The last piece of the Milwaukee Bucks arena financing puzzle was secured on Tuesday when the Milwaukee Common Council approved a $47 million spending plan. The 12-3 vote was a tranquil conclusion to a tumultuous debate about public financing for the arena.
Much to the chagrin of Seattle Supersonics fans, the Bucks will be in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future. Most of the remaining uncertainly is about when the new arena will be open. While the team hopes to be using the facility by 2017, a fall 2018 completion date appears more likely.
Overall the arena saga evoked a mixed bag of emotions. Professional sports teams are important to a city’s identity, and the promise of an additional $500 million in other development is hard to pass up. This is especially true in a time when companies and citizens are moving back to urban centers.
However, there are better ways for governments to spend $250 million. For all the promises of economic development, the observed effect of stadiums is negligible. Spending on education and infrastructure would likely have a more significant economic impact.
But all things considered, Milwaukee is better off with a new arena. It will allow the city to stay nationally relevant and it can be used for much more than professional basketball. Wisconsin is better off with a new arena, even if it’s path to construction was less than ideal.