Sports law professor says they're rare, but Bucks arena funding bill includes $2 ticket surcharge

MILWAUKEE -- It could save taxpayers millions -- but if you see a game or a concert at the proposed new Milwaukee Bucks arena in downtown Milwaukee, it will cost you. The Wisconsin Senate on Wednesday, July 15th passed Senate Bill 209 -- a financing plan for the new arena. In that bill -- a $2 ticket surcharge.

Lawmakers say the surcharge will reduce the amount of debt the public owes on the building.

If you've purchased a ticket for an event at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, you've paid a ticket surcharge. For the Bradley Center, those fees pay for maintenance.

The ticket tax for a new arena would help limit the cost of the arena's construction.

The ticket surcharge was added to Senate Bill 209 as lawmakers reached a compromise on a $250 million public funding package for the arena.

Bucks arena funding proposal

Marquette University Sports Law Professor Matt Parlow says such fees are rare.

"Oftentimes because the tenant, particularly, the pro sports team, don`t like them because for every dollar that gets added as a tax, that`s one less dollar they can charge for tickets," Parlow said.

Bucks officials have said they don't support a ticket surcharge.

"We`ve been very vocal about anything that increases the price for the end user is not a good thing. We respect the decisions of the elected officials to get to this solution. It`s not something we would`ve encouraged. It`s not something we like but we`re very happy with where we are," Bucks President Peter Feigin said.

Under the bill, three-quarters of the ticket tax money would go toward the Wisconsin Center District, which is currently slated to borrow $93 million for its share of the funding.

Without the fee, the district's share would add up to more than $200 million after interest.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says all of the ticket tax money should go to the district.

"Once the city, county, and state agreed to how much they paid, I felt any additional dollars should go exclusively to the Wisconsin Center District," Mayor Barrett said.

According to state estimates, the fee would generate $1.5 million per year for the Wisconsin Center District and $500,000 for the state.

Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) says that could lower the district's total debt by about $30 million.

"If it is true that the taxpayers will be saving $30 million for the Wisconsin Center District in saved interest costs, I think that`s a win for taxpayers," Parlow said.

Critics of the fee, including Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) say it's unfair that people in the nosebleeds pay the same fee as those sitting courtside.

Feigin says it's more simple this way and makes it easier to estimate how much the tax will generate from year to year. Although again, Bucks officials oppose the fee overall.

READ IT: Senate Bill 209 - Milwaukee Bucks arena funding proposal

READ IT: Legislative Fiscal Bureau report on changes made to Bucks arena funding proposal

LISTEN: Department of Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel releases Governor's Weekly Radio Address on Bucks arena project

“We will take a close look at the new version of the bill that the Senate just approved to determine if any changes are needed.  We would like to give our members and the public time to review the updated legislation and have a bipartisan discussion.  We are optimistic that a vote on the measure will take place in the next few weeks.”