An off-season encore: Summerfest South End Development – Phase I
Published: May 3, 2012
Tags: Big Backyard, Briggs & Stratton, Eppstein Uhen Architects Inc., Henry Maier Festival Park, Hunzinger Construction Co., Kevin O’Toole, Milwaukee World Festivals Inc., Pierce Engineers Inc., Summerfest, Summerfest South End
Experienced contractors lead revamp at Summerfest grounds
Given their repeat construction performances at Milwaukee’s Summerfest grounds, a handful of architects and contractors are something like off-season roadies for the music festival’s home base.
The 22-acre lakefront site formally known as Henry Maier Festival Park hosts the annual Summerfest music festival, as well as a slew of ethnic and cultural gatherings throughout the warm weather months. To keep the park grounds modern and ready for millions of annual patrons, property owners Milwaukee World Festival Inc. have opted for a phased renovation of the facilities, during down periods from October to May.
In 2011, that meant the start of a two-part overhaul of the South End. Phase 1 work included construction of a new entrance gate and pavilion, enhanced internal and external ticket offices, more dining and restrooms, and a reconfigured stage, seating and thematic elements for its Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard performance area.
Kevin O’Toole, executive vice president and co-owner of Hunzinger Construction Co., has been part of a team down at the park for the past few winters. The consistent work has provided Hunzinger with a scope, he said, of how to deal with the sprawling grounds. The approach includes holding weekly and daily project meetings, and developing a framework for the scheduling challenges winter presents.
O’Toole offers some unique perspective as a part-time performer, as well. He has performed on Summerfest’s stages with his Americana rock band, H2-Oh.
“That’s an extra element I can bring, that ear,” O’Toole said with a light laugh. “What I’ve taken as a musician absolutely helps when we’re going through design development and watching the process from the performer’s standpoint.”
The project architects, Eppstein Uhen Architects Inc., Milwaukee, had their own advantage in that the firm had already drafted a possible future for the entire festival grounds in the early 2000s as part of MWF’s “Millennium Plan.”
When it came time for a proposal for just the South End work, the firm refreshed its layout to line up with opportunities in the property owner’s changing plans. They were able to do so in a restricted time frame, said Troy Jacoby, senior design architect, due to prior work there and knowledge of park expectations.
With Phase 1 complete, Hunzinger and Eppstein Uhen are now part of the ongoing Phase 2 work, which will establish the M&I Classic Rock stage as a permanent structure.
— Justin Kern