‘We want to put our stamp on this team’
Bucks strategy & operations VP hopes new arena can revitalize downtown Milwaukee

By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff

Dec. 17, 2014

Alex Lasry, Milwaukee Bucks vice president of strategy and operations, speaks at a lunch meeting of the Waukesha County Business Alliance Young Professionals group at the General Electric Healthcare Institute Tuesday afternoon.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - A new downtown Milwaukee arena has the potential to be more than just the home for the Milwaukee Bucks - it has a chance to enliven the entire city, in addition to the state and the region, according to Alex Lasry.

The team’s vice president of strategy & operations and the son of Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry spoke to young professionals about the perceived benefits of a new arena and community involvement at a Waukesha County Business Alliance luncheon at the General Electric Healthcare Institute Tuesday afternoon.

Lasry said his father and fellow co-owner Wesley Edens are intent on not only bringing an NBA championship to Milwaukee, but revitalizing the downtown area and making the city a vibrant place to be.

“Milwaukee is on the precipice,” Lasry said. “It either has the chance to be a great city and a place where a lot of young people are going to come and become the economic engine of not only Wisconsin, but also surrounding areas in the Midwest. Or it could just be the place where Marquette and UWM live.

“The downtown right now can be a little bleak at times, and we hope an arena can turn that around.”

Lasry said the team’s two owners are also heavily invested in surrounding developments for a new arena - which he called a “public good” - to make the entire area a destination location.

The former White House deputy counselor for strategic engagement and Goldman Sachs analyst said a new arena would be more than just the Bucks’ home, but truly a multipurpose facility. |

 Alex Lasry, Milwaukee Bucks vice president of strategy and operations, speaks at a lunch meeting of the Waukesha County Business Alliance Young Professionals group at the General Electric Healthcare Institute Tuesday afternoon.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Even with a deep playoff run, the team would only use the arena approximately 60 days each year. A new arena could help draw more shows and concerts from headlining artists to Milwaukee, whom Lasry said have passed on coming to the city in recent years.

This, coupled with improved on-court performance, could help to bring people back downtown, he said.

“We pretty much lost a generation of fans in the last 10 to 15 years,” he said. “If we lose that first generation, it starts seeping into the younger kids because if their parents aren’t going to games, the kids don’t want to go to Bucks games. We want the Bucks to be a cool, fun place to be.”

Lasry said the team could also move to a new logo and color scheme in the coming years.

“I think what we really want is, at some point we want to put our stamp on this team,” he said. “Whether it is next year, five years, something is going to happen. At some point my dad and Wes are going to say, now it is our time to put our stamp on it, our vision into the brand.”


Arena funding

Funding for the arena has been a point of contention since the new owners took over, as public officials statewide have said they will not support raising taxes to pay for the facility, as was done in the 1990s with Miller Park.

Marc Lasry and Edens have already contributed $100 million to the project, as has former owner and recently-retired U.S. Senator Herb Kohl. The Bucks have until 2017 to begin construction on the arena, or else the NBA can buy back and relocate the team.

An arena site has not yet been selected, and until that happens, Lasry said, it is difficult to discuss different funding options, adding that ownership will not be asking the state for public funding.

He also believes the team is on track to have arena plans complete and construction underway by the 2017 deadline.

“We can’t figure out how to fund it if we don’t know how much it is going to cost,” he said. “It has been a little bit of a slower process than we had first anticipated, but it is a process nonetheless. We are still, in our view, on schedule to be able to deliver an arena in the time frame we are supposed to.”


A community effort

Lasry said the team wants to “humanize” the players and get all staff members out doing community service in Milwaukee as well as its surrounding communities.

WCBA Marketing Communications Associate Amy Burgdorff said since the new ownership took over, the Bucks have made serious efforts about engaging with Waukesha County to help build up the team’s local ties.

“How they want to engage with the community,” she said, “that is huge because the market for the Bucks really hasn’t been as big in the past and they really want to grow it back.”

That means players getting out and promoting wellness, financial literacy and education, according to Lasry.

He said this comes from an organizational effort to become more than just the NBA team for Milwaukee, but a team and an area people can be proud of.

“I honestly believe,” he said, “you are going to get people from Chicago or Minneapolis coming here and saying, ‘Whoa, your arena and your downtown is way nicer than our arena and downtown.’”



Email: mmasterson@conleynet.com