For both fans and detractors of the Milwaukee Bucks wondering whether the team might still relocate to Seattle, NBA commissioner Adam Silver reiterated Thursday that he is confident the Bucks will remain in Milwaukee and get a new arena…
“We have complete confidence they’re going to get the deal done in Milwaukee,’’ Silver said, according to the Seattle Times.
See? Not “I have confidence the Bucks are going to stay in Milwaukee,” because that would take the heat off local elected officials to get an arena subsidy deal done. Not “in the context of relocation, it’s important to have viable alternatives.” Just short and sweet: We’re confident they’ll come up with the ransom money, with the “or else” hanging there unstated but clear as day.
And are Wisconsin legislators listening? You betcha they are, as witness state rep. Mary Czaja, who is from way up in the north of the state where residents oppose funding a Bucks arena almost 9-to-1, yet she’s still come up with a rationale for supporting $120 million in state subsidies to the Bucks. How, you ask?
Czaja’s logic: The state of Wisconsin still owes $20 million on the BMO Harris Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee, which needs an additional $100 million in maintenance.
“We’re on the hook for it,” Czaja said.
Whether or not a new Bucks home is built, she added, “We will still be in the arena business. If we don’t do this, we’re going to lose the revenue on the Bucks and the trickle-down effect of that revenue into Milwaukee. We need a healthy Milwaukee to have a healthy state. That’s reality.”…
“When you explain it to constituents that way, they’re like, ‘Well, I would rather have the new arena, and the Bucks stay in the revenue, than a $120 million Bradley Center that has no major tenant in it.’”
I’m somewhat doubtful that Szaja has had this conversation with actual constituents as opposed to imaginary straw constituents in her head, but let’s think through the logic here. First off, if Wisconsin still owes $20 million on building the Bradley Center (which it does), it’s going to owe that whether the building is there or not. So that’s not money that can simply get repurposed for a new arena.
And what about that $100 million in needed “maintenance”? That’s based on an estimate last year from the Bradley Center’s state-run non-profit operator, and would include money for HVAC improvements, replacing seats, and “challenges with our parking structure.” It’s also an estimate of expenses over the next decade, so knock that figure down some to get to present value of the future costs.
Most of all, though, the state arena authority would own any new arena — and would be on the hook for maintenance costs there, too. So in exchange for putting up $120 million in state cash for a new Bucks arena, the state would get out from under, let’s say, maybe $70 million in maintenance on the old one — and add maintenance costs for a new, more expensive one, with pricier things to fix when they break.
This would no doubt sound like less of a good deal to Szaja’s imaginary constituents, which is why she doesn’t explain it that way. Either that, or she’s really bad at math. Or both! Sometimes incompetence and duplicity can go hand in hand.