"It's absolutely doable:" NBA commissioner optimistic after visit to MKE to discuss new Bucks arena
MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The commissioner of the NBA was in Milwaukee on Monday evening, November 24th for a meeting with the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and business leaders. On the agenda, how and where to build a new arena.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver signed autographs as he arrived in Milwaukee. He then visited the Brown Bottle restaurant in Milwaukee's Schlitz Park, the future home of the Bucks' front offices. Silver brought with him a message and a deadline for the Bucks and the City of Milwaukee -- build a new arena by 2017 or risk losing the team to another city.
Two big questions remain: Where will the new Bucks arena be located, and how will it be paid for?
"I never got the impression that anybody wanted anything but the Bucks to stay here," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.
"Right now we have one of the oldest stadiums in the NBA, I think the oldest stadium in the NBA. The idea that we can go from that, we're going to put together a stadium that I think is probably going to be beautiful to look at. It's hard to imagine that not stimulating interest," Abele said.
"They`re still looking, obviously, at the sites here west of the river. That still is, I`d say, their preferred site," Mayor Barrett said.
Rich Kirchen with the Milwaukee Business Journal tells FOX6 News that preferred site is the location spanning the UW-Milwaukee Panthers Arena and the Journal Communications building.
"The Bucks like that site. It's pretty centrally located," Kirchen said.
The Panthers Arena is publicly owned by the Wisconsin Center District and many in the UW-Milwaukee community are against the idea.
Aside from a location, there is the puzzle of funding. The Bucks new owners have pledged $100 million for a new arena -- as has Bucks former owner Herb Kohl. But how much will come from private financing and how much will come from public money?
Many are against using public funds to finance the arena, but Mayor Barrett says the conversation Tuesday was all positive.
"My job here is to make decisions about (taxpayer) resources and deliver services, first and foremost -- and I take that seriously. To their credit, the Bucks owners, when I've met with them, they've always understood that," Abele said.
One potential idea is a so-called "jock tax" -- setting aside the taxes NBA players already pay the state and using them specifically for building the new arena. That could cover a $150 million loan from the state.
"It's the one thing that has not been ruled out by Gov. Walker or the Republicans in the State Legislature. And they're the ones who would ultimately give sort of, the high-level approval on something like that," Kirchen said.
"We`re very focused on the time frame. We think if we get a site nailed down in the next 30 days or so -- that gives us a chance to design and figure out what we want to build and then get to business of getting it financed and under construction," Bucks owner, Wes Edens said.
Leaving the meeting Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Silver was optimistic.
"Feel very confident that these guys are gonna get it done. I think it`s absolutely doable. We`ve seen an enormous amount of positive energy in this community," Silver said.
Also in town on Tuesday was Michael Redd. He spent a decade playing for the Bucks. He says he wants to be involved with the organization moving forward, but exactly what his role would be hasn't been finalized.