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Moving forward: Milwaukee Co. committee approves $500K for repairs to “Show Dome”

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MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee County committee approved on Tuesday, March 8th $500,000 for repairs to the Show Dome at the Mitchell Park Conservatory.

Officials with Milwaukee County Parks are expected to come back to the County Board in May to provide an update on the project -- and possibly request additional funding to repair the other two Domes (Arid and Tropical).

The goal is for the Show Dome to reopen in May, and for the other two Domes to reopen by the end of the year.

Long-term, a rough estimate for a full restoration of all three Domes ranges from $60 million to $71 million.

The Mitchell Park Domes have been closed since January 29th, after a piece of concrete fell from the Arid Dome.

Mitchell Park Domes

Mitchell Park Domes

In September 2015, Milwaukee County Parks Director John Dargle testified in support of a $500,000 plan to put up safety nets in the Domes. The nets were never installed.

Parks officials say the $500,000 available for Domes repairs will cover the nets in the Show Dome, which hosts the majority of events in the Domes.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele on Tuesday announced the creation of a "Domes Long-Term Planning Steering Committee" that will "help seek public input and create a vision for a facility which serves the needs of a broad spectrum of Milwaukee County residents and organizations, as well as create recommendations on how to proceed."

Abele said this in a statement:

The Mitchell Park Conservatory Domes are part of the cultural identity of Milwaukee County. Though the overall structure of the Domes remains secure, the materials and technology used during construction are now outdated, and concrete debris has been observed falling in recent years. Despite proactive steps to address this condition in 2013 and 2014, the problem continues to occur. These conditions led to the decision to temporarily close the Domes as the County works on implementing a short-term fix that will allow the Domes to safely reopen.

Clark Square Initiative, Journey House, Friends of the Domes, Visit Milwaukee, and Newaukee are just a few of the neighborhood organizations and stakeholders who have already agreed to join the Parks Department and the director of the Domes as part of the steering committee.

These community partners will bring expertise and guidance on a wide range of issues related to the Domes, such as their impact on tourism and economic development, the cultural importance and historic legacy of the Domes and Mitchell Park, revenue and funding sources, and operational needs and structure.

“Short-term fixes have been the status quo at the Domes for more than 20 years. I won’t keep pushing this problem down the road. It is time for us as a community and County to have a conversation about the best way to invest in the next phase of the Domes and Mitchell Park,” County Executive Chris Abele said. “The steering committee I’m announcing today is comprised of leaders who will help guide the public engagement process and ensure that the community has a vital stake in the process of imagining what could be for the Domes and Mitchell Park. We've been talking with these partners for weeks and look forward to getting started.”

Mitchell Park Domes

Mitchell Park Domes

Google Map for coordinates 43.026156 by -87.946393.


  • Liberty

    Scrap the old domes. They are past their days. Instead put up new energy efficient solar greenhouses. If you put up earth style greenhouses. It would be a first and attract people from all over the country. There are many better options than rebuilding what you have.

  • A yooper

    I agree with Liberty. Why end up spending millions on a dinosaur attraction that really isn’t much. Build something like The Land at Disney World or Galveston TX has Moody Gardens. It is combination of what the Domes are with an aquarium, aviary other animals. A very educational place. My boys 8 &11 at the time had a great time. The same can not be said for a trip to the Domes. Cut the lose & build something awesome on the lakefront somewhere. Integrate something with a Great Lakes connection. That would be a reason to come to Milwaukee.

    • Jimmy Dean

      Visited the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago this past month. There was a line a block long to get in. The full admittance for all the shows available was almost $35 each for the adult express Shedd Pass. That would never fly in Milwaukee. If you notice when they post Domes attendance figures, they never post what the real paid attendance numbers are. Free Mondays during the Train Show are packed and generate no revenue. Farmers Market is free and generates no revenue. Losing $1.2 million dollars a year is not good fiscal policy.

  • Jimmy Dean

    No sitting politician wants to be the one to close the domes on their watch. They will patch them up and kick the can down the road as they have for the past 20 years. This must be terribly disappointing to the brides planning their spring/summer/fall weddings at the Domes. Looks like the 2016 operational deficit will easily surpass the yearly $1.2 million that Ablele mentions. That is not a long term sustainable business model or good for MKE County taxpayers.

  • Mike

    I went to the domes once. Terrible experience. I would never go again – even if it was free. In reality, how many tourists are these things bringing in? What is the income based on ticket sales and rentals? I dig the environmental and educational aspect, but it just seems like the domes are not effective or financially viable. I urge our leaders to consider better options. Sometimes, you just have to let go in order to grab onto something better.

  • A yooper

    I guess when it gets down to it. How many things should local government support? Our city leaders decided it was ok to shove in a perfectly good free arena because they were blackmailed by NBA. Now we’re on the hook for 41 home Bucks games. (Playoffs nothing more than a dream) To spend millions to preserve current operations is just a massive money loser.

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