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Optimism fades: Who is going to pay for the new arena?

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Bradley Center hosts some 200 events a year, from sports to concerts to other shows. Now, many are asking how a new arena could replace this one?

When the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks was announced, the city was filled with optimism, but now, as the community debates how a new arena will be paid for, some of that optimism is fading.

"There just seems to be a tendency -- at least the initial response from a lot of people in the community is 'no, we can't do that, it's going to cost too much, it'll be too hard'," said Rich Kirchen, from the Milwaukee Business Journal.

New owner Wesley Edens says the arena could cost $400 million dollars or more.

"Other similar arenas have been constructed for $400 million dollars, some a little more, some a little less," said Edens.

Edens and his business partner, Mark Lasry, are pledging $100 million dollars. Former owner, Herb Kohl, will match that number, but where will the remaining $200 million dollars come from?

Milwaukee Common Council President, Michael Murphy, says it won't come solely from Milwaukee taxpayers.

"It simply is a non-starter. I feel very uncomfortable going to the tax payers and saying, guess what, we're going to tear down a building that's built like Fort Knox, but we're not going to tear down 1,000 homes that are a blighting influence in a neighborhood," said Murphy.

Kirchen wrote an in-depth cover story about that examined public versus private financing.

"Over the last 15 years, there have been 13 arenas built -- anywhere from 3 percent to 100 percent public financing. There were four that were paid for with 100 percent public money, but in between there's a mix about 50 to 60 percent typically," said Kirchen.

On the flip side, the Golden State Warriors are building a new arena at a cost of $600 million dollars, all privately financed.

Glitzy arenas don't always pay off. The $1 billion dollar Barclays Center in Brooklyn was projected to generate $76 million dollars in revenue during it's first year, but produced only a third of that.

Murphy says if a referendum were held today, it would fail.

In recent years, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Houston, and Charlotte all got new arenas with 100 percent public financing. The one thing it's safe to say -- is that won't be the case with any new Milwaukee arena.


  • scot bear

    If it’s put up for a referendum, I predict 20%-for, 80%- against Billionaires begging for money is disgusting. Especially since they pay their employees millions while we thousandaires bend over and take it in the you-know-what for a last-place team. They can afford the playground; build it or leave!

  • Sharon Devitt

    Rich boys want rich boy toys. Fine. Let them pay for it. 100% of it. Most local folks cannot afford to attend their rich boy games, so it disgusts me to see the cash-stuffed butt heads even think of the people paying for their stuff. There is nothing wrong with what they have, they just want a new one. Screw ’em. We still haven’t seen all that miraculous economic growth from this facility–parking lot attendants and a few seasonal part-time minimum wage jobs are a joke. Other new venues in the neighborhood? They open and close like flowers. Tell the rich boys to pony up or leave. 99% of us won’t even miss them.

  • Jim

    ” But it will create jobs”… If you want me to pay for a FACTORY where I can get A REAL JOB that actually SUPPORTS MY FAMILY, I’m all for it. If you want me to pay for another minimum-wage prison, go pound sand!

  • 2econd

    They want tax payers to cough up money for a new bradley center, hey you guys forgot to stop taxing us for the ball park, remember that? thought that tax was suppose to end after seven years? want a new bradley center? the rich boys can buy it themselves, there is nothing wrong with the one we have!

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