Wisconsin will help build a new basketball arena for the
Milwaukee Bucks with $220 million in bonds that would be funded
by projected growth in income taxes from NBA players, Gov. Scott
Walker proposed Tuesday.
The Republican governor said his "Pay Their Way" proposal would
protect the state's taxpayers, while keeping the team in
Milwaukee. A new arena in downtown Milwaukee could cost about
$450 million to $500 million.
New owners bought the team in April and have promised to
contribute $150 million toward the new arena. Former owner and
ex-U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl has promised $100 million of his own
money to help replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center, which was
built in 1988.
Under what Walker called a "first-of-its-kind" plan, the more
than $6.5 million that's collected from taxes on the salaries of
the Bucks and visiting NBA players would continue to go to the
state's general fund. Walker said that figure is expected to
grow due to rising salaries and revenue from the NBA's TV
contracts, so any money above $6.5 million would be used to pay
off the bond by 2046.
"I think it's arguably the most fiscally conservative idea in
the country for a professional sports team," Walker said at a
Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce meeting. "We're
having them pay their own way. It's not coming out of revenues
from anywhere else. It's not coming from new taxes. It's keeping
the foundation we have today."
The Bucks hope to settle on a site for a new home in the next
month. Team president Peter Feigin thanked Walker for the plan.
"The governor's support brings Wisconsin closer to creating a
new state-of-the-art venue and entertainment destination that
will become an economic catalyst for the entire state," Feigin
said in a statement.
The Bucks could leave Milwaukee in 2017 if there is no new arena
— a move that would cost the state nearly $10 million per year
in income tax collections alone, Walker said. The deadline is
part of the agreement of last year's sale. The NBA could refund
the money to the new owners and take possession of the team for
a possible relocation.
"That's not an idle threat. That's just the facts," Walker said.
"I can't ignore the fact that if we do nothing, it is not a
Another condition of the agreement requires the Bucks' new
owners to pay off the bonds if they sell the team.
"By asking the Milwaukee Bucks to pay their own way, we are
protecting state taxpayers," Republican Assembly Speaker Robin
Vos said. "However, it's important to note that in order for the
state to be a partner in this endeavor, we would expect the city
and county to be part of the equation as well."
The Associated Press left messages Wednesday afternoon at the
offices of the Milwaukee Common Council and the Milwaukee County
The rebuilding Bucks were 22-22 going into Wednesday night's
game in Miami. First-year coach Jason Kidd has turned Milwaukee
into one of the league's top defensive teams a year after a
franchise-worst 15-win season.