City comptroller backs TIF plan for Bucks arena

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

City of Milwaukee Comptroller Martin Matson, in a new report, recommends that the Common Council support the city’s $47 million piece of the $250 million public share of a new arena in downtown Milwaukee for the Milwaukee Bucks.

“The city’s piece of the financing which is before you is achievable,” Matson says in the report to aldermen. “At this point in time, I recommend approval of the proposed financing, which may reflect the beginning of an even larger economic development opportunity.”

The past and current owners of the Bucks would pay for the other half of the cost of the $500 million, 17,000-seat arena. The Bucks ownership group has also pledged to build $500 million in ancillary development around the arena, including a 50,000-square-foot practice facility, retail space, office space and medical office space.

The city’s $47 million share of the arena project would provide tax incremental financing to pay for a $35 million, 1,243-space parking structure and a $12 million, 130,000-square-foot outdoor public plaza near the arena.

The parking structure is part of a larger complex that would include 98 apartment units, 10,000 square feet of retail space and 30,000 square feet of office space. The city would receive half of the revenue from the parking structure.

The public financing for the arena project would be a combination of state, city, county and Wisconsin Center District funds. Gov. Scott Walker recently signed the arena funding bill approved by the Legislature. That leaves the Common Council as the last major approval needed for the arena funding deal.

Matson said his office has reviewed documents related to public financing of sports arenas from the past 25 years. The Bucks owners have agreed to pay for any cost overruns for construction of the arena in downtown Milwaukee.

“No prior deal that we have read had a similar limitation (for the public cost),” Matson’s report states.

Another significant aspect of the Bucks arena deal is that, “the legislation for the Bucks does not include an open-ended agreement for future arena upgrades to keep pace with NBA changes,” Matson’s report states. Such agreements in other stadium and arena deals have led to increased costs for sports facility upgrades in other cities.

On Monday, Aug. 31, the Common Council’s Steering and Rules Committee will hold a public hearing on the city’s arena financing. The city financing for the arena could be approved by the council at its Sept. 22 meeting.

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.