Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Dispute Over Bucks Arena Goes National

New York Times dumps on Milwaukee business leaders, and city becoming divided on issue.

By - Oct 23rd, 2014 10:02 am
BMO Harris Bradley Center

BMO Harris Bradley Center

Veteran reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel would grumble about the New York Times “parachuting in” to cover a story in Wisconsin. The phrase called to mind fancy pants reporters popping down to a flyover state for a quick story on a place they don’t fully understand. That certainly happens. But a journalist from the outside may also see things we’ve missed, and — with no ties to the community — can be far more frank.

Which brings us to last week’s story by the New York Times, “An Arena Fairy Tale With Blurred Morals,” a droll story that describes Milwaukee as a “grand old dame of a city by Lake Michigan,” casts new Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens as two uber-wealthy Prince Charmings, and then proceeds to mock the notion they need a public subsidy of their business, even as a long list of children’s playgrounds and athletic fields are falling apart in Milwaukee.

Common Ground representative Earl Ingram was among those who took Times reporter Michael Powell on a tour of dilapidated city athletic facilities, including Washington High School, “where the running ‘track’ was cracked and potholed concrete… ‘Our children are twisting their ankles, hurting their knees playing here?’ Ingram said. “And they want us to build an arena for the N.B.A. athletes even as they say they can’t afford this?’”

Yes, the good guys in this fairy tale are the folks from Common Ground, and the bad guys are the businessmen. We learn that Ted Kellner, chairman of Fiduciary Management, Inc., made “heated phone calls” to Common Ground members wondering why they were complaining. We learn that Lasry and Edens have refused to meet with Common Ground and that Lasry’s son Alex, “a newly minted Bucks vice president,” wrote approvingly of a tweet suggesting locals should “Stop whining and pay the arena freight.”

“I found myself confused,” Powell writes. “Could these billionaires and millionaires really not afford to build their own hoops ziggurat? Less than three months before Marc Lasry bought the Bucks, he snagged a handsome $33 million penthouse on Central Park West.”

“The Bucks,” he went on, “insist that the arena, if built with private dollars alone, will ‘not pencil out.’ I requested dollar figures.”

A short while later, Tim Sheehy, President of the Metro Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, and the other villain in this tale, replied with an email, Powell reports. “It does not pencil out,” Sheehy wrote to Powell. “If the estimates are accurate, there is not enough cash flow to support the cost. That’s how real estate works.”

The “pencil out” quote is hilarious: in an age when no one actually uses a pencil to do a budget and when no sports team has ever provided evidence it can’t afford to build an arena or stadium, the idea of this shortfall in money penciling out is indeed a fairy tale. Longtime Bucks owner Herb Kohl, it’s widely assumed, had some losing seasons in the nearly three decades he owned the team, but he also got a huge windfall when he sold the team, purchasing it in 1985 for $18 million and selling this year for $550 million. It’s fair to discount that to $450 million since Kohl has promised to pay $100 million for a new arena, but that’s still a 25-fold return on his investment. By comparison, the S&P 500 grew 11-fold during that period, and was arguably a more risky investment.  Pro sports owners never lose money.

Of course, Kohl didn’t have to pay for a new arena; philanthropist Jane Pettit built the Bradley Center. But Lasry and Edens won’t have to pay for the entire thing either, as Kohl has put up $100 million.

Moreover, the Bucks of today are far wealthier franchise, because of the huge increase in revenue sharing the NBA instituted in 2012. It represented “a staggering shift in league policy,”  as Street and Smith noted, redistributing $140 million in revenue to the neediest teams.

That number will only grow, because “the N.B.A. itself leaks money out its pores,” as Powell writes, and “just signed an extension to its television contract worth $24 billion, which by the roughest reckoning gives the new Bucks owners a revenue stream of $89 million a year.”

Meanwhile the price Lasry and Edens paid for the Bucks now seems low, given the recent sale of the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion. With the growth of basketball as an international game, second only to soccer, the sport’s future is golden, and the Bucks owners will have one of just 30 NBA teams in the world, whose likely long-term value is immense.

Common Ground has threatened to oppose any arena subsidy plan that doesn’t also include at least $150 million to upgrade public recreational and playground spaces.  Observers might write off its members as a do-gooders with no clout. But they are very effective; they previously pressured and embarrassed five multinational banks with foreclosed properties in Milwaukee,  and these banks ultimately agreed to jointly contribute $33 million to remediate the problem in Milwaukee.

Common Ground proceeds systematically. Back in June, it released a report showing two-thirds of the outdoor athletic and recreational facilities at 268 public schools were in poor condition. Their demand was so logical — how can a city fund a new arena for millionaire athletes if it can’t afford to repair its playgrounds for low-income children? — that it’s not easy to dismiss.

The Times story was quite likely the result of being contacted by Common Ground. Since then the group has released information showing that Bucks owner Wes Edens’ Fortress Investment Group owns Nationstar Mortgage, which Common Ground charges is responsible for at least 14 abandoned and deteriorating properties in Milwaukee. “We want those neighborhoods fixed,” Bob Connolly, Common Ground’s staff director, told Don Walker and the Journal Sentinel. “They are responsible for those abandoned properties.”

And on Sunday the group held a well-attended community meeting to step up the pressure on the Bucks owners.  Sheehy attended and accused Common Ground members of “demagoguery,” though the story offered no examples of this. To win the PR battle, Sheehy and the Bucks must somehow find a way to demonize people championing playgrounds for poor children. Good luck with that.

The Bucks’ recipe for success, it appears, is to add ever more minor partners in the franchise, to build up their circle of support. The latest, announced today, is Palermo’s Pizza CEO Giacomo Fallucca.

But the most important of these new partners are five prominent African-American business leaders: Michael Barber, chief operating officer for GE Healthcare; Valerie Daniels-Carter, president and CEO of V&J Holdings Cos.; Virgis Colbert, a retired executive vice president for Miller Brewing Co.; Charles Harvey, a Johnson Controls vice president; and Cory Nettles, founder and managing director of Generation Growth Capital.

All five are also members of Partners for Community Impact LLC, which sounds sort of like a social service group, but is actually a private company that state records shows was created in July, presumably to facilitate the new agreement with the Bucks. Daniels-Carter said the group is committed to making sure “the benefits of this economic activity [presumably meaning the new arena] reach the full community.”

Does that mean they will push for a strong minority hiring agreement when the new arena is built? Nothing has been spelled out. But for the Bucks, the addition of these new owners could help sell an arena subsidy to the black community. Already, Ald. Willie Wade, whose aldermanic district has big problems with home foreclosures and unemployment, criticized Common Ground, saying the group is acting like a bully. “They’re out of order,” he told the Journal Sentinel.

Yes, this could be quite a battle.

Short Takes

Perhaps the most ingenious proposal for a subsidy has come from legislator and former basketball player Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), who has argued the state should look at the taxes (paid by Bucks players, etc.) that would be lost if the state lost the Bucks franchise, and use that as a basis for a subsidy. Gov. Scott Walker, in the second debate, offered some support for this approach. Mary Burke was more guarded.

Of course, the same argument could be made for any business in the state that threatens to move. Indeed, it often is.

-Word has it that Ald. Wade is a Bucks season ticket holder. Could that be a factor in his condemnation of Common Ground?

-The latest to announce a run for mayor is Ald. Joe Davis, who joins fellows alderman Bob Donovan in challenging incumbent Tom Barrett. Who is Davis and what are his chances? Read on.

-Finally, for the many fans of former Journal Sentinel editorial cartoonist Stuart Carlson, here is a fun story updating readers on his life —  and yes, he’s still doing great cartoons.

46 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Dispute Over Bucks Arena Goes National”

  1. David says:

    As a resident of Milwaukee, I am a supporter of the public schools and I enjoy our professional sports. I do not have children so my tax dollars spent in all sorts of ways that do not directly impact me. That being said, this is my community and it is ultimately in my best interests to adequately fund our schools. However, I do not appreciate being blackmailed by Common Ground. I believe their negative tactics will ultimately hurt their mission because I and I’m sure many others will not work with them going forward. They are drawing a line in the sand and effectively removing other more appropriate community solutions and efforts to address their issues.

  2. PMD says:

    But if Common Ground doesn’t make a stink and force these issues into the public dialogue, would anyone care and listen?

  3. David says:

    They’re personally attacking members of the business community that are associated with the arena. I think its destructive and will ultimately backfire. And I believe that people do and would care.

  4. PMD says:

    If Common Ground wasn’t doing it, who or what groups locally would be making the demands that Common Ground is making?

  5. Andy says:

    Common Ground is another organization that is trying to do a good thing but going about it all wrong. Instead of looking at why these facilities are in disrepair and holding people accountable and perhaps finding solutions… they’re lashing out at an entity that has nothing to do with the subject.

    Our tax dollars already go to support these things. Could that money be managed better? Could MPS sell some of their vacant buildings and use the proceeds to upgrade the facilities? Could Brown Deer school district (one of the districts Common Grounds cited as having facilities in need) have not spent tens of millions of dollars on a field house and instead upgraded all their outdoor facilities?

    Ironically, I’ve seen some nice playground equipment donated by the Brewers Foundation to area schools in recent years. I also appreciate how the bucks have given back to organizations like the Boys and Girls club and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

    Common Ground needs to find a better way to make positive change besides trying to chase large businesses out of the city and state.

  6. Andy says:

    Bruce, your comment about Herb Kohl’s return on investment paints a rather skewed picture. His return on investment, if you ignore all additional investments he’s made since 1985, is not out of line. It was indeed a very good investment, but his return netting him only a couple percentage points better than the Dow and S&P over the same time period. It’s just the power of compound interest over a long period of time that makes it seem so much larger.

    Also, what do you have to back up your claim that sports team owners never lose money? I don’t know how things have changed with the new tv contract, but before that more than half of the NBA teams purportedly were losing money. NHL, supposedly almost all the teams were losing money. Even NFL teams can lose money… Are you singularly just looking at buy/sell prices and ignoring operating profit or loss during the ownership period?

  7. PMD says:

    I can appreciate the argument that Common Ground’s tactics are imperfect and could be improved. But I think they are raising important points and drawing attention to something that otherwise would probably go completely ignored.

  8. Bill Kissinger says:

    Thank you Bruce for focusing on this important issue. If you and other credible sources just keep pointing out the obvious and slicing through the obfuscations, this story will have a proper ending. There is indeed blackmail afoot, but common ground is not the perpetrator.

  9. Bruce Murphy says:

    Andy, there is a vast literature by economists showing how well pro sports owners do. Their claims of losing money have never been very believable. A given owner may have some money losing yrs, but also have money-making years. And at the end of the rainbow is a massive increase in value when you sell the franchise. Which is what happened in Kohl’s case. What investor would be unhappy with a 25 times value increase in their investment over a 29 year period?

  10. PMD says:

    That story I shared a link to says that the owner of the Florida Panthers is making money, despite the team allegedly being a money loser and the most disreputable franchise in the NHL.

  11. Daniel says:

    It’s really neither here nor there whether the typical pro sports owner in general, or Kohl, Edens, and Lasry, in particular, tends to lose money by owning a sports franchise. To paraphrase the Romney/Ryan campaign, it is not the public’s job to pick winners and losers in the economy. If they can’t run a profitable business without relying on corporate welfare, then hey – creative destruction.

  12. Andy says:

    Bruce, I’m not saying most franchises are not great investments, especially in the last few years. I took issue with your statement that owners never lose money and that the S&P is a riskier investment. Didn’t the Rangers just drive themselves to bankruptcy a few years ago? You just said yourself they make money some years, lose money others.

    Kohl did very well with his investment, but making 2-3% over market each year isn’t as crazy as you make it sound. That’s why we pay mutual fund managers… to hopefully out perform the market by a couple percent each year. Wasn’t there a JS article that compared the Bucks to several other companies in terms of investment payoff? It was like Microsoft, Kohls, and Johnson Controls and showed that all three of those way out performed the Bucks during that time period. (again, ignoring the many personal investments he made in the team during the years)

    PMD- your article embarrassingly looks at the arena operating company and not the Panthers themselves. He should stick to covering hockey instead of trying to dispute articles by Forbes.

  13. PMD says:

    If you don’t like the article Andy, fine, but is the point not correct? That the owner of the Panthers makes money even as the team is considered the worst franchise in the NHL?

  14. Bruce Murphy says:

    Andy, I think you misunderstood me, my point was that ultimately nobody loses money on a sports team. Sure they may have a bad year or two, but they always get a big return and because of that, it’s a very low risk investment. There may be a handful of companies Kohl might have done better with but the average S&P company grew at least then half the rate of appreciation for the Bucks. Finally what “personal investments” did Kohl make? He lost money some yrs, made money other years. The investments were made by the state ($10 million to the Bradley Center, which subsidized the Bucks) and by the MU Golden Eagles, Admirals, etc, all of whom had contracts that subsidized the Bucks (and I suspect the new owners will use in new arena).

  15. Kyle says:

    Ugh… I want no part of the value of a pro sports franchise debate, but I feel the need to point out that the ‘worst’ franchises in the major sports leagues are often the most profitable. Thanks to generous distribution of the profits from TV contracts, most teams receive some minimum amount of money. In the sports with no salary floor, some owners choose to field particularly bad teams (Marlins, Astros) with the goal of making very large annual profits from the TV deal alone.

    Where the owners start to whine is on the other end, as the best teams often lose a (relatively) small amount of money when trying to field a really good team. Where Bruce has a very valid point is that these same franchises are often the ones building the most value for the future sale of the team. The exact details of these investments are hard to know. Kohl, while wildly successful by Milwaukee standards, was probably one of the least successful owners in sports. He often wasn’t shy about spending money, but meddled too much for it to be spent well, combined with being in a small market.

    That being said, can we please have a moment of silence for the Mustang, the Bonecrushers, and the entire XFL league? Not all pro sports are create equal. The Wave should also be a nice local reminder that it isn’t always easy to own a team.

  16. PMD says:

    Indeed Kyle. The Astros were amazingly profitable last year.

  17. Andy says:

    No, the point of the article is not correct. The author confuses outlays from the county as profit for the panthers, he fails to realize that SSE is a separate company from the Panthers, he ignores (or doesn’t realize) that SSE makes money from more than just hockey and while SSE can not be profitable without the panthers it doesn’t mean SSE is profitable BECAUSE of the panthers. SSE making money and the Panthers making money are two separate things. Further, if you look at some of the overlapping years… even if you combine the profits and losses for SSE and the Panthers you see that the entire group encompassing SSE and the Panthers lost money most years.

    If the article said that the owners of an arena management company still made money some years, despite the panthers dragging them down, then yes the point would be correct. But it doesn’t say that… and luckily for the owners of the Panthers they can get revenue for SSE through concerts, other sporting events, etc.

  18. Bruce Murphy says:

    Andy, I also wanted to ask: where do you get this idea that the value of Kohl’s investment grew 2-3 percent a year. I get about an 11.4% annual increase in value, and thats if interest in compounded monthly.

  19. Andy says:

    Bruce, Kohl was rumored to have spent quite a bit of his personal fortune to support the bucks. The biz journal quoted him as saying he spent over $100 million dollars to keep them going in addition to borrowing massive sums from the NBA.

    I still have a big problem saying sports franchises are a safer bet than indexing to the S&P. If anything, the rapid growth in value of sports franchises in the last few years has helped your argument, but that is all I’ll concede. In the long run of 20-30 years, following a stock index is far far safer.

  20. Andy says:

    I have the Bucks deal at roughly 12.5% annually.
    S&P (depending on exact dates) I had at roughly 8.7%
    Dow I have at about 10.5%

    The 2-3% was above the indexes… not total. I actually didn’t realize the S&P was that low, thought it was closer to 10% annually, but still 4% compounded makes it look far better when you look at the total 30 years down the road.

  21. Bruce Murphy says:

    Andy, your figures sound right to me, 12.5% sounds pretty wonderful.

    Jim Fitzgerald, who sold to Kohl in 85, also got a healthy return. all the major sports franchises have been great investments going back decades. And they all have to argue they are losing money to help sell the idea of subsidies.

  22. Andy says:

    I’d expect to get a couple percentage points above the indexes from any good mutual fund as well…

    That being said, usually the argument I see is that there’s better offers elsewhere. Whether we like it or not, it’s true. And I don’t see the Bucks saying they are losing money, I see the argument being that it doesn’t make sense to build it with only private funds.

    It’s my personal opinion that there are both private and public benefits to a new arena and it makes sense that we see private and public funding sources. I’m especially open to the idea if it involves things like a super TIF or special taxes on players, etc instead of the traditional taxes of the like we saw with Miller Park.

  23. Bruce Murphy says:

    Andy I suspect you are aware of studies suggesting very few mutual funds perform better than an index fund. 12.5% is a wonderful return. Plus you get the fun of running a pro franchise. I don’t think we have to worry about investors going elsewhere, there are only 30 NBA teams.

  24. Andy says:

    Index funds have an advantage of having low expenses and turn over, so they can often times be the better investment. But that’s why I qualified my statement with “good” in front of mutual fund. There’s a lot of expensive and poorly managed funds out there but a good one has a lot more potential to regularly out perform the market. You can’t blindly believe everything Vangard tells us.

    But anyway, my point is still that his investment isn’t this crazy payday you make it out to be.

    And while NBA investors are not likely going anywhere… the franchises themselves might! Seattle anyone? Plus where did our arena league football team go? Anyone still have season tickets?

  25. Cindy Van Vreede says:

    Common Ground fixed up over 40 houses in my Sherman Park neighborhood. These houses were abandoned in foreclosure and cleaned out by thieves because they sat empty for so long. They certainly worked for the neighborhood much better than the City of Milwaukee. Ald. Willie Wade has done nothing for us. When Common Ground presented a plan to clean up Center Street, he wondered why the group didn’t do more for the central city. Someone had to explain to him that not many people would buy any of the fixed up houses if they drove down a nasty Center Street to see them. Wade is totally clueless and useless as an alderman.

  26. Tom Held says:

    I’ve been following this story and appreciate that both sides have a sound basis for their positions. I disagree with the assertion that Common Ground is guilty of blackmail. It’s a group making the argument that if public dollars are spent on a new arena, public dollars ought to be spent on providing recreational venues for children. The group doesn’t hold the purse strings, or have a vote on the proposals. Common Ground should not be ridiculed because it is attempting to sway public opinion and the decision-makers. Every citizen, business and group has that same opportunity.

  27. Steven Blackwood says:

    “sell an arena subsidy to the black community”.
    Going to a Bucks game (and Brewers game for that matter) is often a major financial expense. Many blacks an, I dare say, many whites cannot afford to make such a purchase, at least not on a regular basis. So Milwaukee pays and Waukesha County benefits?

  28. Mike says:

    I think they are going to have an uphill fight to get funding for a new arena for several reasons:

    1. A recent reader poll by The Milwaukee Business Journal asked people if they planned on attending any Milwaukee Bucks games this year. A staggering 68% of the respondents said they wouldn’t attend a single game and 18% said they’d attend less than 5. Is there really that much interest in doing this amongst the public?

    2. The TV deals that the major sports leagues are able to get are likely to continue to go up. Why? It’s one of the last places to sell advertising. If you’re watching a live game, you’ll likely see the commercials. If you’re watching The Walking Dead, you are probably fast forwarding through them. With these increased revenues teams will continue to be more profitable and their values will continue to explode. It could be argued Lasry and Edens already have gotten a steal based on what they paid.

    3. Some will make the argument that this is for more than the Bucks and we need this to draw concerts. Really? I just saw Pearl Jam this week, Several other major acts will be stopping in Milwaukee. Yes, acts do skip Milwaukee, but oftentimes that has more to do with the fact that economically (especially if you have a major stage set-up) it’s easier to play 2 or 3 dates in Chicago than it is to come to Milwaukee. My feeling is several tours will skip Milwaukee regardless of what the arena is.

    4. Common Ground brings up good points. It’s a matter of priorities. If public money is spent here, it can’t be spent elsewhere.

    5. The argument of losing tax revenues collected from the income taxes of NBA players could be applied to any business that is out there.

    At the end of the day, there’s a real vocal minority out there pushing for this thing and they have a mostly friendly media to embrace the cause, but I don’t think this is something registering with the vast amount of people out there.

  29. marcus says:

    I support the Bucks, They have a great community outreach and I love my home team. I also support Common Ground, Milwaukee need’s more REC spaces for all our kids/youth…This is about who and how our tax money should be spent. We need to come to a #commonground and get it ALL done.
    #clubkids414 #gobucksgo

  30. Gary says:

    Never been to a Buck’s game, or to a Brewer’s game; was last in the Milw. Arena for a Shrine Circus event in the 1960s, but attended the Holiday Folk Fair in the Auditorium complex in the 1990s.
    I walk past that Bradley place several times a week, don’t they have a nice enough floor there for playing basketball?
    Bravo Common Cause!

  31. Bruce Thompson says:

    If the taxpayers are being asked to invest in the Bucks, why is there no discussion of their receiving a proportionate ownership interest? That’s the way it works in business.

  32. DairyStateMom says:

    Good piece, as usual, Bruce. The larger point to be made, it seems to me, is not whether pro team owners make more or less than the S&P or someone’s favorite index fund, but rather: why should the taxpayers pony up so much as one thin dime in order to insulate the said pro team owners from some of the actual expenses of the said pro team? I think Common Ground is doing a great job of afflicting the comfortable here, and I look forward to more of it. It makes a nice change from the Chicken Little stories about the Bucks moving unless the taxpayers hand the new owners an arena on a silver platter.

  33. Jeremy says:

    Andy nailed it. The first question asked ought to be “Who is responsible for letting these facilities get into such a sad shape of disrepair?” Taxing authorities already receive funds and should be taking care of these facilities. Because those in charge did a poor job of management we must appropriate more money? Disagree. Common Ground should start with the root of the problem and hold those who are in charge of the facilities responsible.

  34. George says:

    I was born and raise in Milwaukee and I don’t mind pay in tax to upgrade my city, we need to look at new stuff to get inspire the newer building and stuff they have in the city the better they actract ppl here im sick of driving around and theres nothing to look its really dam depressing.

  35. Jack says:

    Whether the Clippers are worth 2 billion and whether the sale to Steve Ballmer has raised the purchase price bar to that level has yet to be seen. However for Mr. Ballmer, cost wasn’t the issue. He wanted a sports team. It has always seemed to me that for many of the owners, a pro sports team is the extremely wealthy’s version of collecting baseball cards. If they want a player they’ll pay more than he’s worth simply to add him to the team/collection.

    Owning a team is an uber-rich man’s hobby. Owning a “sports/entertainment venue” is a large scale real estate/business venture and that’s counterintuitive to why they want a team. In fact, it would suck the fun right out of it. Most anyone who can afford a professional baseball, football, or basketball team can also afford to build a facility for the team to play in, but it’s the last thing they want to own.

  36. David says:

    So if we’re for a new arena we’re against kids? What is MPS’s annual budget? $1,000,000,000 +?!?! The money for upgraded and or maintained athletic fields is there….. somewhere. Trust me, I’m a supporter of public schools, but I also know that we could double their budget and outcomes wouldn’t budge. The owners and other private investors are paying close $300,000,000 towards the new arena. This is a separate issue. I also know that absent the arena debate, Common Ground would have been laughed out of town if they proposed a $150,000,000 plan to upgrade area athletic fields. It’s a false argument.

    Even though I appreciate Common Ground’s mission, I deplore their tactics and going forward they will not have my support. I’m not opposed to creative financing like Bruce’s idea above, but the Buck’s and the development they could bring to the city are good.

  37. Matt says:

    Regarding some of the comments that MPS and County Parks, etc, should have managed their money better to maintain their recreational spaces. Budgets are tough everywhere, but maybe that’s true – I wouldn’t know enough about these organizations’ finances to say.

    Let’s assume that it’s true. Let’s say that MPS really had the money to maintain these spaces and Common Ground is calling on the taxpayers to bail them out. Isn’t a bailout exactly what we’re talking for the Bucks? The Bradley center is only 30 years old but is supposedly out of date and behind on maintenance. Who is responsible for that if not the Bucks?

    So for either project, we’re talking about the taxpayers paying extra for something that really should already be taken care of. Now look at the two possible beneficiaries. On the one hand we have a couple billionaires and a couple dozen millionaires, their fans, and yes, downtown and the positive development the arena would bring. On the other hand, we have thousands of students, many low-income, across the entire county and all its neighborhoods. And Common Ground is not even demanding that we choose the kids over the Bucks. They’re saying do both – that if the taxpayers feel we have the money to build one stupendous basketball court for the pros, don’t we really have the money to build a few dozen nice sports facilities for the kids? If we’re going to bail out the Bucks, we can bail out the kids too.

  38. PMD says:

    Development at the Pabst complex and the Park East has been pretty damn slow. Would that be significantly different if the Bradley Center was newer? It just seems like slow or never is the way it goes in Milwaukee, and I am skeptical that a new arena for the Bucks will launch a slew of new development downtown.

  39. David says:

    I don’t believe contributing funds for a new arena is a bailout for the Bucks. They are privately financing the majority of the costs and the Bucks will only account for 41 events of the almost 200 events throughout the year. Arguably, the the city and the region will benefit from the development and the facility. For the record I’m ok with doing both and funding key cultural amenities.

    PMD. When the Bradley Center was built, arenas were not seen as catalysts for development and they were not designed as such. The Bradley center has three dead walls and is next to parking garages and MATC. Not exactly an area full of potential. Just imagine what the neighborhood would be like without the Bradley Center. Milwaukeans have a phobia when it comes to density, congestion, parking, etc. We need to focus on connectivity and critical mass. We can’t keep building little separate islands of development. If the arena is in an area that is walkable, near hotels, transit, convention center and centralized, I believe the potential is huge.

    Matt, per student costs at MPS are higher than any other district in the state and the outcomes are their worst. I get it… poverty, joblessness, dysfunction, isolation….. I really do. However, management of MPS resources is a huge issue.

  40. PMD says:

    Thinking about the history of development (or lack thereof) in Milwaukee, particularly downtown, I just can’t help but be skeptical of claims that a new arena will launch a new development renaissance downtown. What makes people so confident? Are you basing your confidence on what has happened in other cities after a new arena was built? Are retailers and restauranteurs and the like eagerly waiting to announce new projects, just as soon as the new arena is a sure thing? I’m not convinced a new arena = other new developments all over downtown.

  41. David says:

    I believe Milwaukee’s downtown is sinificantly underdeveloped for it’s size. It’s funny because we do neighborhoods so well here, but downtown is a bit of a mess. I believe its so underdeveloped that a new arena will have a much larger impact here than in many similar sized cities. Especially if done right. We can’t fall into the same trap by deferring to a local real estate professional for guidance or following the path of least resistance. Of course it’s not a sure thing but its a good bet. Confidence in the downtown market is whats missing. Public investment in the form of fixed transit and the public/private partnership to build an arena will open the gates.

  42. D says:

    “Thinking about the history of development (or lack thereof) in Milwaukee, particularly downtown, I just can’t help but be skeptical of claims that a new arena will launch a new development renaissance downtown. What makes people so confident? Are you basing your confidence on what has happened in other cities after a new arena was built? Are retailers and restauranteurs and the like eagerly waiting to announce new projects, just as soon as the new arena is a sure thing? I’m not convinced a new arena = other new developments all over downtown.”

    Do you actually read this website or just cherry-pick hot topic articles like this? Downtown development is accelerating and starting to move its way to the west. The eastern Park East will be filled in shortly, assuming we don’t allow some politically invested floor cleaners to stand in the way of multi-million dollar developments. Across the river, Schlitz Park is booming and Commerce St. is filling its remaining gaps with another residential development and the Lakefront Brewery expansion. The Moderne was just built and the Pabst Brewery is slowly growing in something special. 4-5 new towers will be built overlooking the Lake–including a project that will add nearly 2,000 jobs to downtown and be the largest building in the state of Wisconsin. To the south, the Third Ward and Walkers Point are already popular, improving neighborhoods. To the far fringes of downtown you have the Marquette campus and the Menomonee Valley.

    What you have in the middle is Westown, that already offers cultural institutions, hotels, historic buildings, interesting streetscapes, and lots of untapped potential. An arena built here would make a huge splash in an area that just needs a shot in the arm. The Bradley Center was built in the most undesirable part of downtown—next to a dead at night civic center with its police headquarters, courthouse, prison, and technical college. Nearby other massive buildings that eat up entire blocks like the Arena, Milwaukee Theater, and Wisconsin Center. Next to a freeway spur, parking garages, and other undesirable crap. And you are wondering how building a modern arena in a desirable area will be different?

  43. PMD says:

    Do you read my posts or just blast away for kicks? I never said development has been nonexistent downtown. I said it’s been extremely slow. The Park East came down in what ’97? A lot of proposals at the Pabst site never panned out over the years. I know it is occurring now, but it has been very slow to develop. So yes I do wonder if a new arena will immediately lead to tons of new development downtown. I don’t think it’s a given in this town.

  44. @PMD – Park East came down in ’02-’04. Hundreds of housing units now exist in corridor.

    Pabst pulled out in ’97, if that’s what you’re thinking of. Since Zilber acquired the Pabst (after the Pabst City proposal failed) and the recession ended, things have gone very fast (historic tax credit increase in the past two years has definitely helped).

    All that said, I don’t think an arena will have lots of new development spinoff. A very well-designed arena could help though.

  45. mj says:

    I believe the arena and rec facilities are two separate discussions and should not be lumped together… In terms of the arena, I think is a great way to get graduates from Milwaukee to stay or even return, being a recent graduate I moved away to Chicago because their is nothing to look forward to. All I am dying is give me and others alike a reason to come home. I believe people in Milwaukee should be happy someone wants to actually develop our city

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