Arena construction to begin June 18

Bucks sign 30-year lease agreement with Wisconsin Center District

Rendering of Milwaukee Bucks Arena in downtown Milwaukee

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:14 pm

The Milwaukee Bucks have set a date for construction to begin on the team’s new downtown arena.

According to president Peter Feigin, the Bucks plan to start construction on the arena June 18, about a month sooner than previously planned. The team has scheduled the arena to be complete in August 2018, in time for the start of the 2018-’19 NBA season.

Construction also is slated to begin in June on the six-story parking structure and on the new 55,000-square-foot training center. Feigin also said the Bucks are getting closer to securing a naming rights sponsor for the new arena.

Construction is possible now that the team has reached a 30-year lease agreement with the Wisconsin Center District. The lease, signed today, was one of the final steps necessary for the team to move forward on the $524 million arena.

The Bucks have signed a 30-year lease agreement for the new arena.
The Bucks have signed a 30-year lease agreement for the new arena.

The agreement includes annual lease payments from the Bucks totaling $45 million over 30 years to the Wisconsin Center District and also includes a strict non-relocation agreement that ensures the team will play its home games in Milwaukee for the next 30 years.

The Bucks would pay $553 million for breaking the lease in the first year, and the fee never goes lower than $20 million in the final years.

The team also had to agree to keep “Milwaukee,” in its name. In return, the Wisconsin Center District has agreed not to construct a competing facility.

The agreement estimates $60 million in revenues over 30 years from a $2 ticket surcharge, with 75 percent being paid to the district and 25 percent being paid to the state.

“This agreement is the realization of a commitment Sen. Herb Kohl and our owners made two years ago to Bucks fans and the entire community to keep the team in Wisconsin and help revitalize downtown Milwaukee,” Feigin said. “We’re incredibly thankful for all the hard work that went into this historic public-private partnership from the Wisconsin Center District, elected officials and community leaders.”

The $524 million arena will be financed in part by the Bucks, which will pay $274 million, and in part by public money, through the Wisconsin Center District, the state, Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee.

The cost of the project has increased $24 million since the it was originally approved. The Bucks must cover the additional cost. The 714,000-square-foot arena will include 17,500 seats, 34 suites, 180 theater box seats, 180 club seats and 1,006 club seats.

The Bucks are also planning a skywalk from the 1,243-space parking structure that will be primarily used for Bucks and Marquette University season ticket holders. The Bucks will need to apply for approval of the skywalk separately from the arena application.

The district is allowed to host up to eight civic events and 12 minor events, such as meetings, banquets and seminars, per year at the arena without paying a rental fee.

The district owns and operates the Wisconsin Center convention center, the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and the Milwaukee Theatre. It will own the Bucks arena once it is built.

Last month, the Wisconsin Center District signed a 10-year lease with the Admirals to move the team’s games to the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The deal includes $6.3 million in upgrades to that arena and is expected to generate $500,000 to $750,000 annually in new income for the District.

The Bucks are required to deposit a minimum of $60 million over 30 years in a capital repairs reserve fund for property maintenance on their new arena. The team also is required to pay for all capital repairs, regardless of cost.

The Bucks will control all facility and team revenues, including naming rights, operations, concessions, advertising and broadcasting, with the exception of district-run events.

The 30-year lease has two five-year extension options.

The Milwaukee plan commission approved zoning changes last week for the Bucks arena, training center and parking structure. The Common Council will vote on the rezoning request on May 24.

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