Two Milwaukee polls show pretty much squat, can’t we have some real Bucks arena reporting already?

It’s mediocre coverage of crappy poll day in Milwaukee today! First up, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, the right-wing think tank run by a former newspaper columnist and which includes rabidly pro-Bucks arena subsidy chamber of commerce president Tim Sheehy on its board, asked a whole 600 people scattered throughout the state of Wisconsin if they approved or disapproved of “public support” for the state’s sports teams. (Margin of error: ±5%.) Verdict: A narrow majority opposed giving public subsidies to sports teams in general (51.3% to 39.5%) and a narrow plurality opposed public aid to the Bucks in particular (39.3% to 36.1%); the Packers fared better, earning 43.1% to 39.7% support, though the Packers aren’t the ones actually asking for money. And only the overall opposition to subsidies clears that margin of error, anyway.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Don Walker’s verdict on this: “sharply divided opinion,” which I guess refers to the fact that most people were “strongly” opposed to or supportive of subsidies? Except for those who had no opinion, that is, though maybe they strongly had no opinion. Verdict: Not untrue, though “Why are we even covering this lousy poll when there have been so many better-worded ones?” would have been more accurate coverage.

Next up: The Milwaukee Preservation Alliance conducted an unscientific email and Facebook poll of members and, it sounds like, friends of members, and asked whether people wanted more public dialogue on a Bucks arena. Amazingly, 77% said yes! Even more amazingly, 23% of respondents actually went through the trouble of clicking on an email or Facebook page to say “No, we don’t want to hear anything more about a new Bucks arena,” which is either a sign that some people are so “strongly” opposed or in favor that they feel the matter is closed, a sign that people’s clicking skills are terrible.

Don Walker wrote about this, too, noting that it was an informal, unscientific survey, which means the numbers are completely meaningless even if the question itself weren’t more or less meaningless. Verdict: What, the first lousy poll didn’t get you enough pageviews for the day?

I pick on Walker a lot, deservedly so, for writing articles that parrot the press statements of Bucks execs and their political allies without even bothering once to call up someone who might disagree, or citing any actual facts to leaven the steady stream of pro-arena-subsidy opinion. But really, the worst of it isn’t the individual articles, but that they’re never leavened with any dissenting views or actual investigative reporting: Instead, on days when nobody from the team has anything to put in the paper, we get rehashes of polls that even the people who conducted them admit are meaningless.

So, Don. (May I call you Don?) You’ve retweeted me, so maybe there’s a chance you’re actually reading this. Since you have all this time on your hands and space to fill, how about devoting some of it to the actual real news that needs to be covered regarding the Bucks arena plans, and not just all this he-said-she-said and rehashing unenlightening poll results? Here, I’ll start you off with a list of story ideas:

  • How much public money are the Bucks owners likely to be asking for, including any tax breaks, free land rights, etc.? And where would the Bucks owners get their supposed $300 million in private funds, what revenues would they be giving up in return, and why can’t some of that go to help repay the public’s share?
  • What would replacing the Bradley Center actually mean to the Bucks owners financially? If it’s enough to pay off the construction costs, why can’t they fund it themselves out of new revenues? If it’s not enough, would it be more cost-effective for the team to make do with their old building, possibly renovated?
  • How serious is the threat that the NBA will sell the team to new owners if a new arena isn’t approved? What did Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens agree to in their purchase of the franchise, and did they authorize the league to play bad cop for their arena demands?
  • What would the fiscal and economic impact be for the state of Wisconsin to kick back income taxes on team employees to the Bucks owners, as has been proposed? How have other states fared that have passed similar measures?

I could probably think of a few more (and I’m sure my commenters will, so check down there as well), but that’s plenty for now. Even tackling one of these topics every week or two would be a huge benefit to the public debates around the arena plan. And I hear that unscientific surveys show that people want more informed public debate, so get cracking!

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9 comments on “Two Milwaukee polls show pretty much squat, can’t we have some real Bucks arena reporting already?

  1. I would like to hear what will be different about the proposed new stadium. The rumor I’ve heard is that the only significant changes are more luxury boxes and more space for concessions in the concourse. No new seats, and, if anything, a worse fan experience for the common folk in the upper level.
    Also, what will happen with Marquette men’s basketball and the Admirals? Will they be staying in the old arena?
    Finally, have there been any polls of the surrounding counties? Last I heard there was exactly zero interest from them in chipping in the way they are for Miller Park.
    That’s all I can think of right now.

  2. @JJG

    It’s interesting. I actually visited the current arena on Friday night to watch the Bucks and Wolves and I just don’t see the problem with it. I’ve been to every arena in the NBA and many in the NHL and while this one ranks towards the bottom of the league, there are a few that are carbon copies or were even modeled after BMO Harris BC. New Orleans, Utah and Minnesota come to mind and you don’t hear them threatening to leave town without a new arena. Minnesota is getting a $100 million renovation and New Orleans just completed a $50 million minor renovation. No reason why this arena couldn’t do the same.

    As for the new arena, I just don’t understand what they’re trying to do. I’ve heard that capacity will be as little as 16,500 but like you say, more suites will just push upper level fans higher than they already are. And if there are less seats, they will demand a higher ticket price meaning that the upper level fans will pay more for a worse seat.

    As for concourse space, again, there is just as much if not more space at BC than there is in some of the aforementioned arenas. New arenas like Barclays Center or Staples Center were crunched into a small area due to limited square footage since the streets are close to each other. As a result, you have cramped concourses that are even worse than where the Bucks play.

    If I’m a Bucks fan, I’m asking why can’t we do the same with the current arena that they are doing in New Orleans or Minnesota.

  3. @ Neil

    You ask some good questions although I think I can answer the buy back one. The league is pretty serious about buying back the team if there is no new arena solution. That was a condition of the sale that L & E had to agree to. Of course, if the Bucks win the title or something, the league could always back off as they wouldn’t want to relocate a championship team but that would be their call, not ownership’s.

    They had the same deal with Sacramento. In short or translated, the league is telling Sacramento and Milwaukee that they would rather be in Seattle but that they don’t want to relocate teams either so they are compromising. Build a cool new crib and you can stay where you and keep ownership of the team or else we’ll buy it back and you’ll have to find a new team to buy.

  4. @JJG

    I forgot to add. If they indeed do get a new arena, almost everyone pretty much has said that the current building will get torn down in favor of new development so Marquette and the Admirals would be in the new arena with the Bucks.

  5. The NBA is serious about making the threat, certainly. Would they still go through with it if Lasry and Edens, say, agreed to a renovation instead? What if it looked like a new or renovated arena could be approved, but it might take a year or two longer. And are Lasry and Edens just at the mercy of the NBA here, or were they in on the move threat deal? There’s a lot to be explored beyond “The NBA issued a press release, so be afraid, be very afraid.”

  6. Some news organization within Milwaukee are asking some of the same hard questions regarding the new Bucks arena, unfortunately, they don’t have the same viewership as the MJS. http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2015/01/13/murphys-law-the-property-tax-scam-for-brewers-bucks/

  7. So the problem is too many regular seats and not enough boxes? I’ve got an idea! Take the first four rows of the upper deck and convert them to boxes! Everybody’s happy!

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