By Maria Corpus
Supporters and opponents of the proposed, new Bucks arena gathered at Milwaukee Public Library’s Centennial Hall on Tuesday for Mayor Tom Barrett’s presentation on the arena’s funding plan, potential outcomes, and politics.
The presentation came after a long day of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate and before Wednesday’s expected Senate vote. The lawmakers have been working to reach a deal on the arena bill.
Since the Bucks announced the arena package in April, there has been great debate regarding its financing plan.
Currently, the proposed bill splits the estimated $500 million cost between Senator Herb Kohl, the Bucks, Wisconsin Center District, Milwaukee County, the State of Wisconsin, and the City of Milwaukee. The Bucks will contribute the largest amount with $150 million, and the City of Milwaukee will contribute $47 million.
The City would pay a 4.5 percent interest rate over a maximum of 25 years, according to Barrett.
An estimated $35 million of the City’s estimated contribution will go toward the construction of a 1,243-space parking structure. The remaining $12 million is to construct a plaza outside of the arena.
The City is also to help with various public infrastructure improvements such as street resurfacing and city utility work, as noted in the presentation.
Although downtown only represents 3.2 percent of the City’s land area, it’s 18.6 percent of the tax base, which helps fund public services such as fire and police. The investment in the arena would also help revitalize Milwaukee’s downtown by connecting neighborhoods and creating jobs, according to Barrett.
“We have to have a strong downtown at the same time, if we’re going to support the neighborhoods,” Barrett said.
Supportive audience members wore Bucks attire and cheered along the presentation. Others like representatives from Southeastern Wisconsin Common Ground, however, expressed that the Bucks owners can afford to pay for the entire cost of the arena.
For Barrett, there is a lot to lose at the state, county and city level, if a new arena is not built. The Bucks players bring in more than six-million-dollars in income tax.
“I view this as a $500 million public works project paid for with $250 million dollars of private money,” he said. “It’s going to put thousands of people to work, and we need to put people to work.”
At the end of his presentation, Barrett answered questions from the audience. Some attendees showed apprehension for public funding and expressed worries about downtown’s current businesses, among other things.
Overall, Barrett was optimistic and voiced the benefits the Bucks bring to the City.
“The city benefits by being a major league city,” he said. “I’m proud to have the team here.”
If no significant steps are taken and the new arena is not build by October 2017, the NBA can purchase the Bucks team back. Seattle and Las Vegas are cities that the Bucks could potentially move to.
Barrett’s presentation was the main event of Tuesday’s town hall meeting, which was hosted by Ald. Robert Bauman. Other issues discussed at the meeting included public safety and licensing for adult entertainment clubs.