NBA commissioner-to-be Silver: Bucks neeeeeeeeed a new arena!

Adam Silver isn’t even NBA commissioner yet — he officially takes over for his retiring boss David Stern on February 1 — but he’s already getting some on-the-job training in what commissioners are there for: Demanding new arenas so that team owners don’t have to. Yesterday Silver spoke to a private meeting of Milwaukee Bucks sponsors and the team invited in Milwaukee Business Journal writer Rich Kirchen, who dutifully transcribed Silver’s statements that the Bucks “need” a new arena because the Bradley Center lacks “amenities”:

“One obvious issue we all have to deal with is we need a new arena in Milwaukee,” said Adam Silver, deputy National Basketball Association commissioner, speaking of the BMO Harris Bradley Center…

Silver said he “just got a tour” of Milwaukee’s NBA arena and concluded it is too small and still falls short on amenities.

“At the end of the day compared to other modern arenas in the league, this arena is a few hundred thousand square feet too small,” Silver said. “It doesn’t have the sort of back-of-house space you need, doesn’t have the kinds of amenities we need.

“It doesn’t have the right sort of upper bowl/lower bowl (seating) configuration for the teams frankly that Milwaukee wants to compete against,” he said.

With Silver playing bad cop, all that was left for Bucks owner Herb Kohl to do was to say how much he wanted to stay in Milwaukee, but he had a tough time convincing the NBA to let him stay in that icky building:

“A little over a year ago we battled our way and convinced our way into an extension here in Milwaukee of our relationship with the Bradley Center,” Kohl said. “Getting an extension was not an easy thing.”

Kohl said he and Bucks officials had to appear before a committee of NBA owners who would either accept or reject the Bucks request for an extension to continue using the 25-year-old Bradley Center.

“There was some opposition there,” Kohl said. “None of it was personal — it was all a matter of good business in terms of what’s good for the NBA.”

Silver didn’t stick around to take questions, and Kircher didn’t raise any on his own, so let’s ask some now: How much is the lack of additional back-of-the-house space at the Bradley Center, and the ratio of upper- to lower-deck seats, actually costing the Bucks? Could the arena be renovated to fix this, perhaps by expanding its footprint? (It looks like there’s a parking lot at one end that could potentially be used for kitchen space and such, if that’s the issue.) If not, how much would a new arena cost, and would the new revenues be enough to make up for the construction costs? And finally, what if Milwaukee decides that it doesn’t see the need for a new arena — would Kohl really move the team, or would Silver really force him to?

These are the kind of questions we need to be asking — by which I mean journalists need to be asking, since they’re the ones who can get Kohl and Silver in a room with a microphone. There’s no doubt that Kohl and Silver would love a new building — as economist Rod Fort once noted, any team owner would love a new building every year so long as they’re not the one paying for it. But there’s a difference between want and need, and that’s where it’s important to show actual numbers, not just allow leage officials to speechify before a chosen audience and a chosen reporter in order to get their message into the headlines.


8 comments on “NBA commissioner-to-be Silver: Bucks neeeeeeeeed a new arena!

  1. David Stern said it years ago: the site is too constricted and the seating bowl design (meaning number of lower level seats as well as the angle of those seats) is poor for basketball.

    I think both sides are right. A renovation might be possible if parts or all of the lower bowl were knocked down. (MSG just did it so it has to be possible.) A new arena is needed because the Fortress on Fourth Street is ugly and was built on a relatively small site.

    The Bucks recently bought up an old building just north of the arena so my guess is that there is no move threat. I think the team will try to pay $100 million or less for a new arena. If that doesn’t happen they’ll try to get the city to help pay for a US Airways Arena (Phoenix Suns) style atrium where the old building now stands and do some extensive renovations to the seating (new lower bowl + removing upper bowl seats for bar/standing areas).

  2. The Bucks are just going to hope that some really rich person in WI passes away and bequests them another stadium?

  3. @Greg

    More like Seattle Supersonics.

    @Ben Miller

    An MSG type renovation would be too costly. They’d be better off just starting from scratch. MSG could afford the rebuild due to being in New York. There is so much extra revenue that comes from being in New York that they could justify the expenses.

  4. I’m back to asking: Could a new arena generate enough revenue to make the construction cost worthwhile? In Milwaukee, I’m doubting it, at which point what’s the benefit of a new arena again?

    Kansas City’s arena is run by AEG, which has made clear it has no desire to give up lucrative concert dates to make time for an NBA team that wouldn’t want to pay much in rent, and would want a big cut of revenues. Seattle is a slightly better possibility, given that Hansen has proven he’ll overpay for a franchise but that’s assuming Hansen hasn’t burned his NBA bridges with the Sacramento referendum mess.

    My money is on: Lots of public rumors of Seattle or wherever, dragged out for long enough to get Milwaukee to cough up for a new local arena. No matter how long that takes.

  5. Did it make sense to build the Sprint Center since AEG has no plans to have an NHL and/or NBA franchise to play there anytime soon possibility in the distant future because AEG has no desire to give up concert dates and other events there? The fact that no AHL, CHL (Central Hockey League) or NBA D-League exhibition games have not played there says a lot. Might as well had the Sprint Center built as a concert and event venue only and not be able to have sports there. Copps Coliseum in Hamilton was built large enough for an NHL franchise (we all know that was a mistake and the NHL is not coming there anytime soon) but at least they have a AHL franchise playing there and occasionally other sports that’s keeping the building busy not just with concerts, trade shows and events.