The state of Wisconsin would match the $250 million put up by team owners for a new $500 million arena, but the team would be responsible for any cost overruns under a Milwaukee Bucks arena plan unveiled today by Gov. Scott Walker and local leaders.
The Bucks arena plan would have the state directly borrowing $55 million toward the arena construction, with the Wisconsin Center District — which runs the convention center and Milwaukee Theatre and would add this arena as well as oversight of BMO Harris Bradley Center and Milwaukee Center for Performing Arts to its portfolio– would float $93 million in bonds. Uncollected debt on the Milwaukee County books would go toward the project, while the city would create a TIF district and build a parking ramp, putting Milwaukee on the hook for some $47 million. The total public money would be capped at $250 million.
For Walker, the argument is simple: without a new arena, the Bucks are likely out of town. When Wesley Edens and Mark Lasry bought the Bucks from Herb Kohl, they did so with a provision inserted by the NBA: the league has the right to buy the franchise back for $575 million. If the Bucks leave, that takes at least $10 million a year in taxes paid by the team out of the local economy. And with the Bucks owners proposing $500 million more in development north of the arena, there’s an opportunity to transform open fields in downtown Milwaukee into needed development.
The announcement does move the process forward at a time when the Wisconsin Legislature is finalizing the next state budget. It’s not yet known whether legislators will vote separately on a Bucks arena financial plan or if it will be rolled up into the budget bill. Indeed, if the proposal were to come to a vote today, the Republicans who control both houses — who mostly hail from rural areas — will not support such a plan. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
At least 12 of the 19 GOP senators want to see the arena provision removed from the budget, with some flatly demanding it and others saying it’s simply the best option. A 13th GOP senator, Paul Farrow of Pewaukee, wants either removal or a full Senate vote on the Bucks proposal as a budget amendment.
Approval hasn’t been locked down in the Assembly, either.
“I’m not a believer in government supporting sports arenas for millionaire players and billionaire owners,” said Rep. David Murphy (R-Greenville). “This is a deal that needs to be vetted very well. The tires need to be kicked and maybe not with one foot but two.”
RELATED STORIES: Talks continue on new Bucks arena funding; Ambitious Bucks downtown arena plan unveiled; WI board could finance new Bucks arena; State: We need to know new Bucks arena cost; Populous, local firms land Bucks arena design contract; Vos: New Bucks arena funding questionable; Bucks arena funding part of 2015 Wisconsin budget, Bucks prez: We need public financing of new arena, New Milwaukee Bucks arena details expected by end of month, Bucks arena financing may include “jock tax”, Bucks sale carries big clause: no new Milwaukee arena, no sale