Bradley Center is a state treasure that deserves state support

    For the first time in the history of the Bradley Center, the Wisconsin Building Commission voted 6-2 Wednesday to release state money to help fund seriously needed upgrades to preserve and maintain the facility. That move should be applauded.

    The Bradley Center, a gift to the people of Wisconsin by the late Jane Bradley Pettit, has always been the people’s building.  It is heartening to see the people invest in its successful future.

    While technically an “instrumentality” of the state, the Bradley Center was built without tax dollars and has operated for more than two decades with no public funding. At the same time, it has generated tens of millions of dollars in state and local taxes, created hundreds of jobs and been a significant driver of economic development. An estimated 1.6 million people visit the Bradley Center annually for sporting events, concerts, family shows and community events. Every penny generated by the Bradley Center has been invested back into the facility, its tenants and the community.

    Today, however, the need for capital repairs and building system replacements is outpacing the Bradley Center’s ability to pay for them. While the Bradley Center is well-maintained and continues to offer a great fan experience, the aging structure – one of the oldest in the NBA – presents physical challenges. Additionally, the rapidly changing sports and entertainment industry in which we operate presents significant business and economic challenges.

    The state funding released Wednesday will be used to improve various parts and systems of the Bradley Center, including seriously outdated mechanical, HVAC and lighting systems; an aging hockey rink; a severely outdated scoreboard; major elevator and escalator maintenance and much more.  State support will help to keep the facility a viable economic engine and will ensure that Milwaukee and Wisconsin continue to be top destinations for sports and the nation’s best touring shows.

    Some have questioned whether it’s wise to invest in an aging facility like the Bradley Center. Some have suggested it may be time to consider a new arena, but that idea currently has little consensus or momentum in the Milwaukee community.

    The Bradley Center needs attention and help now to succeed, thrive and continue to benefit the people of Wisconsin. We are pleased that the Building Commission shares the view that public money should help support this valuable state asset, and we look forward to the future.

    Steve Costello is president and chief executive officer of the Bradley Center Sports & Entertainment Corp.

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