New Bucks Arena Approved
City completes final step of financing puzzle for new Bucks arena.
The Seattle Starbucks or Las Vegas Gamblers they are not. The Milwaukee Bucks will stay in Milwaukee. Fifty years after the Milwaukee Braves played their last game in Milwaukee before bolting to Atlanta, the Milwaukee Common Council approved a $47 million financing package that will keep the Bucks playing in Milwaukee for decades to come.
The Common Council approved the creation of a new tax incremental financing district (#84) on a 12 to 3 vote. The new district encompasses a large swath of Westown and will pay for a new city-owned parking structure and other public infrastructure improvements. Voting against the measure were council members Mark Borkowski, Nik Kovac and Tony Zielinski. The council chambers were packed for the vote by supporters and employees of the Milwaukee Bucks and members of the non-partisan Common Ground, which has used the deal to propose more investment in youth athletic facilities.
The meeting was perhaps more notable for what didn’t happen. Compared to the acrimonious debate surrounding the passage of the Milwaukee Streetcar starter system, the arena debate was downright tranquil. No one threatened to start a petition to force a referendum. There were no parliamentary maneuvers to hold or enter into the journal the file, moves that were used against the streetcar to delay approval for two months. Council members simply stated their beliefs and voted. No delays, no political trickery that only a lawyer can appreciate.
The arena deal is of course a bit anti-climatic at this point. Yes, the city did need to approve their part of the package, but it wasn’t the contentious process that getting the bigger funding package approved at the state level was. As I predicted in July, the council barely had to lift a finger to get the deal done. Yes there were a couple public hearings that stretched on for hours, but in the end the deal was approved as part of the normal legislative process.
Though the financing is done, much work remains on the design and engineering of the arena. Despite the three renderings released by the Bucks, they have yet to submit final plans to the city. A condition of the deal approved today requires the Bucks to submit the arena for city approval via a Detailed Planned Development (DPD). DPD’s are regularly used by the city for zoning changes or buildings that exceed density limits for a parcel. The upside for the city (and public) in requiring a DPD is that the final design will be reviewed by the city to ensure it fits well within the existing neighborhood and has the necessary amenities (wide sidewalks, many doors, loading areas, etc, etc) to handle large flows of people. The DPD eliminates the ability for the developer to pull a fast one and helps ensure things happen according to approved plans.
The new arena is scheduled to open in time for the 2018-19 season. The approval of the financing leaves the project far from completion though, with some of the ancillary development for the Park East land not scheduled to be completed until 2026. Fear not, we’ll have plenty to cover for years to come.
For those curious about the exact language of the terms between the Bucks and city, the final term sheet is available online as is the legislative file for the new TIF district. The lease for the arena between the Bucks and the Wisconsin Center District still needs to be negotiated by Department of Administration secretary Scott Neitzel and the Bucks.
For more background on the financing deal and the fallout from it, see my Arena Winners and Losers column from July.
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- Op Ed: County Parks Lost Funding to Bucks Arena - Patricia Jursik - Jul 7th, 2020
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- Eyes on Milwaukee: Bucks Beat Hiring Targets on Fiserv Forum - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 20th, 2019
- Murphy’s Law: Taxpayers Make Bucks, Brewers Rich - Bruce Murphy - Apr 16th, 2019
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Bucks Unveil Master Plan for Park East - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 15th, 2019
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Read more about New Bucks Arena here