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In 12-3 vote, Milwaukee Common Council approves Bucks arena funding package

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MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday, September 22nd approved a $47 million Bucks arena funding package on a 12-3 vote.

Mayor Barrett signs Bucks arena funding plan

Mayor Barrett signs Bucks arena funding plan

Around 1:15 p.m., Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, members of the Common Council, Bucks President Peter Feigin and other dignitaries gathered to watch Barrett sign the deal.

Bucks officials say they've become builders after political victories in Madison and now Milwaukee.

The $47 million includes money for a new parking garage and public plaza near the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

The Milwaukee Bucks released the following statement on the Milwaukee Common Council’s passage of the arena financing proposal:

“Today is a truly historic day for Milwaukee and Wisconsin, and the culmination of months of hard work from an incredible coalition passionate about our community’s future. Thanks to the support of Sen. Kohl, Mayor Barrett and the Common Council, and other elected officials in both Milwaukee and Madison, this transformative public-private partnership is now a reality. Now it’s time to get to work creating jobs and building a better Milwaukee – not just for the Bucks, but for all citizens of this great state.”

Arena bill signed by Milwaukee leaders

Arena bill signed by Milwaukee leaders

The city's share in the Bucks funding package is $47 million, out of the $250 million in public money going towards the new arena.

Under the agreement, current and former Bucks owners will pay $250 million toward the $500 million cost of the arena. While the taxpayers’ sticker prices is $250 million, the actual cost is closer to $400 million when you factor in interest: $80 million each from the state and Milwaukee County, $47 million from the city and $200 million from the Wisconsin Center District.

$35 million of the city's portion would go toward a new parking garage, and the rest to a tax district that would help cover a new public plaza outside the arena.

Bucks arena funding plan

Bucks arena funding plan

City Comptroller Martin Matson says once all the costs add up, the city’s share could actually amount to about $76 million. That includes $17 million in interest, the demolition of an existing parking garage at 4th and Highland which has an appraised value of about $7 million, and about $4 million worth of street and sewer work in the proposed arena district.

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday's meeting, aldermen made last-minute changes to the arena plan.

Aldermen rejected a plan to hand over a portion of 4th Street to the Bucks to create a pedestrian walkway. That issue has been tabled for now, and was not part of Tuesday's vote.

Under the original plan, the city would give up a block of 4th Street (between Highland and Juneau), and it would become part of a public plaza next to the new arena. But Milwaukee's The Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee voted last week to keep the street open -- a decision that has disappointed Bucks officials.

Again -- this issue hasn't yet been finalized.

Another issue recently agreed to: Who gets revenue from naming rights on the new parking structure? The compromise? The city and Bucks will split the money, and the city's share will be given to the organization "Common Ground," and used for playgrounds.

Additionally, the agreement calls for 25 percent of the sports and entertainment district's new retail to be locally-owned.

The committee also passed a motion that called for 40 percent of the initial construction labor to be city residents -- with an emphasis on unemployed or under-employed residents.

Alderman Nik Kovac says he considers himself a Bucks fan, but voted "no" on Tuesday.

"You make the right vote. You don`t give away taxpayer dollars, but you lose the team. So right now, I think extortion is a kind word to describe the process. I feel good about keeping the Bucks. I don`t feel good about the donation required to keep the Bucks," Kovac said.

Critics and supporters of the project agree the public benefits of the project hinge on development outside the arena, and Bucks officials are confident there will be plenty.

"This is a public-private partnership that is about economic development. This is about building something much bigger than an arena," Feigin said.

The following is a statement from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele on the city of Milwaukee’s vote to approve financing for the Milwaukee Bucks arena:

“Even when negotiations were tough, I never stopped advocating for a deal that would ensure all of Milwaukee, across all socioeconomic lines, would benefit from our partnership with the City and the Milwaukee Bucks, and today that deal has become a reality.

The Park East is now finally and officially on its way to generating millions of dollars in economic activity and creating thousands of good-paying jobs for Milwaukee – and the construction of the new arena is only the beginning of the economic boom we will experience as a result of this deal.

Today is a great day for Milwaukee.”

The following is a statement from Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce:

"Today’s vote by the Milwaukee Common Council was a great example of leadership in action, with Council members working together to build a brighter future for Milwaukee.   Approval of financing for the downtown arena is the culmination of a determined effort by elected leaders from both sides of the political spectrum, from the state and local levels, from rural and urban areas, and from business and labor.   We are encouraged that this broad coalition was willing to look beyond the differences of today and focus on the possibilities of tomorrow.

Three years ago, MMAC challenged our community to have the tough discussions and make the tough decisions necessary to ensure that the future was not just something that happened to us, but rather something we took an active role in shaping.   The Common Council met that challenge today by approving financing for this project that will create thousands of new jobs and draw hundreds of millions in new investment and new revenue to our region."

Marquette University President Michael Lovell issued this statement:

"This is a great day for the city, state and region we call home. At Marquette University, we are incredibly excited that our city’s leaders have taken the final step to secure the future of such a treasured community asset. We applaud the bipartisan collaboration of city, county and state leaders, the vision of the Milwaukee Bucks’ ownership group and the generosity of Senator Kohl on a project that will ultimately make our region a greater place to live. We look forward to being the top tenant in the new arena, which will provide a tremendous state-of-the-art facility for our student-athletes and give our fans a game-day experience second to none in the country."

So what's next? Bucks officials will gear up to sign a lease agreement with the Wisconsin Center District and get city zoning permits for construction. That's when we should see more specific designs for the arena and the surrounding sports and entertainment complex.

Bucks officials hope to tip off the 2017-2018 season in that new arena downtown.


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  • Fred

    GREAT!!!!!!!!!! I love paying for products and services I’ll never use! Way to go elected officials, keep pushing through legislation that suits your needs and don’t worry about the common man who picks up the cost….

    • Opinion8d

      The cost if they left would have been greater. Keeping the team and building the new venue will spur further development and add to the tax base. Had they left, it would be a huge hole in Milwaukee and possible lead to a downward spiral. This offers opportunity to Grand Ave, the Pabst development and even further north toward Brewers Hill. The trolley should be your main concern – as well as getting rid of Barrett.

      • Fred

        i’m against the trolley and Barrett as well. I understand the supposed impact economically if the Bucks left. What grinds me is the fact that the tax payers have to foot the bill for an entertainment industry. The owners and the players are millionaires – let them pay to play. The 250 million being extorted from the taxpayers should be used for education and additional public safety and crime prevention resources (COPS). This city has been in a constant downward spiral with the Bucks here. Maybe things would turn around if they left?

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