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Bucks' new floor is 'definitely an echo of the MECCA floor'

Bucks' new floor is 'definitely an echo of the MECCA floor'

By Doug Russell. CREATED Sep 24, 2013

MILWAUKEE - A month ago, we all celebrated a part of our city's past being resurrected when the much-beloved, but little-thought about anymore, MECCA basketball floor was laid out in its original home for a public event.

Today, part of the floor stands as a new but temporary sculpture at City Hall, but has already, in the last five weeks, sparked such a wave of nostalgia that Robert Indiana's inspiration will once again make the NBA in Milwaukee cutting edge. For tonight, using the Milwaukee Art Museum as a backdrop, the Bucks will unveil their new floor.

"It is going to be second-to-none for not only a visual piece, but the thinking behind it and the thinking forward with how it will be used," according to Andrew Gorzalski, who was tipped off to the Wisconsin Center trying to sell off the old MECCA floor on a salvage website two years ago and even took out a personal line of credit to secure the relic until Gregory Koller, the now-deceased owner of Prostar Surfaces was able to buy and protect it.

Last month, shortly after the successful public re-unveiling of what has been described as the world's largest pop culture painting, the Bucks decided to capitalize on the strong sentimentality of Robert Indiana's design, and took Ben Koller, the current owner of the MECCA Floor, up on his offer to go find the reclusive and aging Indiana at his home on one of the islands off the coast of Maine.

"We went out there and just showed up," Koller says. "Got on the ferry, (it was) pouring rain, and I knew that we had a mission. the Bucks were the number one priority going there because I knew the timeline was very short. I showed (Indiana) the Bucks design and he gave us his blessing."

And much like in 1977 when Indiana himself insisted on no prying eyes at the arena until his work was ready to be unveiled, today, no one outside of the design team, top Bucks officials, and the NBA have seen what the finished product looks like.

"It's definitely an echo of the MECCA floor," Gorzalski says. "There are elements that with Robert Indiana's blessing that we are paying an homage and a tribute to him, and the history and heritage of that old MECCA floor."

Gorzalski notes that the new floor, installed by Prostar, now owned by Ben Koller's uncle Hal Koller, is 100 percent Wisconsin; using all-Wisconsin-gown wood, all Wisconsin materials, and of course being built by a Wisconsin-based company.

As for the original MECCA floor, it is currently being displayed at Milwaukee's City Hall rotunda, where it is free and open to the public to see, touch, read about, and even be inspired by.

The BMO Harris Bradley Center will host the old floor in sculpture form this basketball season, as their new floor, inspired by the MECCA design, will be in use.

But for how long? It is both Koller and Gorzalski's fondest hope that the Bucks original floor and the one that is being unveiled tonight will someday have a permanent home, in a new arena that will be needed if the Bucks are going to remain here in Milwaukee.