A piece of Milwaukee sports history was reassembled at the U.S. Cellular Arena last week. The infamous MECCA Floor was brought out of a twenty-five year storage by its owners of the past three years, the Koller Family, and was put on display at the downtown complex on Friday. The reshowing of the once “home-wood” of the Bucks and Marquette was more than just for spectators, however.
A $10 admission fee brought patrons into a discussion of the city's most current art scene debate. Representatives of the artistic community in Milwaukee were on-hand to push city officials to find a space to publicly display the highly regarded pop-piece permanently, using comparisons to the city's famous art museum and other progressive pieces as credit to its artful nature.
Commissioned in 1977, the MECCA floor sparked waves of heated controversy throughout the national and international sports and arts communities. Designed by artist Robert Indiana, Milwaukee natives were the first to be outraged by the piece, upset that its creator was not a local. Upon completion of the floor, taxpayers were further displeased with the near $30,000 price-tag; $112,000 in today's money.
Religious leaders complained of the openly gay Indiana creating the piece, basketball analysts found the bright-colors and comically-fonted lettering to be out-of-place on a basketball court, not to mention the golden-amber glow of the wood created by pigments on every inch of the surface. But, once revealed at the Milwaukee Arena in 1978, fans and players alike fell in love.
Gregory Koller was one of those fans to become obsessed with his pride in Milwaukee's MECCA floor. Owner of a local flooring company, the late Koller purchased the piece in an online auction in 2010. Ben Koller took over the ownership rights to the floor following his father's death, and continued the crusade to keep it out of storage by displaying it publicly.
Now 84, Indiana is also aiding that effort. The artist traveled from his secluded home off the coast of Maine to Milwaukee to attend the event at the U.S. Cellular Arena, praising the city for its acceptance of his talents and his then-controversial sexuality.