The owners of the Milwaukee Bucks released their arena-plus-entertainment-plus-can-opener plan on Wednesday, and as it looked exactly as had been hinted at the day before ($1 billion in costs, no idea how to pay for it), I didn’t think it was worth an item here. But then I realized: I was neglecting your vaportecture porn! So, here you are, your Bucks arena district that may or may not be built and/or look like this if it is:
Do you think they teach special “ray of light” courses in architectural school? I can only imagine the instructors: “No, no, more beamy! Don’t you know spotlights are the physical manifestation of economic activity?”
Anyway, Gov. Scott Walker and state assembly speaker Robin Vos immediately took advantage of the new pretty pictures to berate the city and county for not putting more money into the Bucks plan, because that’s the only idea they have for paying for it:
“When you look at the impressive development plans unveiled today, it’s clear that the city and county need to step up their game and make more of an investment in the project than what they have initially put forward,” Vos said.
Asked whether the Milwaukee Bucks owners or Mayor Tom Barrett needed to do more, the governor focused on the city.
“I think it would be helpful with the Legislature, particularly the city stepping up,” Walker said. “I think there’s a clear sentiment from the speaker and the (Senate) majority leader who have pointed out they want to see a strong commitment from the city and the county. We’ve talked with them and we’re hopeful that we’ll get there.”
Barrett responded that he still likes Gov. Walker’s plan where the state would pay for pretty much all the subsidies, even though Walker himself has pretty much admitted that plan is dead. If everybody involved is just going to play Alphonse and Gaston with the bill, we could be here a while.
Meanwhile, somebody (Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) asked Bucks co-owner Wes Edens if he’d consider putting more of his own money into the arena, since he’s going to be the one having his team play in it, and got this as an answer:
“I don’t know really what the answer to that is,” he said. “There is an economic side to it, and it has to be a viable transaction.”
Edens said the owners’ existing financial commitment “kind of pushes the limit” on that viability, but he acknowledged that the wealth of the owners “complicates the narrative.”
Translated: A new arena wouldn’t make money for us if we had to pay for building it, only if somebody else shoulders half the cost. That’s certainly honest, but it raises the question of why a new arena is a good idea in the first place, if it’s a money loser. For some reason “impressive development plans” aren’t expected to be a reason in themselves for private businessmen to cough up money, but the public purse is another story: So much of the stadium and arena game really does come down to “Lookit the pretty pictures, you can’t afford not to do this!” So we get lots of pretty pictures, and not much in the way of testing whether transactions are viable. Which is how you end up in racino land.