The people of Wisconsin, it seems, have a choice: either pay for half of a new $500 million arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, or give up the team.
And that choice must be made now.
If the Bucks do not have a new arena by 2017, the franchise could be moved.
“I think it’s pretty simple, and we haven’t kept it a secret,” Bucks president Peter Feigin said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Certainly the state of Wisconsin and the city of Milwaukee have known that when the Bucks entered into a contract of sale with Senator (Herb) Kohl, there was a provision that gave the NBA the right to buy back the team on a 2017 deadline for the construction of a new arena. The other day, we talked about it in a public hearing with the joint finance committee of the state of Wisconsin to say that the reality is construction needs to start in 2105. It would be necessary to get the arena built (ahead) of the 2017 deadline. We are currently in a substandard arena. That’s acknowledged by everybody involved. We agreed that we would build a new arena, and we’re looking for the new arena to be a private-public partnership: 50/50 with the state, the county and the city. So it’s kind of working backwards from that 2017 deadline.”
Feigin said his “whole focus” and “whole concentration” has been keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee, but he also hopes to build more than just an arena.
“We’ve put out a plan to really kind of transform Milwaukee and build the district – much like things you’ve seen in Kansas City or Columbus, Ohio, or what they’ve done in Oklahoma City,” he said. “How do you build an area where people just don’t go to games and concerts, (but where) people live, work and play? So the economic impact is tremendous in what it does for jobs, what it does for taxes (and) what it does for real estate values.”
The hard part may be convincing lawmakers that the Bucks are a brand that Wisconsin can’t live without it. Do politicians – and people in general – revere the Bucks the same way they revere the Brewers and Packers?
“I don’t think they do,” Feigin said. “You got to remember we’re in a state where folks put on their green-and-gold jerseys probably sometime on Thursday morning and take them off maybe Monday morning, and they don’t wash them for eight months of the year. This is a rabid sports fan (base). But the nice thing about the history of this state is over the last 40 years, there have been a lot of rabid Buck fans and we’re re-attracting those folks back, kind of re-embracing them. It’s a rabid sports community. We don’t have that equity at the moment. We’re building it awfully fast with our performance and kind of our investment back into it. But I think there is this wave of enthusiasm and kind of embracing to know how important having an NBA team in a city is to really build that international awareness, to build that pride of ownership and that connection. It’s moving there. I don’t think it’s where the Packers are now, but you’re talking to the guy who is going to surpass where the Packers are now.”