Madison meeting brings together leaders for arena deal

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

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says state and local officials could quickly work out the framework for a deal to cover public financing to help build a new downtown arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Still, the lawmaker also said the parties involved could have a long time to work out final details, including how money borrowed from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands would be repaid, according to a report by, a media partner of BizTimes.

Legislators, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele were scheduled to meet in Madison today to hash out a deal on public money for a new Bucks arena. The meeting comes a day after Bucks president Peter Feigin suggested a financing plan needs to be in place within 10 days for the Joint Finance Committee to consider it. He later retracted that deadline.

Ahead of today’s meeting, Fitzgerald told reporters he is focused on an approach that calls for the city and county to borrow money from the BCPL to help fund an arena. The size of the loan and other details are still being worked out.

Remaining details include how to repay the money. Some options include the state directing money to the locals to help cover a chunk of the loan, possibly through shared revenue. Fitzgerald mentioned a 20-year window for repaying the money and stressed it would be a straight loan, not bonding.

“We’re not going to tell the county to take out a loan and leave them high and dry,” Fitzgerald said. “We have at least two years to figure this out.”

Fitzgerald said he was not sure whether Gov. Scott Walker would participate in today’s meeting, though he said Walker’s chief of staff Eric Schutt has been “in the center of this whole deal.”

“I think if we need the governor in the room to close the deal, I’m sure the governor will be there,” Fitzgerald said.

JFC Co-chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) continued to call on local officials to pony up for the arena. Nygren, who has been a vocal critic of local officials throughout the process, said he is on board with Fitzgerald’s plan to go through BCPL to borrow the money. Still, he said it continues to come down to what the city and county can put into the project.

“I actually hope that the Bucks’ 10-day deadline actually gets them to put something on the table,” Nygren said.

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