Coalition urges bipartisan funding plan for Milwaukee Brewers stadium improvements, amid GOP doubts
A coalition of business and community groups has formed to support a state effort to help the Milwaukee Brewers pay for long-term improvements to American Family Field.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, has proposed that $290 million for the baseball team be included in the state budget for the next two years. In return, the Brewers would extend their lease in Milwaukee by 13 years to 2043.
Milwaukee restaurant owner and developer Omar Shaikh chairs the Home Crew Coalition. WUWM asked if he supports the governor's spending proposal.
"We support anything to get this done, right? But I think it has to be done with bipartisan support," Shaikh said.
Shaikh said members of the coalition will now go around the state, attempting to educate leaders on why it would be good to lock in Major League Baseball for Milwaukee for at least another 20 years.
He said one selling point is the team's contribution to economic growth. "And so that, coupled with they employ thousands of people per year. And, the Brewers Community Foundation is nothing to sneeze at, as well. Tens of millions of dollars have run through there to support charities from all over the place."
Shaikh said the Brewers were important to him as a kid, and he's had many positive experiences taking his children to games.
But a new challenge to Evers' budget proposal surfaced Wednesday as Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the Associated Press and other media outlets in Madison that the governor's plan is likely dead and that GOP lawmakers will find a different plan.
State Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), who is co-chair of the Legislature's budget committee, told a WisPolitics.com forum last week that his constituents in southwest Wisconsin are not excited about helping the Brewers.
"My district is a long ways away from Milwaukee. The bulk of the feedback I'm hearing on that is negative, and I think that's probably in the context of, you know, millionaire players, billionaire owners. It's just hard to convince a farmer in Fennimore that this is going to be a great investment," he said.
The latest controversy comes about 28 years after lawmakers barely OK'd a sales tax increase for five counties in the Milwaukee area to pay for the building of what became Miller Park.
The Home Crew Coalition includes former GOP state chair Mike Grebe, who helped get the 1995 deal done. Now, Grebe, Sheikh, Peggy Smith of VISIT Milwaukee and a half-dozen other leaders of the group say they're trying to go to bat again for baseball.