Friday, December 14, 2012

Pro Basketball In Milwaukee: Pass The Bucks, Or Spend Some To Save Them?

Posted this over at Purple Wisconsin, the Journal Sentinel's blog platform:

There's no way to avoid noticing that the Milwaukee Bucks are playing their best basketball in years just as movers-and-shakers in media and the business community are talking seriously about finding a few hundred million dollars to build the NBA team a new basketball arena.

"Daunting" doesn't describe the political obstacles confronting such an enterprise - - assuming some level of public financing will be sought, which is a pretty safe assumption unless Warren Buffett is thinking of moving to town.

Not to mention that the ruling party at the State Capitol these days is said to be allergic to new taxing or picking corporate winners and losers or fostering dependency through public spending/subsidies.

Besides, if Scott Walker decided the state did not have the money to help operate a fully-federally-constructed-Amtrak connection from Madison to Milwaukee, how could he back state funding for a destination arena in Milwaukee that could have seamlessly delivered Madison fans and their spending to NBA games, NCAA tournaments, pro hockey contests, state rivalry college tlp-offs or major concerts.

Heck, state government even overruled Milwaukee County taxpayers who voted a few years ago to authorize an added fractional sales tax to help save the local bus system for local residents or retirees who earn less money than your average NBA player.

So it would be quite the contortion for state officials to approve fresh state funding for an arena.

Supporters will make their jobs and trickle-down arguments. They will point to the Miller Park and Lambeau Field precedents.

And there may actually be a way to add in publicly-owned land in the Park East Corridor to reduce up-front taxpayer contributions, though to do it would take the land off the tax rolls and deprive schools and public safety services of future support.

And just to be clear: I recognize a basketball arena can add monetary and reputational value to the downtown, the city and the state.

I can see a deal coming forward that also directs revenues to other basic, vital public institutions - - parks, and the transit system - - as it also serves an arena and the businesses and staffs benefiting by proximity - - but that kind of a global arrangement will require some big thinking from some decision-makers who have histories of discomfort with thinking big about government, and Milwaukee, too.


BUCKO said...

No light rail or trolley- no Bucks! Sorry fat cats! You screw Milwaukee we'll screw you!

FAT CATS said...

I wonder if the Einhorn family has season tickets? Let them pay for it. Otherwise - screw you fat cats. If you want your big boy toy - pay for it with your own blood money.