The five-county sales tax that's helped pay for the Miller Park baseball stadium will end March 31. That's after a vote Tuesday by the board of the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, better known as the Stadium Board.
But due to the coronavirus outbreak, it's still unclear if fans will be allowed into Miller Park during this year's Milwaukee Brewers games.
The 0.1% sales tax has applied to purchases in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington and Racine counties. The legislative vote that authorized the tax was controversial, especially in Racine, where a state senator later lost a recall election over his support for the levy.
But now, the Stadium Board says enough money has been raised during the last 23 years to complete bond repayments by 2030, and to cover repairs and maintenance expenses until 2040. So, the board voted 13-0 to end the tax by the end of March.
About $76 million has been set aside, and Board Chairman Don Smiley says he's pretty sure that's enough.
"But really, no one has a crystal ball as to what's going to happen. One good example is insurance rates. I mean you can't really tell where insurance rates are going to go in the future. But for all of the homework that's been done, by the district with third party professionals, we feel comfortable with the segregated reserve fund," Smiley told news reporters.
Smiley says the Brewers will continue to pay for some improvements to Miller Park according to what's spelled out in their lease.
Baseball Park District Executive Director Mike Duckett said during the board meeting that the team's attendance during the 19 years of Miller Park has been much higher than the Brewers' last 19 years at the previous ballpark, Milwaukee County Stadium, even though the club's record has been slightly worse. He credits the Miller Park roof for the certainty that games would be played and fans would be comfortable. But he says it's good the tax is going away.
"It worked out over the life of the tax about $9 per resident per year. So, not a huge amount of money. But, it was a lightning rod," Duckett said.
Outside Miller Park, a Milwaukee County man, who gave his name as Mark, said he already has plans for his savings.
“Hey, gas money. Gotta get around," he said.
The end of the Miller Park sales tax comes as some sports leagues around the world are canceling games or playing with no fans in the stands due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Stadium Board Chairman Smiley says a local decision will be up to Major League Baseball and the Brewers. The team did not respond to our request for comment.