We certainly feel these improvements are additive to the Lakefront Gateway Project. We want to thank American Family Insurance for making this new development possible as we continue to reinvest in the future of the festival, the lakefront and the facility."

Summerfest also is extending the project into part of the Urban Park green space north of the festival grounds. Milwaukee World Festival, which leases the festival grounds, will extend that lease north to cover that land.

That space has seen little planning to integrate with everything happening around it.

“We’ve talked about Urban Park as the space that’s left over after everything else got planned,” Gosse said.

The Urban Park area will remain mostly green space, but new plants will line Harbor Drive’s sidewalks and walkways heading toward the lake. The plaza also will get new bike racks and benches. Milwaukee World Festival will still have portable toilets in that area during festivals, but they will be more obscured by landscaping, Gosse said.

There will be new interactive musical elements in that park, Gosse said. Those could be similar to the benches to the north near the Wind Leaves sculpture, which can be played like an instrument.

“We are still exploring some of these,” Gosse said. “There are music parks throughout the country we want to explore and get some ideas.”

The soccer fields in Urban Park will remain.

The Historic 3rd Ward Architectural Review Board approved the project Wednesday.

The new gate coincides with the broader reconstruction of public spaces at the downtown lakefront. The Lakefront Gateway project rebuilt the Lake Interchange and Harbor Drive, and extended Lincoln Memorial Drive south through the 3rd Ward and past Summerfest’s doorstep. That project opened up the land for a new central gate plaza that has already been approved for the festival grounds.

Future phases of the Lakefront Gateway include a large plaza north of the Summerfest grounds and Urban Park, between Michigan and Clybourn streets. Fundraising and planning are underway for that proposed $25 million city project.

Milwaukee World Festival, meanwhile, is in the midst of a multi-year rehab of the festival grounds themselves. Those include a new plaza outside of its central gate, renovation of the Miller Lite Oasis, U.S. Cellular Connection Stage and other stages. The Marcus Amphitheater will be replaced with a new, 23,000-seat American Family Insurance Amphitheater. American Family Insurance also would have its name over the new north gates.

Eppstein Uhen Architects designed the new north gate. The 3rd Ward firm has worked on several projects on the grounds, including the new mid-gate plaza.

Sean Ryan
Milwaukee Business Journal

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