New Bucks arena, revitalizing downtown Milwaukee: Task force brainstorms ideas

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Milwaukee Bucks will begin the new season with new owners, a new coach and plenty of new players -- but they'll be playing in an old arena: the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Even though the financing for a new arena is far from finalized, the Bucks' new owners say they're pinpointing a location.

"I think clearly there are one or two that are better than the others because this is not just about building an arena. It's about creating an experience and the whole revitalization of the downtown, I think that's a big part of the goal here," Bucks co-owner Wes Edens said.

The debate over who will pay for a new arena, and where it will be located has triggered an even bigger discussion about what kind of community the citizens of Milwaukee want. Last November, the "Cultural and Entertainment Task Force" met to discuss ways to improve Milwaukee. They came together again on Monday morning, September 29th to lay out the price of investing in this city.

The diverse group of community leaders came together with the future of downtown Milwaukee on their minds.

"There`s no question we`ve had a significant under investment in what we have," Cultural and Entertainment Task Force Co-Chair Jay Williams said.

The group brainstormed how to best invest in improving Milwaukee's downtown. But in order to spend money, you have to have money to spend -- so the task force also brainstormed ways to increase revenue in downtown Milwaukee.

"I think we`re a major league city right now. I think we just want to continue to be a great place for people to live, work and play," Williams said.

Among the ideas: implementing a sales tax, or a so-called "sin tax" on things like beer, liquor and cigarettes.

"If not, I think you`re going to see some real loss of infrastructure in the city of Milwaukee. I think you run the real risk of losing an NBA franchise," Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman said.

Although nothing is set in stone at this point, those participating in Monday morning's discussion agreed that some sort of revenue generator is needed in order to keep the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee and additional cultural and entertainment facilities need to be built around a new arena.

"Nobody likes to pay additional taxes, but everybody does like the Public Museum and the Art Museum and quality transit and quality parks, so you can`t have one without the other. Somebody has to pay the bill and we can`t send the bill to Mars because we can`t tax the Martians," Alderman Bauman said.

The task force's next step is to focus its vision for downtown Milwaukee and then share ideas with the public.

Two upcoming listening sessions are planned -- the first for October 14th at the Zoofari Conference Center at 9:30 a.m.