Bucks owner Herb Kohl issued a statement Monday reiterating his intent to keep the team in Milwaukee. But in order to do so, he’ll need to raise funds to build a new arena. Back in September, NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, who will take over as commissioner on Feb. 1, deemed the BMO Harris Bradley Center unfit for NBA competition.
“At the end of the day compared to other modern arenas in the league, this arena is a few hundred thousand square feet too small,” Silver said. “It doesn’t have the sort of back-of-house space you need, doesn’t have the kinds of amenities we need. It doesn’t have the right sort of upper bowl/lower bowl (seating) configuration for the teams frankly that Milwaukee wants to compete against.”
According to his statement, Kohl will consider broadening the ownership of the Bucks as a means of strengthening the organization and, presumably, gaining funding. Below is Senator Kohl’s complete statement:
“When I bought the Milwaukee Bucks back in 1985, it was for one reason-to keep the team here. To this day, that remains a top priority. We are proud to be an NBA city. We are very grateful to our fans and business partners who support us. I am especially proud of the extraordinary people in the Bucks organization who work tirelessly to deliver a good product and great entertainment. The best players in the world perform in our city every year, spreading the names of Milwaukee and Wisconsin around the country and, indeed, around the world.
Over the next several months I will be considering broadening the ownership of the Bucks as a way to strengthen the franchise and keep it in Milwaukee. I have retained Steve Greenberg, Managing Director of Allen & Company, as my advisor. I have done business with Allen & Co. for over thirty years and they are a great organization. In the event new investor partners are added, they will need to be as committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee as I am.
In addition to committed ownership, it is imperative that we get to a new 21st century sports and entertainment facility in a timely manner, not only for the Bucks but also for the more than 1.5 million visitors who attend nearly 200 events held there each year.”
Throughout his tenure as owner, Kohl has been a staunch supporter of the team and has long maintained that he will take whatever measures are necessary to keep the franchise in Milwaukee. The NBA has reportedly issued a hard 2017 deadline for Milwaukee to have an arena in place, but so far the issue has remained stagnant. The team’s current lease of the Bradley Center expires the same year. Cities like Seattle and Vancouver – formerly home to the Sonics (Thunder) and Grizzlies, respectively – would likely jump at the opportunity to host another franchise should a deal not be finalized.
At the Bucks’ media day in September, Kohl addressed the arena situation and expressed confidence that a deal would be completed.
“It’s going to happen,” he said. “We’re getting a facility. I am confident that we’ll get a facility.”
While Kohl’s commitment to the city is admirable, his outright refusal to rebuild a team that hasn’t won a playoff series in over a decade has led to some backlash from Bucks supporters. Recently, a group called SaveOurBucks.com launched a website aimed at raising money to erect a billboard encouraging the team to tank for a better chance at a high pick in the vaunted 2014 draft. Though Milwaukee snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed last season, the team returned just four players, and the SaveOurBucks.com contingent may get their wish, even if it’s unintentional. Through 24 games, the Bucks are a league-worst 5-19.
Commissioner David Stern also issued a statement Monday in response to Kohl’s announcement:
“Senator Kohl bought the Bucks in 1985 in order to ensure the team would remain in Milwaukee. During his extraordinary stewardship his goal remained the same — to bring the fans of Wisconsin high-quality basketball from a team they would be proud to call their ‘home’ team. With this announcement, Senator Kohl continues his mission: to assure continuity of ownership by broadening its ownership base, and assuring that the fans of Wisconsin will enjoy NBA basketball and other events in a new state-of-the-art facility.
More is certainly to come as the franchise lobbies for a new arena deal, but these negotiations take considerable time, and Kohl will need to act quickly to avoid losing a team that’s already posting the fourth-worst home attendance in the league. On the bright side, 2013 first-rounder Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown flashes of his massive upside this season, and the team figures to be in position to select a potentially franchise-shifting player in 2014.