Conference on Bucks arena concludes public funding is bad, could lead to task force on publicly funding arena

There was big ol’ conference at Marquette Law School yesterday to discuss whether a new Milwaukee Bucks stadium would be worth it (you can watch the video here), which prompted a report by Milwaukee’s Legislative Reference Bureau that concluded that public funding of sports facilities doesn’t have a positive economic effect. And so what did the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which co-sponsored the conference, take away from the event?

According to sports economist Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College, the majority of long-term economic studies show that building a new arena will not have a positive economic impact.

But, as usual, there is a caveat, Zimbalist told attendees at a sports arena conference on Monday at Marquette University’s Law School.

He said there are situations in every city that can provide benefits because of the way the financing is determined or the way the local economy works. There also may be positive economic spinoffs if there is economic development nearby.

Zimbalist also pointed out that, over the last 30 years, the financing split to build a new arena generally has been 65% public financing and 35% private financing.

And then Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce president Tim Sheehy announced that he hoped the conference would lead to a task force to discuss a new Bucks arena, because that’s what he always says.

So arena subsidies are almost always a bad idea, but there might be exceptions. And anyway, so long as everybody else is doing it, what the hell, why not?

8 comments on “Conference on Bucks arena concludes public funding is bad, could lead to task force on publicly funding arena

  1. Before anyone complains that I’m slandering lemmings, here’s the requisite link to how Walt Disney pushed them off that cliff:

  2. Another sweet coincidence is that the Journal Sentinel’s parent company owns the AM radio station with the broadcasting rights to Bucks games.

  3. We fake-kill lemmings to prove the larger myth/exaggeration of mass migration due to overpopulation, but we also build stadiums and attribute every bit of money spent on gameday to be due to the entertainment to prove the myth of economic impact. Zimbalist has you outmaneuvered.

  4. Whoever loses the Sacramento/Seattle derby will likely contact the current owner of the Bucks and make them an offer-meaning that the Bucks will be in the running to be the next Kings or Sonics. This arena conference yesterday seems like an opening shot of things to come here.

  5. I smell a Miller Park sales tax extension almost as strongly as I smell NBA expansion.

    I just hope the new Milwaukee arena is designed with an arena floor that sits below ground level. I went to MetLife Stadium (New York Jets/New Jersey Giants new stadium) for WrestleMania and it was just really poor. The seating bowl has a nice shape (though I wish the upper levels had more overhang to get fans closer), but the traffic flow and concourses are kind of a mess because they built the darned field at ground level. It kind of amazes me that stadium architects today reject good ideas like putting the main concourse at ground level.

  6. When you’re building in a swamp, it’s tough to dig too far down. Same issue with Red Bull Arena in Harrison.

  7. Ben: We don’t often agree (I’m sure you’ve noticed…) but I would not rule out NBA expansion either. The league has run with an odd number of teams in the past, of course, so there isn’t any real need for them to go to 32 teams immediately.

    In addition, if it does turn out that both Seattle and Sacramento “supergroups” can fill a pit the NBA previously believed was bottomless with taxpayer dollars (and maybe a few private $ too), why wouldn’t they take both parties’ money rather than just choosing the largest pile?

    Now… does anyone else think Hansen might actually prefer an expansion team to the Kings? You know, a chance to start fresh and lose all the Maloofs dead weight… Maybe he can even convince the league to hand him 2 or three extra first round picks over the next five years just to help make the new Sonics competitive?

    After all, his takeover offer stands to make the NBA at least $1.5Bn richer, it seems to me…

  8. Neil: When you are building mostly with tax dollars (which the NY teams weren’t, mostly), we know from experience that cost is no object… if you need to build an entire cement caisson around the site and then build inside that… well, hey, taxpayers are patient. And more importantly, they rarely get to vote on how their dollars are spent on wants or needs.

    Seems like that Hong Kong floating stadium idea could be resurrected… though it would be confined to a single swamp in the case you cited, I guess.