© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Option For Milwaukee Bucks Arena: State Borrows $150 Million

Credit Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
A new funding option is on the table for a new arena in Milwaukee

The new plan would replace the one Gov. Walker put forward. He recommended the state borrow $220 million.  Mayor Barrett opposes the lower amount.

Under Walker's proposal, Wisconsin would repay the borrowed money using the income taxes the NBA players pay to the state. Yet, from the beginning, some Republican lawmakers made it clear that they think Walker’s plan is too expensive.

The new plan on the table calls for the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands to lend the state $150 million to put toward a new downtown arena. The board is Wisconsin’s oldest agency.

While it’s likely you’ve never heard of it, it has helped to get some key projects off the ground—for example, renovations of Lambeau Field. Deputy secretary Tom German is deputy secretary says the public lands board manages around 77,000 acres and $1 billion in assets. It borrows against the lands while pumping its earnings into school libraries. German says municipalities often come to board for funding because it can offer a good deal.

“We have competitive interest rates, we compete with the bond market. We have no fees. There is no credit rating fee, there is no underwriting fee, there’s no processing fee, there’s no fees whatsoever. There are no pre-payment penalties,” German says.

It’s estimated that a new arena complex would cost nearly $500 million. The team’s current and former owners have pledged $250 million, meaning taxpayers would have to foot the other half. Fifty-percent is not the norm these days, according to Robert Baade. He’s an economics professor at Lake Forest College in Illinois.

“Most of the NBA arenas are funded with about 30 percent public funding,” Baade says.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said late Thursday that he wants to keep the city’s share at $25 million. He says he likes the new borrowing plan, but not the fact that the state share would drop from $220 to $150 million.

“My paramount concern is the taxpayers of the City of Milwaukee, and I am confident that we can do that, and at the same time, make sure that this arena is built,” Barrett says.

The NBA has said the Bucks need a new arena by fall of 2017 or the league would pull the team.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
Related Content