Bucks owners to announce $1B arena development project that they still don’t know how to pay for

Stop the presses! The Milwaukee Bucks owners are set to make a major announcement today about their new arena, and it’s going to be a game changer, which we know because the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calls it “game-changing” right there in their headline! Don Walker, what’s the scoop?

Envisioning an entertainment hub that would transform downtown, the Milwaukee Bucks plan to build a $500 million arena just north of the BMO Harris Bradley Center and use that as a springboard for an additional $500 million in development, much of it in the largely vacant Park East corridor…

The development would include a 700,000-square-foot, 17,000-seat arena; a 60,000-square-foot public plaza, anticipated as a sort of live entertainment space on what is largely a city-owned parking ramp at the corner of N. 4th St. and W. Highland Ave.; and arena parking across the street in the Park East area. Total amount of space just for that portion of the development: 1 million square feet.

Okay, we actually kind of knew that part already, except that the $500 million price tag on the ancillary development is new. (Also potentially completely made up, since it’s private development that the Bucks owners could scale up or down at will, but let’s leave that aside for now.) What everybody wants to know is how they’d pay for it. What’s with that, Bucks owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry?

For now the Bucks are backing Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed $220 million state bonding plan, buttressed by a $150 million commitment from Bucks owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, and a $100 million commitment from former Sen. Herb Kohl.

Oh, the plan that everybody in Wisconsin, including the Journal Sentinel itself, declared dead two weeks ago? Excellent! Apparently not only politicians can play the game of announcing arena plans but not how to pay for them.

What’s going on here is pure PR: Edens and Lasry are clearly hoping that by throwing in a bunch of additional development, asking for $220 million from the state (and maybe $50 million from the city) will look better: It’s not more than half of a $500 million arena project, it’s only a quarter of a billion-dollar arena-and-development project! This doesn’t seem all that likely to win any friends in the state legislature, which is what matters right now, but it does have the potential to maybe stem the tide of “Bucks arena going nowhere” press that’s been the general theme the past couple of weeks. Hey, Don Walker is upbeat about it! Now that’s what I call momentum!

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3 comments on “Bucks owners to announce $1B arena development project that they still don’t know how to pay for

  1. Yeah, but just think, this will be $500M in new spending in that area! Just get a Koons sculpture and call it an investment.

    If there is no net gain in revenues, apologize and propose a tax increase. Admit your error and move on. Voters won’t remember anything that happened 6 weeks before, let alone 2 or 3 years.

  2. Clicking on the link doesn’t give you a sense of what this Don Walker story actually looked like on the front page of the Journal Sentinel today. Giant headline and pic, and the whole package consumed probably two-thirds or three-quarters of the news space on the front page.

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