Domes Receive Funding as Political Battle Continues


Domes Receive Funding as Political Battle Continues

Domes Receive Funding as Political Battle Continues
Mar 25, 2016
Interior of the Show Dome - Photo courtesy of the Park People of Milwaukee County, Inc., 2009


On Thursday, March 17, the Milwaukee County Board approved $500,000 in funding to repair the Mitchell Park Domes. As reported by Fox6 News, the current funds derive from a prior Board resolution in July 2015, which allocated money from the county’s Debt Service Reserve (DSR), with some $5 million earmarked for projects under the purview of Milwaukee County Parks. Averse to using funds from the DSR to maintain the Domes, County Executive Chris Abele had vetoed that earlier resolution but was overridden by the Board.

According to County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, using funds from the DSR is appropriate, given the budgetary surpluses in recent years: “Certainly, we’d like to take care of our debt and be responsible, but if you don’t even take care of your maintenance when you have a surplus, when will you ever catch up?”

Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson, who is currently facing Abele in the race for Milwaukee County Executive, held a press conference at the Domes on March 20, where he supported preserving the Modernist structures and suggested that Abele had inflated the cost—an estimate of $75 million—for repairing them. Abele’s campaign countered that Larson’s position “smacks of political opportunism.”

In a March 3 interview, Abele stated that, “right now, the Domes lose about $1 million-plus every year,” and “the number of people going to the Domes has been going down.” But Politifact Wisconsin, the independent fact-checking website that rates claims made by Wisconsin officials, has taken issue with those statements: “Abele says the Domes lose more than $1 million every year and that the number of people visiting the attraction has been declining. He’s wrong on both counts. In the past five years, the tab for county taxpayers exceeded $1 million once. On average it was $630,000. Meanwhile, attendance has actually increased 28 percent under his watch. We rate his claim False.”

The Domes were closed after officials found a small piece of concrete (presumed to have fallen from the ceiling) in the Arid Dome in January. John Lunz, president of Preserve Our Parks, and Dawn McCarthy, president of Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, then jointly nominated the Domes for listing in TCLF’s Landslide program in early March, after Abele publicly raised the possibility of demolishing them and building anew. An important and original example of Modernist architecture, the Domes are a rare surviving work by Donald Grieb, one of Milwaukee’s most significant architects.

Mitchell Domes, Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Photo courtesy of The Park People of Milwaukee County, Inc., 2005