Brendan O’Brien

Common Ground Will Fight New Bucks Owners If No “Fair Play”

Group serves notice: any plan for new arena must include $200 million for children's playgrounds and athletic fields.

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A community member makes her views known at an event to unveil a report by Common Ground on athletic and recreational facilities at Milwaukee County public schools. (Photo by Brendan O’Brien)

A community member makes her views known at an event to unveil a report by Common Ground on athletic and recreational facilities at Milwaukee County public schools. (Photo by Brendan O’Brien)

The recent sale of the Milwaukee Bucks will not alter a grassroots effort to persuade public officials that if taxpayer money is used to pay for a new arena, it should also pay to improve courts and ball fields at area schools.

Longtime owner and former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl announced on April 17 that he sold the NBA team to investors Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry for $550 million. The three pledged to chip in at least $200 million for a new arena, which is expected to cost at least $400 million, meaning the public may need to foot the rest of the bill.

Officials and volunteers of Common Ground’s Fair Play campaign voted earlier this month to support public funding for a new Bucks arena if a $150- to $250- million public investment is made to improve Milwaukee County public school outdoor athletic and recreational facilities, and to oppose the project if public money for these facilities is not included.

One of the three basketball goals lack rims at the Washington High School of Information Technology, 2525 N. Sherman Blvd. (Photo by Brendan O’Brien)

One of the three basketball goals lack rims at the Washington High School of Information Technology, 2525 N. Sherman Blvd. (Photo by Brendan O’Brien)

“As we have consistently stated, Common Ground is not opposed to a new arena. But if public taxpayer money is used to build a new Bucks Arena, we demand a say in how our money is used, and that means investing in our children through Fair Play. New ownership does not change that,” said Jennifer O’Hear, the chairwoman of the campaign, in a statement.

Common Ground, a grassroots organization of citizens, small businesses and churches that focuses on social and economic issues, launched the Fair Play campaign last April to make the public funding pitch.

In June, Fair Play released a report showing two-thirds of the outdoor athletic and recreational facilities at 268 public schools in the county’s 38 school districts are in terrible, poor or fair condition. The Milwaukee Public Schools was one of 11 districts with facilities rated in the poorest condition, according to the report.

“We welcome Mr. Edens and Mr. Lasry to Wisconsin. If they want public money for their new Bucks arena then we hope they will support public money for the athletic facilities (used by) our children. It’s Fair Play,” O’Hear said.

The Milwaukee Bucks had the NBA’s worst record during the 2013-14 season, winning just 10 out of 41 games at home. The team, which plays at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, also recorded the worst attendance in the league during the season.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce created a task force in October to explore financing and enhancements for the metro area’s cultural and entertainment facilities, including the Bradley Center, which also hosts concerts, college basketball games, NCAA tournaments and Admirals hockey.

The arena, for which the Bucks have a lease until 2017, is owned by the public and receives tax support for its operations. The arena will need at least $100 million in investment to stay operational, according to MMAC President Tim Sheehy.

“The bottom line is that a new facility is a necessity to move forward with the NBA. Done right, it can be a game-changing development for the Milwaukee region but will need some level of public sector investment,” Sheehy said in a blog after the sale of the team.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

 

One thought on “Common Ground Will Fight New Bucks Owners If No “Fair Play””

  1. East Slider says:

    I’ve always thought that Yiddish is a great language in how it has a lot of words that say so much with just one simple word. Probably my favorite Yiddish word has to be “chutzpah” which is the perfect word for whoever came up with this “idea” if you’ll call it that. Chutzpah applies here for several reasons, first just the idea that someone or some group would even consider tacking on their want to the possible public financing of an arena, second for demanding an outrageous sum of $200 MILLION DOLLARS for playground renewal and third for something like playground renewal when this area has a lot of much more pressing and serious concerns. I hope that that this is really just someone’s idea of a clever way to get something like more funding for new playgrounds out front in the media as opposed to something they’re truly serious about, but who knows!

  2. Unemployed says:

    My group the Unemployed Council are respectfully going to fight spending public money if they don’t create 200,000 new jobs for the current unemployed workers. If public taxpayer money is used to build a new Bucks Arena, we demand a say in how our money is used, and that means investing in our community’s lack of jobs. It better be those jobs that pay more than minimum wage too.

    Then My other group would like $200 million for the purpose of removing Ghetto from our city streets. We have totally let Milwaukee go down the tubes. That 200 million will help get Milwaukee off the top 10 most dangerous places to live. If you think a new arena will help with sales you are wrong. Your gonna have to clean the “elements” and make the area safe!

    Oh and if there is any more money left could we get some good players worthy of a new arena!

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