Bucks Arena Bill Passes

The Milwaukee Bucks will stay put in a new arena thanks to bipartisan passage of a $250 million public funding plan in the Wisconsin Assembly July 28. All that’s left is for Gov. Scott Walker, who supports it, to sign the bill.

Photo: AP Photo

The bill passed the Senate on a bipartisan 21-10 vote earlier this month. Walker, who was campaigning in Philadelphia when the vote was taken, called the funding plan “a good deal all around.”

The arena deal would keep the Bucks and the income taxes paid by NBA players and staff in the state. Under the plan, taxpayers will be on the hook for $250 million initially, but that commitment will grow to $400 million with interest over 20 years. Current and former Bucks owners are contributing another $250 million. There is also a $2 ticket surcharge.

Team owner Peter Feigin who, along with Bucks coach Jason Kidd, attended the vote session, praised the decision.

“The Bucks will not only remain home in Wisconsin, but we’ll soon begin a transformative economic development project that will help revitalize our community and region,” Feigin said in a statement by the team.

Opponents argue taxpayers should not subsidize the cost of a private arena, especially just weeks after the Legislature passed, and Walker signed, a budget that cuts funding for other public assets, including a $250 million reduction to the University of Wisconsin.

“Government shouldn’t subsidize professional sports facilities, particularly state governments,” said state Rep. Dean Knudson, of Hudson, one of 20 Republicans who voted against the plan.

Supporters said the deal would help Milwaukee and the state’s economy, while also ensuring the team doesn’t move elsewhere. Feigin told the Legislature’s budget committee earlier this month that if construction on a new arena didn’t begin this year, the NBA would move the team, possibly to Las Vegas or Seattle.

The $250 million initially coming from taxpayers includes $47 million from the city of Milwaukee in the form of a parking structure and tax increment financing. The rest of the $203 million comes from bonds to be paid off by state taxpayers, Milwaukee County and the extension of existing local taxes on hotel rooms, rental cars and food and beverage.