Walker signs Bucks arena funding bill into law

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

In a ceremony held at State Fair Park, Gov. Scott Walker today signed the funding bill for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks in downtown Milwaukee.

With Walker’s signature, approval by the Milwaukee Common Council is the last hurdle to clear for the arena funding deal. The Bucks are also seeking approval from Milwaukee County officials to acquire 10 acres of land in the Park East corridor for ancillary development around the arena.

The current and former owners of the Bucks have pledged to pay $250 million to cover half the cost of the $500 million arena, and to pay for any cost overruns and the maintenance and operating costs of the building.

Under the bill signed by Walker, the public will pay for the other $250 million half of the arena cost, which would come from state, county, city and Wisconsin Center District funding sources. In addition a $2 surcharge will be charged on all tickets sold for events at the arena. The ticket surcharge revenue will be split by the Wisconsin Center District (getting 75 percent) and the state (getting 25 percent).

The arena financing plan was passed by overwhelming bipartisan votes of 52-34 in the state Assembly and 21-10 in the state Senate.

“It’s what we’d hoped for,” Walker said. “A good, bipartisan vote. It had strong votes in both the Assembly and the Senate. A lot of hats off.”

Walker has touted the arena deal as an investment by taxpayers that will pay off by preserving the income tax revenue collected by the state from NBA players.

Critics of the deal have said that government should not be subsidizing sports facilities for teams owned by billionaires with millionaire players.

The NBA said a new arena is needed to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee long term. The new arena will replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center, which was built in 1988.

“Today’s signing is the culmination of an extraordinary effort from a broad coalition to not only keep the Bucks in Wisconsin, but revitalize Milwaukee,” Feigin said. The Bucks owners have pledged to do $500 million in additional mixed-use development around the arena.

“The entire Bucks family is thankful for the leadership and bipartisan support of Governor Walker, state legislators, local officials, countless organizations and the community,” Feigin said. “We will continue to work with the city and county to move this public-private partnership forward as swiftly as possible and make this world-class sports and entertainment district a reality.”

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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.