Milwaukee County sells $8.8m in land to Bucks for one dollar, swears this is best deal ever

So let’s see, anything new with the almost-approved-but-still-t’s-to-be-crossed Milwaukee Bucks arena?

Milwaukee leaders plan to announce that a chunk of downtown land has been sold to the city’s NBA team for $1 as part of the drive to build the Bucks a new arena complex.

The land was appraised at $8.8 million, but Abele’s office says that doesn’t factor in $8.3 million worth of needed demolition and infrastructure work.

Well, okay, that’s not too terrible, right? Sure, it’s free land, but if it would cost almost as much as the value of the land to get it in shape, and now the Bucks will be taking on that cost, then—

But the release left out the fact that the city is on the hook for undetermined costs, as noted by a city comptroller’s report, “Coordination between Bucks, Milwaukee County, the State of Wisconsin, MMSD, and the City of Milwaukee to remove footings in the Park East Land and to relocate a sewer in the Park East Land to Juneau Avenue – A Cost estimate cannot be determined at this time.” But at a celebratory event like this, no one was computing the exact amount this would leave the Bucks to pay for remediation of the land.

No one was computing it! Certainly not any of the journalists writing about the celebratory event, even through the comptroller’s report came out two weeks ago, which is more than enough time to, you know, call some expert in sewer relocation and ask for a ballpark number. Though at least Urban Milwaukee (the second citation above) noted the known unknowns — the Associated Press report, which unless I’m mistaken is all that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published about this land sale, just took Abele completely at his word, which is pretty bad even for a five-sentence article.

Anyway, the deed is now done, so Milwaukee County will be getting a crisp new George Washington, and the Bucks owners will be building an “anciliary development” to include a practic facility, and, um, some other stuff they haven’t actually drawn yet. Or will have an option to do so, anyway, since that’s all that the $1 really secured. But at least everyone concerned knows what they’re getting into, and that any actual development could be a ways off at best—

“This is creating thousands of jobs now. Right now.” Abele said he ran on a program of creating jobs, and now look what we’re getting. “Thousands of jobs now. Right now,” he repeated.

You know what they say: Repetition is the mother of … something.


3 comments on “Milwaukee County sells $8.8m in land to Bucks for one dollar, swears this is best deal ever

  1. This Bucks deal just keeps getting worse. There’s no reason to build a practice gym in an area completely dominated by massive, unfriendly buildings.

    But politicians at all levels are besotted by the Bucks, even if the team has a tiny and half-hearted fan base. But unlimited lobbying and campaign-coffer cash works wonders–as this whole fiasco shows.

    Apparently Chris Abele believes that making taxpayers indentured to the Bucks for 30 years and giving prime real estate to these Visiting Vulture Capitalists (Lasry hates being called that!) is promoting the greater good. But this is the first real job this billionaire’s son has held. Before that, he just gave away his daddy’s money.

  2. Practice facilities are solid draws nowadays, so I like the move. And the only other bid on the land came it at the same $1. The fact that the land was valued at $8.8M should be the subject of a criminal investigation. Certainly seems that $8.8M figure was purely to make the math on the park east freeway tear down work out. Money from that sale was supposed to fund cleanup (or maybe it was sewers, I forget). Obviously the true market value of the land was $1. Though I’ll admit that I would’ve preferred seeing the Bucks cover cleanup costs, the deal had to be made.

    Only thing that worries me is what contingencies there are if no development happens beyond a practice facility. I hope that the Bucks owners aren’t allowed to just flip the land for a profit if they can’t find developers to take a risk on that land.

  3. In what world is the practice facility a “solid draw”? Only employees and media are allowed inside. Also, while $8.8 million may not have been 100% accurate, I’m betting its closer to the real number than $1. This deal is just socializing the cost of a billionaire’s development. The people of Milwaukee take the risk, the owners take the profit.