American Family Field repairs: Evers proposes 1-time, $290M payment

As part of his upcoming biennial budget proposal, Gov. Tony Evers wants to use part of the state's $7 billion surplus to keep the Milwaukee Brewers franchise in Milwaukee. Despite some criticism, he sees it as a bargain.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Peter Burgelis cheered the governor's announcement, saying he sees the Brewers as part of the community.

"You can't call yourself a Milwaukeean if you don't go tailgating at County Stadium, or Miller Park, or AmFam Field," said Burgelis. "That's how we all grew up here. We're all Brewers fans, and we want to be sure that the Brewers stay in Milwaukee for decades to come."

The governor sees this as a win-win for Wisconsin and the Brewers because it covers all the bases: For $290 million, it keeps the Brewers in Milwaukee for at least 20 years, it keeps 3,000 full- and part-time jobs in Milwaukee, the Stadium District can uphold its obligation to the team, and Wisconsin reaps the benefit -- an estimated $200 million every year in sales tax receipts. 

"The $290 million investment from the state is absolutely a large sum of money, but I am fully confident and feel very comfortable in saying that we're going to deliver well in excess of that back to the state," said Rick Schlesinger.

American Family Field

Schlesinger said the money could only be spent on long-term maintenance like roof repairs and other improvements to meet MLB standards.

Republicans criticized the announcement saying he kept them out of negotiations on the deal, but Schlesinger said he's confident it will get done.

"We want to be here long-term," he said. "That's our goal."

Details of Evers' $290 million proposal

Evers' proposal sends a one-time cash payment of $290 million to the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, which owns and leases American Family Field to the Brewers. That money is only to be used for necessary maintenance, repairs and improvements at the 22-year-old ballpark.

The deal would extend the Brewers' lease from 2030 to 2043. It also requires the Brewers spend some of their own money on the improvements and sign a non-relocation agreement.

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American Family Field

"As governor, and also someone who also happens to be a lifelong Brewers fan, I'm so excited about the historic opportunity we have today to keep Major League Baseball here in Milwaukee for another twenty years and to usher in a new generation of Brewers fans in Wisconsin who can grow up rooting for the home team just like I did," Evers said in a statement.

The governor's office describes the funding initiative as a financial and cultural save for the state.

Back in June, the Brewers identified the district did not have the money to pay for essential improvements as outlined in their lease. That led the team to commission Venue Solutions Group to study the ballpark, focusing on what long-term improvements are needed and how much they'd cost.

The state also conducted its own study through CAA ICON.

If the ballpark district does not fulfill its lease obligations to the Brewers, the state risks losing the franchise. It's a risk Gov. Evers doesn't want to take.

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"Using just a small portion of our state’s historic surplus, we can not only save over $200 million in taxpayer dollars in the long run, but keep good-paying, family-supporting jobs here and ensure the Brewers remain in Milwaukee and continue to play a critical role in our state’s economic success for another two decades," Evers said.

A 2020 Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce study found American Family Field has contributed around $2.5 billion to the state's economy since it was opened in 2001.

Schlesinger said the team does not want to revive the five-county sales tax once used to fund the district. The tax sunset in 2020.

"The Milwaukee Brewers are committed to working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to extend the life of American Family Field and help make Major League Baseball possible in Wisconsin for the next generation," Schlesinger said in a statement.

He also made it clear that the team is asking for nothing more than what is outlined in its lease.

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"We thank Gov. Evers and the Legislature for their consideration of this issue as we work with them, the Stadium District, and all key stakeholders on next steps," Schlesinger said.


Rick Schlesinger, Milwaukee Brewers:

"The Milwaukee Brewers are committed to working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to extend the life of American Family Field and help make Major League Baseball possible in Wisconsin for the next generation. This will require creative solutions that garner bipartisan support. We oppose the return of the five-county tax, and we are prepared to commit to a lease extension for the Brewers to remain at American Family Field through at least 2043.
"We are not asking for the Stadium District to take on new financial obligations under the lease, or for a new ballpark – just the resources to make sure the Stadium District’s existing obligations are met. As we said when the Stadium District’s funding shortfall first became known, we have remained focused on gathering facts and information that everyone can rely upon through a full capital needs assessment. This process of having Venue Solutions Group (VSG) perform a capital needs assessment, combined with additional diligence by the state’s consultant CAA ICON, has established those facts.
"American Family Field has had a $2.5 billion statewide economic impact, created thousands of jobs, and made it possible for a team in a small market like Milwaukee to compete. We thank Gov. Evers and the Legislature for their consideration of this issue as we work with them, the Stadium District, and all key stakeholders on next steps."

Tim Sheehy, chair of Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District:

"The Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District and Milwaukee Brewers have a strong public-private partnership that has served to support Wisconsin as home to one of Major League Baseball’s great franchises. We look forward to working with the Milwaukee Brewers to achieve the mutual goal of a long-term lease extension.  We applaud the Governor for this forward-looking investment to keep professional baseball in Wisconsin for the next generation, along with its economic impact.  We look forward to working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle, and the Brewers, to ensure the District can do that." 

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley: 

"The Brewers have been a wonderful partner to Milwaukee County from investing in our parks, gifting new amenities to baseball diamonds throughout the county, and encouraging the next generation of major leaguers to fall in love with the sport," said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. "Governor Evers’ budget will keep the Brewers in our region for another twenty years. Not only are the Brewers committed to improving Milwaukee County, but they are also undoubtedly an economic catalyst that other businesses and workers rely on throughout the year to be successful."

"Under the plan, the state will provide a one-time investment of $290 million to the baseball park district from the state’s historic $7 billion surplus to maintain, repair, and improve the baseball park facilities at American Family Field. The funds ensure the baseball district can meet its existing lease obligations and responsibilities to the Brewers. The Governor’s budget proposal is projected to save taxpayers over $200 million over the lease term of the Milwaukee Brewers while generating more than $400 million in revenue over the next 20 years.

"In order to move Milwaukee County forward and improve life for our residents we need strong partners at every level of government. We are ready to be a strong partner with the Governor and the state legislature to improve the quality of life for our residents."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester):

"When the Bucks had a similar situation, Democrats and Republicans worked together to find a solution on the best path forward. Instead, Governor Evers drops this bomb in the budget, never mentioning or attempting to collaborate with the Legislature in any way. These are typical antics for him not being a leader but rather dictating exactly what to do and how to do it.

"Governor Evers’ style makes it difficult to generate consensus. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to insure that the Brewers stay in Wisconsin."

State Sen. Democratic Leader Melissa Agard (D-Madison):

"When people think of summer in Wisconsin, they think of the Brewers, bratwursts, and Bob Uecker. It is clear that the Brewers are part of the fabric that makes up our state. The plan Governor Evers created alongside Brewers’ leadership ensures that the team will remain in Milwaukee and is a responsible way to utilize our historic surplus. The Brewers and American Family Field play a vital role in our state’s economy. The organization supported more than 3,000 jobs last year, including 1,100 union jobs of Brewer and vendor employees.

"Loving our Brewers isn’t a Democratic issue or a Republican issue and I’m hopeful this budget provision receives bipartisan support to maintain this cultural and economic cornerstone of Wisconsin. Simply put, this plan is a home run for our state."

Andrew Davis, MMAC:

"MMAC helped lead the effort to pass legislation and secure the follow-on funding to build (then) Miller Park. Our goal was to sustain the asset of Major League Baseball for greater Milwaukee and Wisconsin. That success has led to 20 plus years of marquee publicity, fan enjoyment, and economic impact. We appreciate the Governor’s leadership to find a path forward to extend the current lease until 2043.  We look forward to working with the Legislature and Governor as this proposal takes shape."