Potawatomi tribe reportedly planning $200M concert venue near its Milwaukee casino

The Forest County Potawatomi Community is reportedly planning to construct a $200 million concert venue adjacent to its Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee. Insider sources told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the proposed venue is expected to accommodate up to 6,000 people and is slated for construction on the properties formerly owned by Cargill Inc. in the Menomonee Valley.

The tribe, which aims to secure city approvals and gain Common Council consent this year, anticipates breaking ground in the first quarter of 2025. A source familiar with the project told the Journal Sentinel: “It would be shovel in the ground in March or at least the beginning of 2025.”

While officials from the Potawatomi tribe have refrained from commenting on the concert hall project, it is speculated that the tribe intends to independently fund the venue, potentially posing a challenge to the city-approved $60 million music theater planned for the Deer District, boasting a seating capacity of 4,500.

The unexpected proposal has stirred anticipation of a competitive scenario between the two venues for performers, setting the stage for a showdown between the Deer District theater, backed by Live Nation Entertainment, and the Potawatomi’s casino-funded music hall.

The Forest County Potawatomi Community’s casino, located at 1721 Canal St., has been reporting substantial gains. In the 12-month period ending June 30, the casino garnered at least $415 million from gamblers, according to Journal Sentinel calculations.

The proposed music hall marks the tribe’s re-entry into the music and entertainment domain. Almost a year ago, the Potawatomi tribe closed the Northern Light’s Theater, a 22-year-old concert and comedy venue with a seating capacity of 600. The new music hall is anticipated to be a seated theater with the flexibility to reconfigure the floor level for general admission audiences.

As Milwaukee already hosts several prominent concert venues like the Miller High Life Theatre, Riverside Theater, and Fiserv Forum, the addition of a major concert hall by the Potawatomi tribe would intensify competition.

Milwaukee insiders are divided on the potential audience attraction, with some foreseeing overlapping demographics, while others suggest that the tribe may focus on traditional performers for casino audiences.

The tribe’s move into the entertainment sector is seen as a strategic response to the competitive landscape among Native American gambling halls. The Potawatomi tribe faces competition from other tribes, such as Ho-Chunk’s new $405 million casino in Beloit and the Menominee tribe’s proposed $360 million Kenosha casino and hotel managed by Hard Rock International.

Questions remain regarding the primary promoter for the Potawatomi venue, as Live Nation and AEG Presents, dominant players in the industry, currently lack any apparent connection with the tribe.