Bucks unveil plan for $500M arena, $500M entertainment district, are neighbors concerned about competition?

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Those affiliated with popular Milwaukee Bucks pre-game spots say they're happy to see early designs for a new Bucks arena in downtown Milwaukee -- but are they also happy to see plans for a surrounding sports and entertainment district that could mean more competition?

The Bucks' arena plans call for the demolition of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, where the Bucks currently play. That would make room for a new development next to the new $500 million arena. The Bucks and their developers say the vision is for a 700,000 square foot, 17,000 seat arena designed for maximum flexibility and year-round use. The $500 million sports and entertainment district would include restaurants, retail, housing and office space.

So what do neighbors think?

Matt Schmidt directs operations for the group that owns Trinity, The Harp, Vagabond and Water Street Brewery -- all spots Bucks fans and others gather before and after events at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

"The Bradley Center is an important part of our business model. It`s important that there`s lots of dates, whether it`s the Admirals, the Bucks, Marquette, or concerts. It really generates a lot of people coming downtown," Schmidt said.

Schmidt says should the new development include bars and restaurants, he's not worried about losing his share of the pre-game or post-game pie.

"The more people that it brings to the area, we feel it`s an opportunity for us to show them our places and show them how great we are," Schmidt said.

Just a block south of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Major Goolsby's has long been a popular destination for fans. Management officials say they're at lease a little concerned about the Bucks arena proposal.

"Initially, if it was just gonna be the arena, I wouldn`t expect we would lose business because we`d still be one of the main sports bars only two blocks away," Major Goolsby's Assistant Manager Marty Petricca said.

While the proposal may mean more competition, these businesses are trusting the potential growth and their history will lead to a net positive.

"There`s maybe a small concern, but still, we`re the number one sports bar in Milwaukee. We have quite a reputation, so we`re expecting to hold our business," Petricca said.

So far, there's at least one firm commitment to the project beyond the new arena.

The Bucks confirm co-owner Wes Edens will personally invest in the new development.

The entertainment district would be paid for mostly by private enterprises -- but the arena requires public funding, which hasn't yet been finalized.

Governor Scott Walker's plan calls for the state contributing $220 million in bonds -- with some funds coming from players' income taxes and $50 million coming from other sources, such as the city and the county.

But some lawmakers are calling Walker's play "dead on arrival" due to its price-tag.

Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)'s plan calls for the state contributing $150 million via a loan through the state's "Public Lands Board."

Former owner Herb Kohl has pledged $100 million, and the new Bucks owners have pledged $150 million towards this project.

The state's contribution ($150 million to $220 million), the city/county contribution ($50 million), and the pledges from Kohl and the new Bucks owners ($250 million) combined could come up short of the $500 million needed for the arena. If the state contributes $150 million, the total would be $450 million -- $50 million short.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says the state won't pay that shortfall -- saying this in a statement:

"It`s clear that the city and county need to step up their game and make more of an investment in the project than what they have initially put forward."

Exactly how much the state will contribute to this project will likely be ironed out in the coming weeks. The state budget is due in June.

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