According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a financing plan for a new arena in Downtown Milwaukee is close to completion. Whether that plan will be adopted is still to be determined, but for those of us in favor of a new arena this is step in the right direction.
The most recent deal has current owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens contributing $150 million to the arena with former owner Herb Kohl contributing $100. The remaining $250 million (as outlined in the Journal Sentinel Report) would come via public financing, shared between the State of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County, the City of Milwaukee, and the Wisconsin Center District. It’s hard to feel great about a $250 million dollar public investment for a new arena, when, truth be told, there are better ways to spend $250 million. But in this case the only thing worse than public funding for a new arena is no new arena at all.
New arena or not, Milwaukee will still have to deal with the dilapidated Bradley Center. Some estimates have put the cost of maintenance as high as $100 million over the next decade. Funneling money into an arena that does not have an NBA team and is not a desirable venue for concerts, conventions, and big sporting events does not make much sense. Realistically, a better solution is to tear down the Bradley Center and build a new arena.
Another issue is that the NBA will buy back the Bucks if an arena deal is not in place by November of 2017. The consequence of this is Milwaukee would be without a young and exciting NBA team and instead left with only the Brewers, and I don’t think anybody likes the thought of that.
So while there are better ways to spend $250 million (and probably more) of public money, it’s not like we’re talking about building a creepy clown museum. This is a public investment that would yield a building with a lot of functionaility. Though the plan to build the arena is not 100% ideal and is hopefully the last time Wisconsinites will pay a few hundred million dollars for (primarily) a sports venue, considering the alternative it’s the least worst option available.