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May 20, 2011

New Bucks arena plan floated ... oh, wait, it's gone already

It's been a long, long while since Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl declared that his team would need a new arena by 2012. (So long, in fact, that 2012 seemed far away then.) But now the Bucks arena debate is back on the map, thanks to Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce president Tim Sheehy:

A prominent Milwaukee business leader said Wednesday that the community needs to discuss "at an appropriate time" the idea of extending the Miller Park stadium sales tax as a way of funding a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks...
In an interview, Sheehy said he already had begun to form a group of business leaders who have been meeting informally on not only possible extension of the 0.1% stadium sales tax as a means of financing a new facility, but other options.

Sheehy should probably start working on those "other options," because pretty much every prominent elected official in Wisconsin immediately slammed the sales tax extension: a spokesperson for Gov. Scott Walker said he opposed it, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett called it "a dead issue," and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said, "That's not something I would support."

Sheehy also asserted that a new Bucks arena is "not a next-month problem," but rather one for the next five or six years. Since the Bucks are currently breaking even and increasing in value, it's hard to say exactly what the urgency is — but maybe Sheehy, like Kohl eight years ago, just came up with a date that seems politically feasible, without waiting so long that the food apocalypse arrives before then.


Isn't that kind of the point the Bucks are making? "We're doing OK, but if you want to attend games in a modern facility and keep the team here beyond the life of this building, then you should pay for it"?

Posted by Ben Miller on May 20, 2011 11:54 AM

I was with you up until "beyond the life of this building." According to the Bradley Center managers, it needs a new roof and a/c and other stuff that will cost money, but nothing like the cost of building a new arena. So in what way is its life over, except that a new one would make more money for the Bucks?

This reminds me a lot of the Metrodome situation, actually: Newish building, but a generous (to the taxpayers) lease that the team owner desperately wants out of. So instead of renegotiating the lease, they're asking for a new building, since it's easier to obscure the subsidy demands that way.

Posted by Neil deMause on May 20, 2011 12:11 PM


I get what you're saying in some way. The BC has the capacity (almost 19k) and concourses (2 general and 1 suite) to be an NBA arena. They've also added some clubs and a scoreboard, so on paper it seems like it should last with the improvements you mentioned.

The problem with that is that the building was built on the cheap, and it shows. They built the bowl with sharp angles, which makes for bad sight lines (and therefore super low ticket prices). They also had to keep a small footprint for the arena, so there is minimal legroom. They don't even have room to put cupholders on the back of seats. Lastly, they made the lower level too small. There are something like 11,000 upper level seats and less than 8,000 on the lower level.

Bad bowl shape, lack of legroom and a small lower level can't be fixed with simple renovations. And you're right, it is like the Metrodome situation. Single concourse, lack of tailgate space and lack of luxury boxes along the sidelines also can't be fixed with a renovation. See, we agree on everything. :)

Posted by Ben Miller on May 20, 2011 04:04 PM

You know, you listen to or read the arguments for a new arena, and I'd swear the NBA has a standard handbook that they pass out to owners entitled, "Reasons we need a new arena (OR WE'RE LEAVING!)".

Needs a new roof. Not enough concourses. Bad HVAC. Poor acoustics. It was "built on the cheap".

You hear these reasons every single time.

I figure if a business cannot figure out how to operate without needing a massive government subsidy in each city in which the business operates, the entire model is just wrong. Don't have money for a building AND for the players? Guess what? That means you're in the WRONG BUSINESS.

The only thing that's going to save the NBA is for ALL cities to say "NO!", and for profit-sharing. If there can only be 10 self-sustaining NBA towns, then so be it.

"It's Friday, this must be Milwaukee. When do we get to Sacramento?"

Answer: Next Thursday.


Posted by MikeM on May 20, 2011 04:52 PM


Lady Gaga won't come into town to play my brother-in-law's HVAC shop. Just sayin'.

Posted by Ben Miller on May 20, 2011 05:54 PM

Yeah, well, Lady Gaga played in Power Balance Pavilion -- and they didn't even force her to wear a worthless scam bracelet.

Posted by MikeM on May 20, 2011 07:50 PM

My relatives in Milwaukee will, I'm sure, be thrilled (not!) to hear that someone is proposing extending the Miller Park sales tax to fund yet another stadium (arena). My relatives tell me that the sales tax didn't raise as much money as expected to pay off the Brewer's stadium, so the sales tax is not expiring when originally promised.

My brother in Milwaukee predicted a few years ago that the politicians would not be able to let go of the additional sales tax when it expires, and that the pols would find something else they want to fund as an excuse to extend the sales tax.

In private industry, wouldn't this be called 'bait and switch'? "We're going to raise the sales tax for the Brewer's stadium but by the way we're not going to tell you that a few years from now, we'll just keep that sales tax increase for a Bucks arena,and not let the sales tax go back down as promised."

Posted by SantaClaraTaxpayer on May 20, 2011 08:21 PM

The Milwaukee Bucks should be contracted. And that is coming from a University of Wisconsin graduate (like Senator Kohl) who loves Milwaukee.

The elimination of the Bucks would perhaps benefit UW Milwaukee's basketball program and the school's efforts to build a viable on-campus arena.

Posted by Pudgie on May 22, 2011 10:06 PM

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