In support of new Bucks arena & funding plan, business, community groups to rally at Capitol

MADISON/MILWAUKEE -- A coalition of business and community groups from the “Play it Forward” coalition will hold a news conference to rally support around the recently-unveiled Milwaukee Bucks arena funding plan on Monday, June 8th.

The news conference will be held at 11:00 a.m. at the Capitol in Madison.


Representatives from The Milwaukee Urban League, the Commercial Association of Realtors of Wisconsin (CARW), the Greater Milwaukee Realtors Association, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), Building Advantage, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will take part in the news conference.

Governor Scott Walker joined state and local leaders, including Speaker Robin Vos, Majority Leader Fitzgerald, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett last Thursday, June 4th in announcing a plan to protect state taxpayers from a loss of approximately $419 million, if the NBA relocates the Milwaukee Bucks.  The total state contribution will be capped at $80 million, according to a news release from the Governor's Office.

“We’ve considered the financial impacts on the state should the Bucks stay or go, and quite simply, we found it’s cheaper to keep them,” Governor Walker said.  “Our plan is the result of a state and local, public and private alliance, and it is developed with the goal of ensuring a good return to our state taxpayers.  Under this plan, for every dollar the state invests, state taxpayers will get a $3 return on that investment.”

A news release from the Governor's Office indicates in April 2014, new owners bought the Milwaukee Bucks from Herb Kohl in a deal approved by the NBA and contingent upon the construction of a new arena by 2017.  If a new arena is not constructed by 2017, the NBA will buy the Bucks back from the current owners and move the team to another state.

If the team is relocated, there will be a loss to state taxpayers of at least $419 million over the next 20 years due to the loss of current revenue, future growth, and the ongoing costs to maintain the Bradley Center, according to the Governor's Office.

Current and former team ownership committed to fund $250 million toward funding the $500 million arena project.  Under this plan, state and local governments will also fund $250 million, or half of the total project costs, toward building the new arena without tax increases or state bonding.  Any cost overruns would be paid by the Bucks.

Working together with local leaders, Governor Walker, Speaker Vos, and Majority Leader Fitzgerald developed a plan that will cap the total state investment in the project at $80 million over 20 years.  Over a 20-year period, this plan protects $299 million in income tax revenue, including the base and projected growth, according to the Governor's Office.

Local governments will fund the remainder of the investment through infrastructure investment, direct funding, and financing through the Wisconsin Center District.

How it works, according to the Governor's Office:

      Benefits of the plan, according to the Governor's Office:

        The sports and entertainment complex that will be part of the arena project is $500 million -- but that will be paid for via the private sector.

        The Republican governor has argued for months that it will cost the state more in lost income-tax revenue if the NBA pulls the Bucks from Milwaukee than it will to pay for a new downtown arena.

        "It`s an important part of the state overall, but also something that I can say to lawmakers -- whether they`re in Rice Lake, Rhinelander, or Marinette, or Sheboygan or anywhere else across the state, this is a good deal for lawmakers anywhere in the state," Walker said.

        "Forget the Bucks for a second. Put this decision inside a box where we just look at the numbers part of this. Option A, we lose an enormous amount of revenue and there`s a hole in the budget and it`s gonna hit all of us and nobody wants to see that. Option B, we have a lot more revenue going forward. The potential upside is larger than we have had for downtown in terms of economic development -- ever," Abele said.

        "What we have here is something I can take to my taxpayers and say `look, we have to make sure this gets done and we have to make sure this gets done in a way that`s fair to you,'" Barrett said.

        "I think the more people get to see this, the more they get to chew on the facts, the better this is going to taste," Tim Sheehy,  president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) said.

        So will lawmakers vote in favor of this plan? Some lawmakers have said they'd like to see the arena funding plan as a stand-alone measure, separate from the state budget.

        Meanwhile, the Milwaukee County Board has announced a public hearing set for next Tuesday, June 9th to discuss proposed economic expansions in the Park East corridor.

        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.

        "It has the potential to transform the city of Milwaukee. This is a huge land sale on the park east publicly owned land, and there`s a lot of public funds involved," Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina  Dimitrijevic said.

        “Many of the conversations about these developments are happening in Madison, outside of the reach of most Milwaukee County residents. We invite the community to this hearing, which is being held at night outside of the Courthouse to maximize public participation," said Supervisor Patricia Jursik, Chairwoman of the Economic and Community Development Committee.

        Including a small parcel owned by the city of Milwaukee, the county and city own almost 10 acres between West Juneau and West McKinley avenues. The owners of the Bucks would lead and invest in development of that land as a separate corporate entity from the team. When they unveiled the plan in April, Bucks owners said they are interested in recruiting other developers to partner on the projects, the Milwaukee Business Journal reports.

        Overall, the project will cover 24 acres of downtown, including the Park East land between West Juneau and West McKinley avenues, a site to the south where the arena would be built, and property where the BMO Harris Bradley Center currently stands.

        The development has been broken into three phases:

        Phase 1: 2015-2017

        Phase 1 includes blocks west of North Fifth Street, plus land where the $500 million Milwaukee Bucks arena would be developed.

        Westernmost block:

          Block between Sixth and Fifth streets:

            Phase 2: 2018-2022

            Phase two would involve demolition of the existing BMO Harris Bradley Center and neighboring parking structure.

            Two blocks of Park East land between Fifth and Old World Third streets:

              Bradley Center site:

                Phase 3: 2022-2027

                The final two blocks of Park East land would be used for parking.

                Old World Third Street:

                  Between Fourth and Fifth streets:

                    The hearing will kick off with presentations on the proposal at 5:30 p.m., and start receiving testimony at 6:00 p.m. from the public. Milwaukee County officials, including the County Executive and the Director of Administrative Services, as well as Milwaukee Bucks ownership representatives have been invited to present to the public on the proposals.

                    “Residents are encouraged to join the discussion about this project that involves significant public financing,” Dimitrijevic said. “We look forward to hearing from you.”