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April 10, 2012
Whoops, I may have accidentally started a Milwaukee Bucks arena debate — sorry about that
While in Seattle people are still debating whether it was rude for the Mariners to complain about traffic problems from a new NBA arena when they pooh-poohed traffic concerns about their own stadium, that city's arena debates are having a more immediate impact across the country in Milwaukee, where they appear to have jump-started talks about a new Bucks arena. In an editorial today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel hauls out several of the usual public-arena-funding arguments (the obsolescence claim, the economic impact assertion), but lands squarely on the threat that the team will move:
The Bradley Center is old and outdated by NBA standards. Although it may still look good and certainly isn't crumbling, the 24-year-old structure is a veritable dinosaur among National Basketball Association arenas.
Pushing for a publicly funded, state-of-the-art facility that could run as much as $300 million in this economic climate is a tough ticket to sell. But if groundbreaking for a Bradley Center replacement is not under way in the next five to seven years, keeping the facility's largest tenant — the Milwaukee Bucks — in Milwaukee will be nearly impossible...
For those who don't think the Bucks could leave, consider a story that appeared in The Seattle Times last month. The story listed the Bucks as one of five teams that would be a good fit for Seattle. Seattle lost its team to Oklahoma City in 2008, after unsuccessful efforts to persuade Washington state government officials to provide funding to update KeyArena.
Hey, I remember that article. The bit about the Bucks began like this:
Both Swangard and deMause say a team not often mentioned in relocation discussions that may be more tenuous than any aside from Sacramento and New Orleans is the Milwaukee Bucks.
Yep, that'd be me, rattling the relocation saber. ("Swangard" is Paul Swangard, director of the University of Oregon's Sports Marketing Center.) What actually happened, as I recall, is that the Seattle Times writer asked me which NBA teams might be ripe for a move to Seattle if the Sacramento Kings were off the table (which seemed to be the case then, though less so now). I thought about which franchises were currently griping about their arena deals and in smallish markets that might make Seattle seem attractive by comparison, and the Bucks came to mind (along with the New Orleans Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies).
Of course, I also noted that NBA teams are extremely unlikely to move unless offered "some sort of sweetheart deal," which the Seattle plan, with its 60% team-funded arena, decidedly is not. But the Journal Sentinel editors made sure not to read that part of the article, or at least didn't share it with their own readers.
WTMJ radio's Gene Mueller concludes that the Seattle Times article "may have given local civic leaders, deep pocketed players and others connected to the Bradley Center debate the chance to actually start the conversation. 'See?' they can say. 'We aren't making any threats. It's those people in Seattle who are making goo-goo eyes at the Bucks!'" Of course, Mueller wants a new arena, so he sees this as a good thing.
As for me, if anyone's actually listening, I'll say this loud and clear: The Bucks may be somewhere on some hypothetical short list to be lured to Seattle, but the odds on them actually doing so are very, very long. Replacing a 24-year-old arena to stop the Bucks from moving to Seattle would be like building a new arena in Pittsburgh to stop the Penguins from moving to Kansas City — oh wait...