The Status Of The Bucks’ New Arena Funding Plan


Amidst the upcoming 2015 NBA draft (we have loads of mocks), the sooner-than-you-think Summer League (July 4-10 in Orlando, 10-20 in Las Vegas), and the rampant free agent possibilities this summer there’s an overarching megaton of an issue for the Milwaukee Bucks that is still very much in a precarious position–the proposed new arena deal that would keep the team in Milwaukee for the next 30 years.

News regarding the arena funding plan has been slight following Scott Walker’s “Cheaper to Keep Them” proposal on June 4th.  Unfortunately, much of the news that we do have has tilted negatively–starting with the forthcoming announcement of the Wisconsin state budget which is expected to be finalized by the end of June.

Why does the state budget matter?

Because if the arena deal is not a part of the budget it would force the deal to be passed as a separate bill which in turn means politicians would have to give it their personal stamp of approval. We’re not too political of a website here at Behind the Buck Pass, but were also not naive enough to assume that a politician would potentially put his or her own career at stake for the sake of the Bucks.

Unfortunately as of June 17th things were still very much in the air as to whether the arena funding plan would be part of the state budget.

State representative Alberta Darling confirmed this when she reported that the plan could be pulled from the budget.

"The co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee says a $500 million financing plan for a new Milwaukee Bucks stadium may be pulled from the state budget and taken up as a separate bill."

Now, if the plan is pulled from the budget it won’t necessarily mean the deal won’t get done–but it will make it much more difficult.

Here’s the interesting part of the plan. The state of Wisconsin’s contribution to the deal is 80 million dollars–or four million for the next twenty years.

Four million is no small number–but it’s not exactly game-breaking either. To put that number in perspective Christian Schneider of the Journal Sentinel reported a handful of items that currently have tax exempt status in Wisconsin. They are (with the lost tax dollars in parentheses):

  • Bull semen (3.9 million)
  • Self-service laundry and dry cleaning (1.7 million)
  • Catalog envelopes used for businesses (4.4 million)
  • TV & film advertising materials (15.9 million)
  • Live birds and clay pidgeons ($200,000)
  • Machinery used in snow grooming ($150,000)

ARE YOU SERIOUS? That’s roughly 26 million in revenue that currently is not taxable. When the state’s contribution is just four million a year those items are awfully staggering.

The Save Our Bucks Twitter account was quick to point out one of those items in particular.

Stunning, no? So while fans wait apprehensively for news on the arena, understand that the booming industry of bull semen, if taxed, would fund the state’s portion of the new arena.

So why hasn’t the arena deal been finalized yet?

Some sources argue that the Bucks (a private business) should have their new arena funded entirely through private dollars–a sentiment underscored by the billion+ net worth of the Bucks’ new owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry.

Here’s where that thought is flawed. First, the new ownership group bought the Bucks from Senator Herb Kohl for 550 million and then committed another 150 million towards the construction of a new arena.

That’s 700 million total. When was the last time anyone invested 700 million in anything Wisconsin-related? The owners have done their part. Committing the better part of a billion dollars towards a Milwaukee based team and a state-of-the-art arena that benefits the entire state is far more than anybody could have asked from them.

Secondly, the deal does, in fact, benefit the entire state. With a current jock tax of roughly six million dollars annually (which is expected to rise to around ten in a couple years), the promised development of the park east corridor (or in other words–Milwaukee’s largest toilet), and an expected stream of high profile events (WWE, NCAA Tournament, Concerts, MARQUETTE) the new arena would prove an economic boon. Big events sell tickets, tickets get taxed, and the state profits.

In a world where the new arena doesn’t get built, Wisconsin’s largest city will be left with the 28 year old Bradley Center, which, as time passes, will no longer reel in high-profile anything. No March Madness. No Miley Cyrus. No anything but a dilapidated building that was outdated the second it opened its doors.

Thanks to a social media campaign by Save Our Bucks urging supporters of the arena to call their state legislators it appears that the tide may be turning.

The philosophy is simple: politicians will seldom turn down throngs of vocal support.

Much of the replies that supporters have gotten from their legislators has been positive.

That last tweet was by Paul Farrow–state senator. That’s the effect that public outcry can have on politicians–they must take the populous into consideration. If more people tell them they want the arena then don’t–then it get’s done. It’s that easy.

Despite the headway supporters have made not everything looks great.

When the ideal outcome is for the plan to be a part of the state budget that’s not good news at all–especially since it comes straight from the horse’s mouth.

Which leaves us at our final point–what you, the fan, can do to ensure the Milwaukee Bucks stay in town for generations to come. It’s as easy as a phone call. Here’s how to do it.

First, click on this link:

Second, enter in your address to find the legislator representing you.

Third, call or email that legislator your opinion on the proposed arena deal. (Calls count for more).

With the situation hanging as precariously as it is, every single voice that our representatives hear in support is another step closer to the new arena getting built and the future of the Milwaukee Bucks remaining here in Wisconsin.

Next: What The Bucks' Reinvention Means To Milwaukee

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