Boots & Sabers

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0852, 09 Feb 16

Mitchell Park Domes Crumbling

Keep in mind, they are old.

The Mitchell Park Domes, an iconic Milwaukee landmark for nearly 50 years, may be nearing the end of their lifespan.

All three domes at the Mitchell Park Conservatory have been closed since Friday, a week after a piece of a concrete casting fell and prompted county officials to close the park’s desert dome on Jan. 28.


According to a report released Monday by Graef, a Milwaukee-based engineering and consulting firm: “The Domes are old structures that are showing the effects of their age. They will continue to deteriorate unless major renovations are completed.”

Abele estimated the domes would cost between $65 million and $75 million to replace.

It does beg the question… are they worth it? The Domes are neat and have become iconic, but are they worth $65 million to fix? Or if Milwaukee is going to spend that kind of money, could they build something new and different that could be iconic for the next 50 years? I’d be interested in seeing the visitation numbers and how many people have actually been going to the Domes. Particularly if we filter out the school field trips, how busy are they? I’ve been to them a couple of times in the past 15 years, but probably spent a total of 2 hours in the facility combined.


0852, 09 February 2016

1 Comment

  1. Virginia

    The county reported attendance was 248,000 in 2015. That includes field trips, which is how many young people are introduced to these habitats. Attendance has doubled since the renovation in 2008 and new programming including a winter farmers market, ethnic festivals, and the popular 8-week winter “Music Under Glass” series with diverse bands.

    It may be much more challenging and expensive to try to come up with a vision to replace this complex that is the only conservatory like it in the world. 300 people came to a hearing about the future and nearly all 50 speakers urged doing whatever it takes to repair and preserve the Domes.

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