Bucks arena: Two polls tell two very different stories when it comes to voter support

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce (MMAC) has released a poll regarding the new Milwaukee Bucks arena, and that poll's results are in stark contrast to the results of a poll released by the Marquette University Law School earlier this month. The MMAC poll shows 67% of Wisconsin voters would support a new arena when presented with a complete proposal.

The Marquette University Law School poll released on April 16th shows 79% oppose borrowing about $150 million to support a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, with 17% supporting the proposal. In the Milwaukee media market, 67% oppose funding for an arena and 29% support it. Those views vary by less than 2 percentage points among the city of Milwaukee, the surrounding suburban counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, and the seven other southeastern Wisconsin counties included in the media market.

In the rest of the state only 9% support borrowing for an arena, with 88% opposed, according to the MU poll.

Milwaukee Bucks officials have unveiled plans for a $500 million arena and $500 million sports and entertainment complex that would transform downtown Milwaukee. The entertainment district would be paid for mostly by private enterprises — but the arena requires public funding.

City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and state officials have been meeting to determine how the arena would be paid for.

"We haven't come up with any firm numbers as to who's gonna do any part of it. That's part of the negotiations that we are continuing to undertake," Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said.

"We're gonna continue the negotiations to see how we can make this possible," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

On Monday, the MMAC released its poll, which indicates that when presented with a complete proposal, 67% of Wisconsin voters said they'd support building a new Bucks arena, and 63% support the state borrowing $150 million to make it happen.

"The purpose of the poll was to put the facts in front of the voters and recognize that there's a cost to saying no. The point of our poll was to collect all the facts," MMAC President Tim Sheehy said.

These results vary significantly from the results of the recently released Marquette University Law School poll. A statement from Americans for Prosperity indicates even stronger opposition to borrowing to pay for an arena, saying "government should not be involved in paying for sports arenas, period."

Sheehy says these two polls put very different contexts around their questions.

"The Marquette poll is a good poll, but it asks just the question: 'Do you wanna borrow $150 million in the context of the state budget?' Our poll puts the facts around that and shows what happen -- the positive benefits to the state of borrowing money and keeping the NBA team here and building all the catalytic development around the arena," Sheehy said.

Marquette University released a statement Monday indicating its support for the construction of a new downtown Milwaukee Bucks arena -- saying the university would be the Bucks' top tenant.

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