Potawatomi Hotel & Casino has agreed to be the presenting sponsor for the city of Milwaukee streetcar, signing a 12-year, $10 million deal.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Business Journal, Mayor Tom Barrett said as part of the deal, Potawatomi has also agreed to pay the fares for all riders during the streetcar’s first year of operation. The funds will be used to offset the system’s operating costs.
The name of the streetcar system will be “The Hop, presented by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.”
Construction of the streetcar’s initial phase is well underway. It is scheduled to begin service in late 2018. That first phase will be a 3.9-mile loop running from the Milwaukee Intermodal Station on West St. Paul Avenue, through downtown, and north on Jackson Street to Ogden Avenue.
A loop to the downtown lakefront, along Michigan and Clybourn streets, would start service in late 2019. The streetcar’s ridership is projected to be 1,954 a day in 2018, increasing to 2,900 daily in 2020.
“For us, this announcement dovetails with all of the economic development going on right now in downtown Milwaukee,” Barrett said, pointing out that more than $4 billion in development had already occurred in recent years and $3 billion more was planned. “The momentum that is occurring in this area of the city is amazing.”
Barrett said the sponsorship would cover some, but not all of the annual operating costs of the streetcar. A chief concern of critics of the project has been that while the construction costs of the system are being paid with federal dollars and grants, taxpayers would be likely required to pick up the operation and maintenance costs of the streetcar.
“The Forest County Potawatomi have committed to investing in Milwaukee. Like our recently announced hotel expansion, this is one more example of that commitment,” said Potawatomi Hotel & Casino chief operating officer Rodney Ferguson. “We are all about ‘building the excitement.’ As Wisconsin’s most visited entertainment destination, we see the streetcar as just one more way to make Milwaukee an attractive place to live, work, play and do business.”
The name “The Hop” was developed as part of a branding process conducted in 2016 with the help of a community panel. The panel included representatives of community and business groups, neighborhood associations, small businesses, corporations, transit riders, tourism and entertainment partners.
City of Milwaukee public works commissioner Ghassan Korban said officials hope the name “The Hop” will become part of the local vernacular.
“Hop on. Hop off. It’s that simple. With The Hop, the city is easier to navigate, neighborhoods are more connected and your destination is just a quick hop away,” he said. “We liked that the name, like the streetcar, is easy, approachable and inviting to all.”
Brand elements, including vehicles, signage and website, will be developed and rolled out in early 2018. In the coming months, the city will develop and seek additional sponsorship and advertising partnerships.
Illinois-based Transdev Services Inc. was recently selected to operate the system under a contract valued at about $3.6 million a year.
Transdev will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the streetcar. Brookville Equipment Corp., which is manufacturing the streetcar vehicles in Pennsylvania, will maintain the vehicles once they are in service under a subcontract with Transdev.
Milwaukee Business Journal By Mark Kass and Rich Kirchen