Bucks owner: Arena plan should work if we can threaten to move like Kings — wait, did I just say that?

I’ve wondered before about Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl’s bizarro move non-threats, but this latest one really takes the cake:

Kohl, in an interview with nba.com’s David Aldridge, said he is hoping for a deal similar to one led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson for a new Sacramento Kings arena that will help keep the Kings in town. The city of Sacramento pledged $258 million of the estimated $448 million building, with the Kings paying the rest plus any cost overruns.

“Sacramento — that’s a model, almost half and half,” Kohl told Aldridge. “They were also helped by the drama with it all.”

First off, “let’s go halfsies” isn’t a model; actually figuring out how the public will pay for its half is a model. And given that Sacramento still hasn’t completely figured out how that will work for the Kings arena, they’re probably not the best model there.

Then there’s that “helped by the drama with it all,” which can seemingly only refer to the Kings’ threats to move to Seattle, which eventually coerced the city of Sacramento to approve an arena plan despite the shaky financing. Put it all together, and Kohl’s remarks translate to “This should go great if we can just get Milwaukee to agree to pay for half an arena whether or not it can afford it, and if we pretend we’re going to move the team in order to scare officials into approving subsidies.” Which is no doubt what he actually means, but you have to wonder if he knew he was saying it out loud.

End-of-year lists: The lazy journalist’s way to earn a paycheck while sucking down eggnog

It’s the Christmas-to-New Year’s interregnum, which means it can be time for only one thing: end-of-year lists! (Okay, really for two things: end-of-year lists and waiting impatiently for post-Christmas technical glitches to get resolved.) And already we have the clear front-runner for most outrageous end-of-year-list lede, courtesy of our old friend, the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Rich Kirchen:

The year 2013 may be remembered as the launching pad for Milwaukee’s new downtown arena.

I say that despite the fact that metro-area leaders are nowhere near reaching a decision on whether building a new arena or upgrading the existing BMO Harris Bradley Center would be best. Weighing heavily on those decisions, of course, is how to pay for any arena project.

Right, so no one knows where or whether to build a Bucks arena, or how to pay for it, but … the local chamber of commerce organized a task force! Which “didn’t do much at the first confab, but the fact that nearly all 48 members participated shows they are serious.” That’s perfect attendance, people! What more can you ask for?

In addition, Kirchen notes that incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Bucks sponsors in September that “the league views the BMO Harris Bradley Center as unfit for the league’s current standards,” which is practically in the commissioner job description, but which Kirchen made a big deal of at the time, so I suppose it’s not surprising that he’s making a big deal of it again now. Sure, it might have been nice if he’d mentioned how Milwaukee-area counties are lining up to refuse to contribute to arena costs, but that wouldn’t do much to help create the air of inevitability that Kirchen is going for, now would it?

Meanwhile, PolitiFact Georgia marks Boxing Day by celebrating its top Atlanta Falcons and Braves fact-checks of the year, from how Georgia appraises stadium property to the economic impact of a new stadium. Sadly, PolitiFact doesn’t actually fact-check its own fact-checks, but given the project’s propensity for finding partial truths on both sides on just about every issue — its four stadium rulings were one True, two Mostly Trues, and one Mostly False, though in the last case this seems to indicate that claims of job creation used real numbers, it just lied about what they mean — I feel comfortable grading PolitiFact’s work this year as Mostly Truthy.

Bucks owner Kohl: Without new arena, somebody will move Bucks — you know, some guy

Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl stepped up his confusingly worded move threats again yesterday, saying that he was looking to add new investors in the team who would promise to keep it in Milwaukee, and also that without a new publicly funded arena the team will leave:

“I like to believe that bringing in new ownership … if it’s done in the right way, will reinvigorate the franchise and make our future in Milwaukee stronger and more secure,” he said…

“Without new investors and without a new facility, would we at some point lose the Bucks? Yes,” he said.

By “we,” of course, Kohl meant “you,” because he’d be the one actually taking the Bucks and leaving with them. But a threat sounds more sympathetic when you cast yourself as the victim rather than the hostage-taker, so it’s pin the blame on the passive voice time.

Milwaukee arena manager complains that stuff breaks


At the 25-year-old BMO Harris Bradley Center, rust is working its way through metal exit doors, some of the key mechanical systems are as old as the building itself, the seats are wearing out and parts of the glassy atrium roof leak.

Steve Costello, president and CEO of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, said the building, the home of the Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee Admirals and the men’s basketball program at Marquette University, is a “senior citizen.”

“It is becoming more and more difficult to maintain the building — and a stable fiscal position — amid the challenges that we face,” Costello said…

A tour this week of the arena’s innards showed wear and tear in key mechanical areas. Costello said that over the next five to 10 years, $25 million to $40 million in major capital repairs will be needed. That’s on top of $1 million needed in routine annual maintenance, he said.

News flash: Buildings require maintenance. Even new buildings. Actually, new buildings sometimes require more maintenance, because they have schmancier designs that need pricier upkeep (like glass atriums were in 1988 when the Bucks opened the Bradley Center). In that light, $25-40 million worth of repairs doesn’t seem that outrageous, especially compared to the estimated $500 million price tag on a new building.

Speaking of that price tag, Wisconsin counties continue to line up not to want to help pay it: Waukesha County’s board is expected to vote next week to join Ozaukee and Racine counties in voting to refuse to participate in any regional sales tax plan to fund a new Bucks arena, as was used to build the Brewers‘ Miller Park. Until somebody figures out another way to make half a billion dollars appear out of thin air, then, Costello might want to assign himself some weekend reading.

Bucks owner says Milwaukee needs arena to keep Bucks, and Bucks to get arena, and — wait, I’ll start again

As regular readers of this site know, sports owners seldom level outright threats to move their teams if their subsidy demands aren’t met, since it’s tough to lead a season-ticket drive when you’re being hung in effigy. So this, from Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl yesterday, is about as close as we’re going to get:

“We’re gonna get a facility. I’m confident we’re going to get a facility because it’s an important thing, not only for basketball but for our community. And in order to keep the Bucks, we have to have a facility. And in order to get a facility, we have to keep the Bucks. So it’s like a two-fer: We’re either going to get both in the years ahead or we’re going to have neither.”

Yes, that’s pretty confusing wording as threats go, but the headline writers got the point anyway. As did CBS Sports basketball writer Matt Moore, who wrote today:

The Kings managed to beat back the vultures, but the reality is that Seattle now stands as the NBA’s leverage piece against any city with facilities that don’t maximize profit. Does Milwaukee care enough about the Bucks to keep them in town? Their answer will have to be with their taxes, or we’re going to have a repeat of what went on in Sacramento, regardless of Kohl’s intentions.

With sportswriters like these, who needs to make your own coherent threats?

New NBA commish Silver continues his Milwaukee Bucks veiled threat tour

So it looks like NBA commissioner-to-be Adam Silver has decided to make stumping for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena a full-time job, for this week at least. Following his speech last week to Bucks sponsors — for which the team brought in a local business writer to transcribe Silver’s statements to a broader audience — Silver conducted a video interview for the Bucks’ website in which he elaborated on why he thinks Milwaukee needs to replace the 25-year-old Bradley Center:

“Milwaukee’s important (to the NBA) because it speaks ‘America,’” Silver said. “It’s heartland of America. It’s a community where the NBA has had a 45-year tradition. It’s a community that’s always strongly supported the NBA, and it’s part of our footprint, and it’s part of our heritage. It’s critical to us that the team remain here and remain successful.”

In other words, it’d be a shame if anything was to happen to those paratroopers.

Note that Silver has still carefully avoided appearing anywhere that he’d actually have to answer questions from real journalists, so he’s gotten all the headlines about Milwaukee being “on the clock” for a new arena without actually having to explain what would happen if the clock were to run out. Yeah, this Silver guy has got the hang of the job already.

NBA commissioner-to-be Silver: Bucks neeeeeeeeed a new arena!

Adam Silver isn’t even NBA commissioner yet — he officially takes over for his retiring boss David Stern on February 1 — but he’s already getting some on-the-job training in what commissioners are there for: Demanding new arenas so that team owners don’t have to. Yesterday Silver spoke to a private meeting of Milwaukee Bucks sponsors and the team invited in Milwaukee Business Journal writer Rich Kirchen, who dutifully transcribed Silver’s statements that the Bucks “need” a new arena because the Bradley Center lacks “amenities”:

“One obvious issue we all have to deal with is we need a new arena in Milwaukee,” said Adam Silver, deputy National Basketball Association commissioner, speaking of the BMO Harris Bradley Center…

Silver said he “just got a tour” of Milwaukee’s NBA arena and concluded it is too small and still falls short on amenities.

“At the end of the day compared to other modern arenas in the league, this arena is a few hundred thousand square feet too small,” Silver said. “It doesn’t have the sort of back-of-house space you need, doesn’t have the kinds of amenities we need.

“It doesn’t have the right sort of upper bowl/lower bowl (seating) configuration for the teams frankly that Milwaukee wants to compete against,” he said.

With Silver playing bad cop, all that was left for Bucks owner Herb Kohl to do was to say how much he wanted to stay in Milwaukee, but he had a tough time convincing the NBA to let him stay in that icky building:

“A little over a year ago we battled our way and convinced our way into an extension here in Milwaukee of our relationship with the Bradley Center,” Kohl said. “Getting an extension was not an easy thing.”

Kohl said he and Bucks officials had to appear before a committee of NBA owners who would either accept or reject the Bucks request for an extension to continue using the 25-year-old Bradley Center.

“There was some opposition there,” Kohl said. “None of it was personal — it was all a matter of good business in terms of what’s good for the NBA.”

Silver didn’t stick around to take questions, and Kircher didn’t raise any on his own, so let’s ask some now: How much is the lack of additional back-of-the-house space at the Bradley Center, and the ratio of upper- to lower-deck seats, actually costing the Bucks? Could the arena be renovated to fix this, perhaps by expanding its footprint? (It looks like there’s a parking lot at one end that could potentially be used for kitchen space and such, if that’s the issue.) If not, how much would a new arena cost, and would the new revenues be enough to make up for the construction costs? And finally, what if Milwaukee decides that it doesn’t see the need for a new arena — would Kohl really move the team, or would Silver really force him to?

These are the kind of questions we need to be asking — by which I mean journalists need to be asking, since they’re the ones who can get Kohl and Silver in a room with a microphone. There’s no doubt that Kohl and Silver would love a new building — as economist Rod Fort once noted, any team owner would love a new building every year so long as they’re not the one paying for it. But there’s a difference between want and need, and that’s where it’s important to show actual numbers, not just allow leage officials to speechify before a chosen audience and a chosen reporter in order to get their message into the headlines.

Gov. Walker promises “some sort of” public input on Bucks arena

Take this with whatever grains of salt you feel are necessary, but Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has indicated that he won’t support a sales tax hike for a Milwaukee Bucks arena without a public vote. Or, rather, without “some sort of buy-in” from voters — “whether it is a referendum or some sort of vote, we’ll have to see.”

If you actually read Walker’s full comments, in fact, he’s in full hedging-his-bets mode, calling the Bucks “important,” but saying since Bradley Center is only 20 years old there’s “not as apparent compelling argument as there was with County Stadium,” and saying, “I am not saying it can’t happen. I’m just saying that everyone that interested in this has to be realistic that it will be hard.” In other words, there’s a long, long way to go here, and Walker isn’t going to say anything that could haunt him later. Reply cloudy, ask again later.

Wisconsin county says no way, no how to Bucks arena taxes

Sure enough, a Wisconsin county has voted to oppose a multicounty sales tax for the Milwaukee Bucks that hasn’t even been proposed yet. The Racine County Board unanimously voted yesterday to oppose any new or existing multicounty taxes going to help pay for a new Bucks arena, noting — in the resolution, mind you — that Racine pays for its own marina and zoo without taxing neighboring county, as Milwaukee can damn well do the same. (Okay, the resolution probably doesn’t say “damn well.”)

To top it off, Racine supervisor Ken Hall declared, “There’s no support in Racine County for corporate welfare for the Milwaukee Bucks or for Milwaukee infrastructure.”

Given that Milwaukee elected officials have previously denounced any Bucks taxes that hit only their city and not neighboring counties, we appear to have arrived at a conundrum. Unless you want to allow for crazy solutions like nobody getting taxed, and the Bucks continuing to play in their 25-year-old arena.

Two Milwaukee counties oppose Bucks arena tax that hasn’t even been proposed yet

Milwaukee hasn’t even launched its task force on a new Bucks arena yet, and already two local counties are getting ready to object to its funding plan:

The county boards in Ozaukee and Racine counties are expected to consider resolutions that would oppose the imposition of any regional tax to finance the construction of a new, multipurpose arena in Milwaukee or the development or renovation of the Wisconsin Center convention center…

The proposed resolutions also formally oppose any talk of extending the current 0.1% Miller Park stadium tax that is collected in Racine, Waukesha, Milwaukee, Washington and Ozaukee counties.

It’s still way early yet, but given how contentious a regional sales tax for a sports facility was the last time it was voted on, it looks like we’re going to have one heck of a gumfight.