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Land sold to Bucks for $1 for arena project; but first, it must be prepared for construction

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MILWAUKEE -- Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Common Council approved city money for the new Milwaukee Bucks arena in downtown Milwaukee. With that approval comes questions about what, exactly, must now be done to prepare the land in Milwaukee's Park East Corridor -- purchased by the Bucks for just $1.

The Park East land won't hold the arena itself, but it's the proposed site for the team's new practice facility, as well as new apartments, office space and eventually, even a grocery store.

Park East Corridor

Park East Corridor

First though, the land must be prepared for construction. That preparation is what Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says justifies the $1 sale price.

When the land was sold by Milwaukee County to the Milwaukee Bucks for $1 earlier this  month, the main criticism was clear.

"This is a huge giveaway to some extremely wealthy people, unfortunately, at the taxpayers` expense," John Weishan, Milwaukee County supervisor said.

Abele says the sale of the Park East land, valued at less than $9 million, also accounts for the work needed to make the property suitable for construction.

Park East Corridor

Park East Corridor

"I`m saving taxpayers millions of dollars of remediation and now, that has to get picked up, and they understand this, by not the county, but by the Bucks and whoever else," Abele said.

According to county documents, the Bucks will have to remove more than 150 old footings from the Park East freeway spur.

County officials estimate removing those footings, as well as re-routing a sewer line, will cost about $8.3 million.

Park East Corridor

Park East Corridor

Geologist Linda Fellenz says the team may well incur some additional costs.

"There would likely be some contaminated soil. There may even be some buried debris that has to get removed, which they`ll run into when they dig out the footings," Fellenz said.

Taxpayers might cover some of those costs if the team applies for and is rewarded state and federal brownfield grants.

Abele says while the county could've applied for those grants, the key in this decision is getting the ball rolling on a project he believes will transform downtown Milwaukee.

Park East corridor

Park East corridor

"Hey, am I ever gonna miss some? Maybe -- but I`m pretty aggressive about getting the best value I can," Abele said.

Fellenz says there are limits on those grants, and they wouldn't cover the sewer work or removing the footings.

FOX6 News has asked Bucks officials about any soil testing they've done so far. We haven't yet heard back on that.