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Milwaukee Common Council Committee Approves Changes to Arena Deal

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Courtesy of the Milwaukee Bucks
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Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin says if the proposed changes remain, they're back to the drawing board

Several members of the Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday engaged in a heated debate over proposed amendments to an arena financing deal. The project is expected to cost around $500 million, with the city’s projected share at $47 million. City leaders say they want to make sure Milwaukee is getting the best deal for its money.

Discussion over proposed amendments to the arena deal went on for more than three hours Tuesday. The first change the zoning committee made was to allow 4th Street between Highland and Juneau to be closed to vehicle traffic only during events. Previously, the plan called for the city to close the street permanently, as part of a new public plaza. Ald. Bob Bauman protested.

“Why the city, why the planners at the city of Milwaukee would voluntarily give up right of way that we now have for a space whose utility can be achieved anyway to accommodate their needs. I find astounding that we’re actually having pushback from our own architects, planners and so called develop professionals that we would give away right of way,” Bauman says.

While Bauman won that fight, he lost others, at least for now. He wants to increase the rate of unemployed and underemployed residents hired for the project from 30 percent to 40 percent. The higher rate would apply to the arena, a new parking garage, and any ancillary development – such as retail or luxury housing.

Another proposal calls for the Bucks and the city would each put up $375,000 to train workers. Ald. Ashanti Hamilton says the training money and 30 percent hiring goal are a good deal for the city, but Bauman’s proposal to push it to 40 percent is unrealistic.

“Those are my constituents too, and it’s actually my brothers and my sisters and my, it’s my family, it’s more than my constituency. To offer them something symbolic and at the same time take something that’s substantive, that would actually help them achieve it and give them the symbolism instead. You’re not doing that, not on my watch,” Hamilton says.

The committee kept in place the agreement for the city to spend $35 million constructing a parking garage. The Bucks would manage it, and the team and city would split the revenue. However, the committee recommended taking away the Bucks’ ability to sell naming rights to the garage. It would have been another way for the team to make money. Peter Feigin is Bucks president.He says the changes involving the garage naming rights, the new hiring requirements and allowing vehicles on a street the owners wanted to turn into a public plaza, were unexpected.  

“It affects financial, it affects labor, it affects design all of which we’re intimately close to. And I just didn’t know what the course of action is sit down because a lot of this is back to drawing board kind of discussion for us,” Feigin says.

The committee’s recommendations will soon head to the full Common Council. It could vote on the arena deal, later this month.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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