With Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl announcing he was retiring from the U.S. Senate, the speculation started in Wisconsin about the future of the team — and more importantly, the fate of Bradley Center.
Now 22 years old, it’s pretty clear Bradley Center is economically obsolete; it’s been updated over the years, but the end of easy upgrades are gone, and it will take a serious financial commitment to upgrade it to NBA standards; the easier path may be a new arena. The Bucks are worth the least of any NBA team, and the lack of revenue from the building (as well as the small size of the Milwaukee market) is a prime reason.
Being a senator has been a blessing for Kohl but a hindrance for the Bucks: there’s no way Kohl could ever ask for public financing of a new arena. The Bradley Center was privately financed by the late Jane Bradley Pettit (who contributed $90 million), but it’s doubtful Kohl would privately finance a new NBA-level arena.
There are some other solutions: the controversial sales tax that funded Miller Park is set to sunset in 2018, and it in theory could be extended to build a new arena. That will require state approval at a time when anti-tax advocates rule both houses of the State Legislature as well as the governor’s office.
Sign up for the free weekly Arena Digest newsletter and keep up with the latest happenings! You can sign up here.