The Wisconsin Senate on Wednesday approved a financing deal for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, likely assuring that the franchise will not move to Seattle or Las Vegas.
Team owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens have pledged $150 million to the project, and former team owner Herb Kohl has promised another $100 million. Chris Larson, a Milwaukee Democrat, called that portion of the proposal “heartless”, saying the arena shouldn’t be built on the backs of people struggling to pay their debts. But now, they say up to 15 Democrats might have to support the package in order to pass it. The National Basteball Association has the right under the terms of the sale of the team to buy it back from the current owners (at $25 million more than they paid for it) and find another owner. Instead, that provision has been removed in favor of adding an arena ticket surcharge, which the team unsurprisingly didn’t want given that it increases ticket prices and lowers margins, but moves some of the financial responsibility from taxpayers to those who actually attend events at the new facility.
Fellow Milwaukee Democrat, Senator Lena Taylor, however applauded the vote.
There were changes to the senate’s bill, highlighted by the interested amount that would be paid by team’s home county. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said that wasn’t the case, but regardless the county now needs to come up with a different plan on how to raise its share. The bill to subsidize the Bucks now heads to the State Assembly. The county would still have to contribute $4 million a year but through some other mechanism, Larson said. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) decision to vote against the package.
“I think it is incredibly unfair that my constituents in Northeastern Wisconsin are being asked to pay for a sports arena in Milwaukee”, he said in a statement.
“It sends a great message to the state of Wisconsin that this project should get done”, he said immediately after the vote. Backers of the arena saw the 21-10 margin for the proposal in the Senate as helping to build momentum in the Assembly. Republicans hold a much larger majority in that chamber, 63-36.