Milwaukee County leaders hear for first time, details about proposed Bucks arena funding plan

MILWAUKEE -- Members of the Milwaukee County Board got a chance to weigh in on the proposed Milwaukee Bucks arena and the plan to pay for it during a specially-called session on Tuesday, June 9th. They heard from Milwaukee County administrators and Bucks officials for the first time about the plan.

County supervisors had plenty of questions about the plan and the county's role in it. They were not part of negotiations regarding the arena proposal and funding plan. It was noted by a few of them that the person representing the county during negotiations was not at Tuesday's meeting.

County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic wasn't the only one to note the absence of County Executive Chris Abele during Tuesday's informational session.

"On Friday, the mayor sat before the Common Council for two hours and was very upfront and very transparent. He was willing to answer any questions the Common Council had," said Supervisor Steve Taylor.

County Economic Development Director James Tarentino filled that gap instead. He and Bucks President Peter Feigin along with Bucks investor Cory Nettles talked about the overall proposal. But it eventually came down to the proposed $1 for the purchase of the $8 million Park East land from Milwaukee County.

"You know, I have a serious problem with this dollar," said Supervisor Michael Mayo. "This is not helping my constituents to sell it for a dollar."

The owners of the Milwaukee Bucks submitted a proposal to Milwaukee County to buy the vacant land west of the Milwaukee River in early April. The Milwaukee Business Journal says the Bucks would buy almost 10 acres of public land in the Park East corridor for $1 -- for an envisioned $400 million in development over more than 10 years.

The Milwaukee Business Journal says the land price would be set at $1 because of the high cost of preparing the land for development, which includes dealing with underground sewers and piers from the now-demolished Park East Freeway spur. The Bucks also would commit to local hiring requirements for the Park East projects.

The owners envision 1.5 million square feet of residential, office, parking, retail and other new development on four city blocks.

Supervisors asked when the county could see some revenue from the estimated $5 billion annual return on the Bucks arena and sports and entertainment district.

"The information that you're sharing is that all the land being considered by the county for the Park East sale of this development will be under a city TIF," said Dimitrijevic.

The TIF would come from the city and could mean no property taxes from the development for several years.

"I think it`s always going to be a tough sale when two-thirds of the season ticketholders live outside Milwaukee County. So I`m definitely open-minded but if I believe the plan is bad, I`m not going to want to be a part of it," Taylor said.

A public hearing on the proposed sale of the Park East land was set for Tuesday evening.

We're told the Milwaukee County Board's Economic Community Development Committee will address the Park East land sale in depth on Monday, June 15th.