The new Bucks arena has arisen as an issue in the election for a new governor. The biggest issue with it is how it will be financed.
The BMO Harris Bradley Center has been around since 1988 and is one of the older arenas in the NBA. The NBA is encouraging the Milwaukee Bucks to build a new state of the art facility to keep up with the rest of the arenas across the league. The deadline to do so is by the 2017 season, if the Milwaukee Bucks fail to build a new arena the consequence would be that the NBA would buy back the arena from Lasry and Edens for $575 million and potentially sell it to an ownership group in Seattle. Marc Lasry and Wes Edens purchased the Bucks in April from Sen. Herb Kohl for $550 million.
Sen. Herb Kohl has already put $100 million towards to project and in addition to that new Bucks owners Lasry and Edens are also putting toward a significant amount towards a new arena. The big issue now is how the rest of the arena will be financed.
“The city and county of Milwaukee have a lot of issues going on right now,” former Royal Purple sports editor and Racine Journal Times Bucks insider Gerry Woelfel said. “They are reluctant towards putting tax money towards such a project.”
Gov. Scott Walker and Dem. Mary Burke have conflicting views on having a stadium tax involved for the new arena. Gov. Walker argues against the arena tax because the city of Milwaukee already has the tax on Miller Park. The stadium tax on Miller Park runs through 2020 and is for Milwaukee, Racine, Ozaukee, Waukesha, and Washington counties.
Dem. Mary Burke’s view is that there should be a stadium tax. She argues that there should be a public option on the table but it should be last on the list. She also says that you have protect tax payers as well as keep Milwaukee a thriving community and sports teams play a large role in that.
“I think there is a real possibility that there will be state money involved as well in the construction in the arena,” Woelfel said. “So sometime when it’s either Walker or Burke, they will have to address that. When it comes to push and shove, I think they will help in the construction of this.”
The Bucks have looked at several destinations for the new arena mostly aiming towards downtown Milwaukee. The Park East Corridor and land north of the Bradley Center were originally potential sites, but were taken out of consideration. The Bucks owners are in discussions with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on acquiring two buildings that they rarely used which are directly across from the Bradley Center.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean that they will buy [Journal Sentinel buildings], doesn’t mean that they’ll knock it down or that will be where the new arena will be built,” Nelles said. “As far as we believe that could be a potential place for it.”
The Journal Sentinel building is the favorite as for where the arena could go. Other sites have been north of the Bradley Center, which would conflict with potential tourism opportunities. They are leaning more towards the downtown area because it will help increase tourism.
The new arena’s importance goes beyond just the Bucks playing there. The potential new arena could also end up hosting games for Marquette, UW-Milwaukee as well as the Milwaukee Admirals, and in addition to that hosting concerts and events like wrestling, monster truck mashes, the Muppets, and Disney. Some concerts aren’t coming to Milwaukee because they believe that the Bradley Center isn’t a great enough venue for it.
“The message that the Bucks are telling everyone is that this isn’t just a Bucks thing this is a Milwaukee thing,” Nelles said.