MILWAUKEE -- Some big changes are coming to the Big Gig. Summerfest officials announced a new, 10-year partnership with American Family Insurance on Thursday morning, January 26th.
"We feel great to be aligning our brands. These two Wisconsin iconic brands," said Greg Marcus, president and CEO of The Marcus Corporation.
"These (changes) are going to ensure that this great event and this great venue is going to be here for a long, long time," said Jack Salzwedel, American Family Insurance.
What is known as the "World's Largest Music Festival," is scheduled to undergo some significant alterations beginning with the Summerfest name.
"The festival will now be known as, 'Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance'" said Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. Chairman Ted Kellner.
What has been the Marcus Amphitheater on the south end of Maier Festival Park will be removed to make space for a new 23,000 seat venue.
"Which will be known as the American Family Insurance Amphitheater," said Kellner.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the grounds -- a new North Gate.
"Milwaukee World Festival will construct a new North Gate Community Plaza, linking the north end of our grounds to the downtown Milwaukee area," said Kellner.
Beyond the gates, an outreach program is being created in an effort to provide music education to Milwaukee students.
"They recognize that the city of Milwaukee residents should become more active in the activities down here on the Summerfest grounds and they're making that outreach in order to do so," said Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton.
The components of the sponsorship, which takes effect immediately, include:
- Presenting status of Summerfest. The festival will now be known as Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance. The financial resources associated with the American Family Insurance sponsorship commitment will allow Summerfest to maintain its mission, which remains true today after a half century: a tradition of a world-class line-up at affordable prices for the entire community.
- Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. will build a new 23,000-seat Amphitheater at Henry Maier Festival Park, which will be known as the American Family Insurance Amphitheater. Amenities in the new complex will include enhanced production space, additional restaurant options, new restroom facilities and new hospitality areas. Construction is tentatively scheduled for 2019 – 2020.
- Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. will construct a new North Gate and community plaza, linking Henry Maier Festival Park to downtown Milwaukee and the development associated with the Lakefront Gateway Project. Construction is scheduled for late 2017, with the gate completion anticipated for Summerfest 2018.
- Creation of new music education activities which will provide access for Milwaukee students. Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. and American Family Insurance will also participate in community outreach in specific Milwaukee neighborhoods.
Ted Kellner, chairman of Milwaukee World Festival Inc. called this announcement "the most exciting and iconic day in the history of Summerfest."
Regarding the sponsorship, Don Smiley, president and chief executive officer of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. stated, “This is a transformational partnership for Summerfest and Henry Maier Festival Park. American Family Insurance’s commitment will ensure that our festival continues the legacy of hosting the world’s most renowned entertainers. We could not be more excited to join with American Family Insurance and, together, step boldly into the future.”
In addition to the conceptual ideas presented Thursday more renderings and additional details surrounding the project timelines will be revealed at a later date. All capital projects are subject to the approval of the Board of Harbor Commissioners.
"The one constant of cities is they're always changing. That's what's happening here today. Positive change from my standpoint, which is going to take us to the next level," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
"Being able to move forward with this, and knowing the commitment that this group has made to the Milwaukee community, and inviting the whole entire city to be part of this celebration... There's just something special about being able to keep this alive," said Hamilton.
"This is really about the customer and the bands, if you will. We compete on a global basis. We compete here locally and regionally for international touring stars. So this is really an effort to amp up our, no pun intended, to amp up our game and be able to stay competitive well into the future," said Summerfest President & CEO Don Smiley.
Summerfest 2017 – the festival’s 50th edition – will take place June 28th – July 2nd and July 4th – July 9th from noon until midnight and will be closed Monday, July 3rd.