Arena-funding deal may be close at hand; Bucks, city leaders optimistic

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — Milwaukee leaders and the president of the Milwaukee Bucks say a deal could come as soon as Wednesday, May 27th regarding a new $500 million downtown arena.

Following a meeting on Tuesday morning, May 26th, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the number of issues remaining has narrowed. Barrett says the goal is to put a deal together before the state's Joint Committee on Finance by Friday.

"There was a lot of conversation. Again, I thought it was fruitful conversation this morning. This is a complicated process and a complicated deal," said Barrett.

The reason for this week's deadline is so an arena funding plan could be folded into the state budget.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Urban Planning Professor and former state lawmaker Mordecai Lee says the reasoning is simple -- that would keep legislators from having to vote specifically on the arena.

"It can be hidden within a budget -- not hidden in the sense of, we don't know it's there. But in the sense that there never is an up or down vote on that one subject," said Lee.

The cost for a new arena is an estimated $500 million. For more than a year, the Bucks' current and former owners have pledged half of that amount.

The talks now revolve around how to come up with $250 million in public money. One proposal has been for the state to borrow $150 million from the Bureau of Public Lands.

"The Bureau of Public Lands is still part of this equation and there are other facets of it; different facets for the county than for the city. But we're still trying to finalize those things," said Barrett.

As for where the rest of the public money would originate -- and how it would be repaid...

"We're still ironing that out. That's something we're still working on. We're talking with the Bucks. We're talking with the state at the same time," said Barrett.

A spokesman for the Milwaukee County Executive says Chris Abele remained in Madison Tuesday afternoon continuing arena talks. He says for the county executive, this is a number one priority.

Talks will resume on Wednesday.

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