Back in the 1990s, it took a forceful and bold governor (Tommy Thompson) to hold together a regional coalition willing to be taxed to help finance Miller Park for the Milwaukee Brewers and former owner Bud Selig.
Eventually, state legislators approved the 0.1-percent Miller Park tax, which has been collected in Racine, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties since 1996.
So far, Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl does not have such a courageous public sector advocate in his quest to build a new arena to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee.
Inquiries about regional cooperation to help finance a new arena in downtown Milwaukee have fallen on deaf ears in the suburban counties. The Racine County and Ozaukee County Boards have approved resolutions opposing any kind of regional taxation to help finance a new Milwaukee arena.
However, Kohl has found an advocate for a new arena in the private sector. That leadership is coming from Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. Sheehy has been filling the vacuum, meeting privately with captains of commerce, trying to build a coalition to push the concept of a new arena forward.
Make no mistake, the Bucks are on the clock.
Sheehy is forming the Regional Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force, which will eventually include 45 people. Although they won’t be supporting the project with their tax dollars, officials from the suburban counties will partake in the regional planning for a new arena.
The list of initial members of the Task Force includes: Suzanne Kelley, president of the Waukesha County Business Alliance; Keith Swartz, former budget director in Waukesha County; Washington County Supervisor Mark McCune; Teig Whaley-Smith, Milwaukee County economic development director; Franklyn Gimbel, chairman of the Wisconsin Center Board of Directors; Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic; Milwaukee city lobbyist Jennifer Gonda; Keisha Krumm, lead organizer with Common Ground; and Ozaukee County Supervisors Dan Becker and Jake Curtis.
In addition, the panel is expected to include representatives from the Milwaukee Bucks, the Milwaukee Admirals and the BMO Harris Bradley Center board of directors.
“We have our work cut out for ourselves just to get the Milwaukee region to play together,” Sheehy said. “For the MMAC, this is something we have to do on a metropolitan basis.”