WEDNESDAY, 6:18pm: The Milwaukee State Senate passed the arena funding bill by a vote of 21-10, and now the proposal will go before the State Assembly for ratification, Jason Stein and Patrick Marley of The Journal Sentinel report. “This deal has taken a lot of work but the Bucks are big bucks for Wisconsin,” said Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), who voted for the plan. “It’s not been easy. It’s not been pretty. But finally we’ve all been at the table.” Bucks team president Peter Feigin released this statement on behalf of the team: “Today’s vote is a significant step forward in our collective effort to build a new sports and entertainment district in Wisconsin. We appreciate the bipartisan leadership in Madison for bringing this transformative partnership one step closer to reality. We’re optimistic that this financing package will receive support in the Assembly and look forward to working with state, county and city officials.”
MONDAY, 10:55pm: Plans for a new Bucks arena in Milwaukee face another key hurdle, with the Wisconsin State Senate poised to vote as early as this week on whether to approve the latest public funding proposal, TNT’s David Aldridge writes as part of his Morning Tip column for NBA.com The league previously received a commitment from new owners Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan, as part of the Bucks’ 2013 sale agreement, that they would work out a deal with the city and state to build a new arena in Milwaukee by 2017, and the league remains committed to the deadline, Aldridge notes. If a new arena is not ready by opening night of the 2017/18 season or doesn’t appear to be on track to meet that goal, the league has the right to buy back the team and put it on the open market, which would presumably include buyers who would move the team out of Milwaukee.
The current ownership group has combined to pledge $150MM toward the construction of the building and former owner Herb Kohl has pledged $100MM toward it. Those totals represent roughly half of what a new arena will cost, so funding remains an obstacle.
The state legislature removed the arena bill, which called for $250MM in public funds to be used toward construction of the arena, from the state’s budget process last week, Aldridge notes. The budget was passed, but the funding of a new building for the Bucks was not addressed, as Aldridge details.
Bucks President Peter Feigin told the state assembly last week that if there is no agreement with the city and state in place over the next few months, the likelihood of the team ultimately moving out of Milwaukee is strong, Aldridge notes.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who officially entered the 2016 presidential race earlier today, several weeks ago announced the latest plan, which would use various public funding mechanisms to help foot the cost of the arena on a site north of the team’s current arena, according to Aldridge. Getting a deal done was always a goal of Walker’s. With his hat in the ring for the GOP nomination, keeping the team in Milwaukee, along with the good press that it would bring, may be an even greater priority for him, although that is simply my speculation.
The proposal would have the city of Milwaukee kicking in $47MM, with Milwaukee County kicking in another $55MM, Aldridge notes. The bulk of the remaining funding would come through new debt issuance by the Wisconsin Center District, a governmental body in charge of several downtown Milwaukee venues, Aldridge explains. That Center District funding is estimated to be $93MM, Aldridge writes.
The majority of the Republican-controlled state legislature supports the arena measure, Aldridge adds, but the bill will need the support of several Democratic state senators. Among their concerns is the new debt that would be assumed by the Center District, Aldridge notes.
Potential buyers of the Bucks, should the team be put on the open market, are keeping a close eye on the situation, as Aldridge points out. Hedge fund billionaire Chris Hansen, who led the group in 2013 that nearly bought the Kings and relocated them to Seattle, is working to bring an NHL team to Seattle. Hansen’s hope is that if he can get a new arena built to house the NHL team, it would help the city bring an NBA team back to town.
The Bucks understand the deadline that the NBA set is fast approaching.
“I don’t think this is a well-kept secret in the state of Wisconsin,” Feigin told Aldridge. “…The NBA, as part of the purchase agreement, put language in to make us build a new arena within a set time frame. That is not new news. We’ve been up front about that. I think the timing of it, and the reality of it when it’s the ninth inning, that people might misconstrue that as leverage or threatening. It’s not. It’s just the fact that for the Bucks to stay in the state of Wisconsin, we will need to construct a new arena.”
The Bucks have taken huge strides in becoming a legitimate contender. Every day that goes by without a funding deal for a new arena in Milwaukee increases the likelihood that this up-and-coming team will reach its peak in a different city.