The Midwestern MECCA: Long-Lost BB Court Returns to Milwaukee

The iconic original MECCA floor designed by artist Robert Indiana.
The iconic original MECCA floor designed by artist Robert Indiana.
Photo by Lucian McAfee

The MECCA panels seen from above and displayed as art in Milwaukee's historic City Hall.The MECCA panels seen from above and displayed as art in Milwaukee's historic City Hall.Photo by Lucian McAfee

As unbelievable as it may sound, the colorful and iconic hardwood floor that the Milwaukee Bucks and Marquette Warriors played on in the late '70s and throughout the '80s—the only pro and college basketball court from that era completely covered with paint—was put up for sale in 2010 on an architectural-salvage website and listed simply as "reclaimed gym floor." Even more mind-blowing is what's become of that floor today. Designed by renowned New York City artist Robert Indiana in 1977 as a way to distinguish the Milwaukee Exposition Convention Center and Arena (or the cooler-sounding MECCA) from other NBA venues, the floor was widely praised for its transcendent appeal in bridging the worlds of athletics and art. But when the Bucks moved across the street to the Bradley Center in 1988, it was left behind, placed in storage and seemingly forgotten about before showing up for sale online. Greg Koller, owner of local wood floor contracting company ProStar Inc., bought the 7,200-square-foot, 40,000-pound MECCA floor for $20,000 but died shortly after the deal went through. His son, Ben, took over responsibility for the floor, and with Indiana's encouragement and blessing, divided the surface into 45 much-more-manageable modular pieces that can be stood on end like dominoes to create multiple designs. Ben Koller says his dad's vision was to use the floor to celebrate Milwaukee's spirit of risk-taking and innovation, and to also in some way serve as inspiration for future generations to always "think big." The modular units have been on display in Milwaukee's City Hall, and they can be seen in the Bradley Center atrium through mid-March. Then the pieces will move to either General Mitchell International Airport or the floor's original home in the facility now known as U.S. Cellular Arena.

Mecca Floor Mke City Hall 1826 Lg

Mecca Floor Mke City Hall 1871 Lg

Screen Shot 2013 11 06 At 2 01 27 Pm

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