Bidding for a Milwaukee Bucks D-League franchise is getting more competitive, as a trio of Wisconsin communities vie for the team.
In June it was revealed that five Wisconsin communities were seeking to lure the prospective Bucks D-League franchise, including Sheboygan, Grand Chute (Appleton/Fox Cities), Oshkosh, Racine, and La Crosse. In recent months, La Crosse and Grand Chute were eliminated from contention, leaving Sheboygan, Oshkosh and Racine.
Thus far, it has seemed that the Bucks are pursuing the best quality arena in a market this either close to Milwaukee or represents a strong chance to broaden the team’s fan base. WTMJ-TV 4 has an overview of the three bids on the table, as Sheboygan is mulling a renovation, while Oshkosh is pitching a privately-financed project at $14 million, and, Racine is offering a new arena and development.
The bid in Racine is fairly ambitious. Current plans call for a more than $40 million downtown arena and adjacent hotel development that would host the Bucks, and potentially a minor league hockey entry in the USHL. Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold has already backed Racine’s proposal, saying that he will assist the city in efforts to attract a hockey tenant in addition to the Bucks’ D-League team. Currently City of Racine and Racine County officials are pondering how to finance that plan.
In Sheboygan, the focus is on trying to renovate the Sheboygan Armory, which first opened as a Works Progress Administration project in 1942. Earlier this week the city council agreed to compose a resolution that expresses a willingness to offer tax increment financing or another funding source for the renovation, and to look for a third-party operator. The Lakefront Jewel Group is making the case for the Armory upgrade and, while the group says it has private donations lined up to pay for part of the project, the cost and management need to be resolved. More from the Sheboygan Press:
The group hasn’t disclosed a cost estimate but says the project would be privately funded. Monday’s meeting was the first time city officials opened the doors – at least publicly – to the prospect of assisting financially.
Kohler’s Joe Wolf, a former Bucks player and assistant coach who is spearheading the effort, said it’s too early to say which option – buying, leasing or contracting – would work best for the Armory.
Under the group’s proposal, the 52,000-square-foot Armory would be put in the control of a nonprofit that would be charged with maintaining and operating the venue.
Alderman Mary Lynne Donohue said that during a recent visit Bucks officials expressed concern with handing the keys to a startup nonprofit operation, and she felt the city’s support would be needed to close the deal.
City Planning Director Chad Pelishek said the city has also reached out to an established local organization, which he didn’t name, about its interest in running the property should the nonprofit group fail and said the entity would be willing to step in.
According to WTMJ-TV 4, the Bucks might make their decision by the end of the month.
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