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The prospect of public financing being used to construct a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks is inspiring much debate throughout Wisconsin. However, lost in the debate is that what’s at stake is not just a new arena for the Bucks, but a forum that will keep Milwaukee a vibrant, nationally relevant city for decades to come.
Including preseason and the occasional foray into the first round of the playoffs, the Bucks only have about 50 home games per year. This leaves 315 days where the BMO Harris Bradley Center is totally free to host non-NBA events, which is exactly what it does.
The Marquette Golden Eagles and Milwaukee Admirals have called the corner of 4th & State home since the 1980s. In addition to other tenants, the Bradley Center has hosted the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and men’s Frozen Four, a fact Wisconsin Badgers fans know very well.
When it’s not hosting sports, the Bradley Center provides a venue for the most popular musical acts in the world. Big-time Performers as disparate Barry Manilow, Pearl Jam, Ariana Grande, and AC/DC have rocked/serenaded millions of Wisconsinites throughout the years.
High-profile sporting events and concerts are vital for the profile of a city. You don’t want to look at the tour dates for a popular band and discover that Milwaukee is conspicuously missing. But more important than raising the national profile of a city is making life fun for the locals. It’s a lot more exiting to know you can experience and amazing event in your backyard, and this brings us back to the debate at hand.
The Bradley Center is whatever you call the opposite of “state of the art.” It’s worn down, lacks amenities, and from the biased perspective of a 6’5″ person, has remarkably little leg room. It’s time for an upgrade. Though the Bradley Center serves it’s purpose for the time being, this becomes less true with each passing year. In fact, considering that the Bradley Center’s recent bid for the Frozen Four was denied because there are so many better options around the country, that time is now.
A new arena would serve the Bradley Center’s role and then some. It would make Milwaukee an option for big-time events such as the NBA All-Star game, the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament (where a berth in the Final Four is on the line), and Democratic or Republican National Conventions. Indeed, all of these are events the have been or will be held at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. If Cleveland can host these events, why not Milwaukee? You probably know the answer by now.
A new arena in downtown Milwaukee benefits much more than Bucks fans. While it’s difficult to justify spending hundreds of millions of public dollars for an entertainment venue when more urgent matters are facing Wisconsin, a new arena would still be a much needed boon to the state. The debate should not be about whether an arena should be built, but how to best proceed with the financing. Hopefully lawmakers and public officials understand this and will find a way to work together to make this happen. And yes, I am a hopeless optimist.