Giannis Antetokounmpo’s contract extension a boost for Milwaukee

Deal expected to benefit local economy, city's image

Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo takes a free throw.

Last updated on December 16th, 2020 at 03:27 pm

When two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo officially signed a supermax contract extension with the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, he gave Milwaukee much more than a sigh of relief for Bucks fans and hopes for six more years of the team contending for a championship.

The reported $228.2 million deal – the largest in NBA history – also holds value for a region that stands to benefit economically and image-wise from Antetokounmpo’s long-term commitment and global star power, especially after a year marked by disappointment and loss.

“Having a superstar in your own backyard is going to draw other players to your team and that’s going to fill the stands and surrounding business with fans,” said Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

Having Antetokounmpo stay in Milwaukee, Sheehy said, creates what economists call indirect and induced economic impact. The state will get a boost in income tax revenue for the taxes Antetokounmpo will pay on the $228.2 million contract. Revenue from income taxes paid to the state by NBA players was a argument supporters made for the state to help fund construction of Fiserv Forum. See more on the economic impact of Antetokounmpo’s contract extension from WISN-TV Channel 12, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

Hopefully by next year, after the coronavirus vaccines have been widely distributed, fans will again pack the arena for Bucks games and be motivated to spend at surrounding bars, restaurants and other businesses on game days, resulting in additional economic activity.

Consumer activity around Fiserv Forum plunged once the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of all events at the arena. The 2019-20 NBA season was suspended in March and completed later with all teams playing in Orlando.

Good City Brewing knows this first hand as one of the tenants of the Bucks-developed entertainment block adjacent to Fiserv Forum. Good City temporarily closed its downtown location this spring as the pandemic led to cancellations of events at the arena.

“The entire entertainment block really depends upon entertainment being possible and taking place in the arena,” said Dan Katt, the brewery’s co-Founder and CEO.

Katt said Antetokounmpo’s contract extension was really good news after a year of so much bad news, and helps create a sense of hope for better days ahead.

“It’s definitely a big deal for the city and for the team, and obviously we’re thrilled as a business who’s located right there and who wins and loses as the team wins and loses,” he said.  

To help quantify the value of a winning team, VISIT Milwaukee estimates a single playoff game at Fiserv Forum, with fans in the stands as normal, generates $3 million in economic impact to the downtown area–  excluding dollars spent at Fiserv Forum– in addition to approximately 2,500 hotel room nights, 700 jobs supported and $73,000 in taxes.

Playoff games, at least in the past few years, tend to attract visitors from outside the city and state, and that likely has a lot to do with Antetokounmpo, said Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of VISIT Milwaukee.

“I think people travel to see superstars,” she said. “I remember when Michael Jordan would come play the Bucks – we would have people from all over the country to come see Michael Jordan play here because they couldn’t get tickets in Chicago.”

Antetokounmpo enters his eighth season as a Milwaukee Buck following a 2019-20 career season that landed him a second consecutive Most Valuable Player award and his first Defensive Player of the Year award, making him the third player in NBA history to earn both honors in the same season, according to the Bucks. 

At least from a local perspective, Antetokounmpo’s appeal is not defined by his athletic talent and abilities alone. He and his fellow teammates were outspoken and active this year in the national movement for social and racial justice. They marched with thousands of demonstrators across downtown Milwaukee after the fatal police shooting of George Floyd, and later catalyzed a league-wide strike in the middle of the NBA playoffs following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.

“The Bucks support that and support him, which is always incredibly important,” said Williams-Smith.

In a new release Tuesday, Bucks majority co-owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan described Antetokounmpo as a once-in-a-generation player, saying he “positively impacts everyone around him on and off the court and he brings a staggering dedication to winning and leadership to our organization. His work ethic and desire to be the best epitomize what the Bucks stand for and what our future holds.”

The working relationship between Giannis and the franchise is, in fact, important, said Todd Fischer, senior vice president at New Berlin-based GMR Marketing. 

“The greatest opportunities come when you see talent and their identity match up with the identity of the team and match up with the identity of the market as well,” said Fischer.

With a global superstar on their side, the Bucks franchise is poised for a boost in nationally broadcast television exposure as well as media and PR exposure, which will in turn attract high-profile sponsorship, he said.

But what’s equally promising is Antetokounmpo’s public display of commitment to the team and the market. He didn’t just agree to the five-year contract, he went so far as to call Milwaukee home — a rare gesture for a pro athlete of his stature. 

“That runs pretty deep because everybody associates themselves with the team, and lives and dies and bleeds Bucks-green, and I think when the star player shows that same sort of loyalty it really resonates with people locally and nationally,” said Fischer.

 

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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