NBA Arenas: Next Stop Milwaukee ( Taxpayers not feeling it-Law makers cautious)

Now that’s Sacramento is in place.  The next NBA challenge is  Milwaukee home of the Bucks

Quick Glance of  Milwaukee,Wisconsin

City Population-6oo,ooo Metro Area 2 million 

Milwaukee is the home to the international headquarters of 5  Fortune 500 companies  Johnson Controls , Northwestern Mutual, Manpower, Rockwell Automation and Harley-Davidson

Milwaukee Bucks Wants a New Arena 

 Last year billionaire owner and former US Senator Herb Kohl declared the team needed a home.  If your thinking you’ve heard the name before your correct, his family owns a few stores throughout the Sacramento Area.

The Bradley Center opened one month before the Sleep Train(Arco) Arena in October 1988.    The building is located in downtown Milwaukee at a cost of ninety one million dollars. The Bradley Center is debt-free. Its construction, $91 million, was paid for 100% by Lloyd and Jane Bradley Pettit, for whom the arena is named.

Once upon a time, the Bradley Center was considered a crown jewel, a state-of-the-art facility that any city would love to call its own.     Today the 20,000 (18,600 for NBA basketball) is considered small.  It has 500,000 square feet (Sleep Train 450,000) the average new arena is  724,ooo square feet. The Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the home of the Indiana Pacers, is 750,000 square feet, as is the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

Critics say the 24 year old  arena doesn’t have the airy feel of the new arena, Bradley doesn’t have the club seats found in the newer building.  The  current area has 47 suites while the new one average 92.

New Arena Boosters Vs the Citizens

Citizens seem to  happy with Bradley.   The Bucks  average 15,677 fans a game, which ranks 21st out of 30 NBA teams.  The Bucks average ticket this season is $47.64.   One of the biggest reasons NBA attendance has been struggling in recent years is the price of tickets.  On average, NBA tickets are 37% more expensive than baseball tickets and rank just behind the NFL in average ticket price.      A new arena would mean higher ticket prices.

Many local writers, bloggers believe, the building isn’t the problem. Its the teams performance that  ultimately fills the seats.  An under performing team ( like the Sacramento Kings) may play in an empty arena.   Throwing an expensive stadium in the picture could only make matters worse. Renovation, not rebuilding is the key to bringing back the Bradley Center.

The Miller Effect

Miller Park (home to the Milwaukee Brewers)  it was built with $290 million of public funds.   From a .01 percent sales tax that began in Jan 1996  the tax applied on purchases in Milwaukee County and surrounding counties of Qzuakee, Racine , Washington and Waukesha.  The use of public finds for a privately owned sports team wasn’t popular.

State Senator George Petak cast the deciding vote in the finding bill.     Nine months after he cast the deciding vote  the State Senator became the first Wisconsin legislator to be successfully recalled from office.  The tax that was due to retire in 2017 has been extended to 2020.

In an April 2013 Journal Times editorial :   Many of us have high-definition visual memory of the day the Bradley Center opened, as it was less than 25 years ago, in the fall of 1988. It was the first indoor sports facility in Wisconsin to include luxury boxes, the latest amenity for the wealthy and for corporate clients.

Apparently, 25 is the new 75 by sports-facility standards, because there’s talk of what is now the BMO Harris Bradley Center needing to be replaced. The talk is coming from the Milwaukee Bucks and David Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Association.

Unless Stern was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court when we weren’t looking — and we do keep an eye on Supreme Court elections — we’re certain that the only people upon whom Stern can impose a hard deadline are NBA owners or NBA employees. Taxpayers in Milwaukee and Wisconsin shouldn’t blink at any upcoming threats to move the team.

It’s extortion, conducted by pro sports teams and leagues upon the cities in which teams currently reside: Build us a new place to play or we will take the team someplace that will.

It’s quite the merry-go-round, and the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and any other county that might get roped into a Basketball Arena District should feel free to get off and try a different carnival attraction.

When this build-new-or-we-move threat comes to town, or to a state capital, the oft-repeated line is the positive economic impact of the big-league team on the city and surrounding communities, specifically that it attracts visitors with money to spend from beyond the surrounding area, and that this money would be lost were a team allowed to move.    Sounds plausible, this line of thinking, but it’s not supported by facts.

study, released in 2003, reports that “economists have found no evidence of positive economic impact of professional sports teams and facilities on urban economies.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has said in recent weeks that, while he wants the Bucks to stay, a regional solution needs to be found to decide whether a new arena is warranted, the Journal Sentinel reported.

We’ll pass on regional solutions, Mr. Mayor. Many of us in Racine County are still waiting for the positive economic impact of the 0.1 percent sales tax we’ve been paying for Miller Park since before it opened in 2001.

We’d like the Bucks to stay; it’s nice to be able to see NBA action without having to drive all the way to Chicago. But our interest in keeping the Bucks is not so great that it warrants the spending of any public money on a new facility.

If the Bucks want a new arena, they should feel free to build it themselves. If that’s not good enough, Seattle is still willing to play this game.

Timothy Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said  that the lease extension the Bucks signed through 2017 could be the last lease the NBA will approve for the arena. At some point before 2017, Sheehy said, the community needs to have a plan in place to replace or remodel the Bradley Center.

“If we haven’t done anything by 2017, I can hear the toast popping – we’re done,” Sheehy said.

One of the thorniest issues is how to pay for a new building that is expected to cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Former Sen. Herb Kohl, who has owned the Bucks since 1985, says he will commit a significant amount of money from his personal fortune to help pay for the new arena to ensure the franchise stays in town for years to come.

That’s the easy part. But where will the rest of the money come from, especially in a “no new tax” era? Moreover, there is no shortage of needs that go well beyond bricks-and-mortar projects, including rebuilding a damaged economy, education and public safety.

Milwaukee Alderman. Michael Murphy released a report by the city’s Legislative Reference Bureau on the economic impact of civic projects in Oklahoma City and sports venues in other American cities. Citing research by two sports economists as well as the Cato Institute, the report said publicly financed sports arenas do not provide a positive economic impact to communities, but can provide a “public good.”

No Ultimatum ……Yet

Herb Kohl hasn’t threatened to move the Bucks,  he believes a public solution can be found.  He said he would make a contribution to the new arena ( he hasn’t given a figure).   The teams lease ends in 2017.




Sources: Wikipeda, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Making the best of the Bradley Center (1/21/2012), Bradley Center future raises big issues for Milwaukee ( 4/4/2013) Media Milwaukee-Bucks Don’t Need New Center