Common Council approves city funds for Bucks arena

Last major approval hurdle cleared

Bucks arena
Rendering of proposed new downtown arena.

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

The Milwaukee Common Council today approved $47 million in tax incremental financing for the downtown arena project for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Aldermen voted 12-3 in favor of the TIF funds for the arena. Mark Borkowski, Nik Kovac and Tony Zielinski cast the only “no” votes.

The approval of the city funds for the project is the final major approval step for the public financing package for the arena. The current and past owners of the Bucks will pay for half of the cost of the $500 million arena and the other half of the cost will be from a combination of state, city, county and Wisconsin Center District funds.

Bucks arena
Rendering of proposed new downtown arena.

“Today is a truly historic day for Milwaukee and Wisconsin, and the culmination of months of hard work from an incredible coalition passionate about our community’s future,” said Bucks president Peter Feigin. “Thanks to the support of (former) Senator (Herb) Kohl, Mayor (Tom) Barrett and the Common Council, and other elected officials in both Milwaukee and Madison, this transformative public-private partnership is now a reality. Now it’s time to get to work creating jobs and building a better Milwaukee – not just for the Bucks, but for all citizens of this great state.”

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 $12 million for outdoor public plaza near the arena.

Under an amendments added to the deal today the city and the Bucks will split naming rights revenue for the parking structure. City revenue from the parking structure naming rights will be used for playgrounds in the city.

Aldermen today also deferred a decision on whether or not to close a portion of North Fourth Street between the arena and an entertainment live block around the plaza. The Bucks want to close the street to create a pedestrian-friendly plaza between the arena and the live block. Aldermen said they want to see more details about the Bucks plans before deciding on whether or not to approve the closure of a block of Fourth Street. In addition, if the closure of the street is approved the city will retain the right to regain control of the street in the future if the Bucks do not utilize the plaza as much as the organization says it intends to.

The NBA says Milwaukee needs a new arena for the Bucks to remain in Milwaukee.

The Bucks owners say they intend to build $500 million in mixed-use ancillary development around the arena. That commitment was key to many supporters of the arena project.

“I believe that if we were strictly dealing with an asking of city revenue for just an arena it would not pass this council,” said Ald. Jim Bohl.

Borkowski said the ancillary development planned by the Bucks would cannibalize existing businesses downtown.

“There isn’t the purchasing power in this community to support all of this,” he said.

Borkowski also said he hoped the arena project does not “bankrupt the city.”

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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.