Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Bucks Still Won’t Play in Fiserv Arena

Company denies that they're arena naming rights partner.

By - May 31st, 2018 01:47 pm
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New Milwaukee Bucks arena and surrounding area. Rendering by Populous.

New Milwaukee Bucks arena and surrounding area. Rendering by Populous.

Despite a report from Sports Business Daily stating that the Milwaukee Bucks were in “advanced negotiations” with financial services technology company Fiserv for the naming rights to the new arena, no deal is forthcoming according to Fiserv.

“We are not the naming rights sponsor,” says Fiserv vice president of corporate communications Britt Zarling.

That matches what the company said in late April when I contacted them after speculation it was the Brookfield-based company was peaking on internet message boards. It had been discovered that FiservArena.com and FiservCenter.com were both registered in January. Interest was further heightened when commenters started to connect the dots between the Bucks desire for an office tenant in their Deer District development and Fiserv’s search for a new site for their headquarters that has been delayed for months.

Bucks co-owner Wes Edens told the media in mid-April that the team is exchanging contracts with a naming rights partner for the $524 million arena. “It’s a company that’s local. It’s got a national presence.” Early estimates pegged the annual price as high as $10 million, and Edens said the team is happy with the rate they’re getting.

But that’s not what is happening today apparently. According to Sports Business Daily, Bucks president Peter Feigin says the team is “not in final negotiations with any perspective naming-rights partner.”

On a recent arena tour Feigin told members of the local media that he knows what the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center will ultimately be called, but declined to give any further details.

Sports Business Daily says Fiserv was preparing to pay $6 million annually for 20 years.

Had it been interested, Fiserv certainly has the cash to buy the naming rights. The company reported $1.246 billion in net income in 2017. Fiserv is publicly traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange, with a market cap of $29 billion, and has approximately 24,000 employees spread across the globe, with about 900 working out of their Brookfield headquarters.

Fiserv is evaluating sites in The Corridor in Brookfield, the UW-Milwaukee Innovation Campus in Wauwatosa and the Reed Street Yards in Milwaukee for its corporate headquarters, as well as sites outside of Wisconsin. It previously ruled out a possible site in Schlitz Park. Potential sites outside of Milwaukee include Alpharetta, Georgia where the company has approximately 1,600 employees.

CEO Jeffery Yabuki said the search is focused “primarily within the Milwaukee area” at the company’s May 2017 shareholder meeting. An indicator that Fiserv might stay here emerged two months before that: in March Todd Horvath, president of the company’s bank solutions division, purchased a $1.4 million home on N. Lake Dr. in Milwaukee.

The company has not provided an update on the headquarters search in a number of months.

The state has become involved in attempting to keep Fiserv in Wisconsin. Included in the state’s Foxconn financing package is $10 million in tax credits for Fiserv if it maintains 93 percent of their employees and corporate headquarters in the state. An additional $2.5 million could come from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for capital costs and the selected municipality for the corporate headquarters is likely to contribute additional funds via tax-incremental financing.

Who Else is in the Running?

Plenty of other area firms remain potential naming rights partners for the Bucks, but a number have been crossed off the list.

The team has established “founding partnerships” with Johnson ControlsMillerCoorsFroedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin and BMO Harris Bank, likely eliminating those firms from contention. Feigin confirmed it’s not Harley-Davidson, which has their logo on the team’s jerseys. Foxconn is reportedly out of the running. Potawatomi Hotel & CasinoKohl’s and Northwestern Mutual are out, as is Madison-based American Family Insurance.

And while that eliminates a lot of major employers, it still leaves a number of other major names like Kohler, FIS, SC JohnsonMilwaukee ToolRockwell Automation and Robert W. Baird.

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3 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Bucks Still Won’t Play in Fiserv Arena”

  1. MidnightSon says:

    While anything can happen, I believe the chances have never been greater that Fiserv will be the naming rights sponsor of the new arena. I’m sure neither party is happy with the leak by unnamed sources, but leaks happen all the time. (Witness the current White House.) No one likes to be scooped, especially while negotiations are still going on. And, what’s a VP for Corporate Communications supposed to say? “Yes, that’s true?” I believe Britt Zarling carefully chose her words: “We are not the naming rights sponsor.” That’s true. Not yet.

    The Sports Business Daily article provides interesting insight into why a B2B company would do something like this. Branding and distinguishing itself among a pack of other companies people don’t know. And, a May 2017 Journal Sentinel interview, Jeffery Yabuki did say Milwaukee would be in the running for Fiserv’s new headquarters to attract the Millennials it currently has difficulty attracting because…Brookfield.

    As of today, my money is on both Fiserv securing the arena naming rights and locating its headquarters on one of the unused lots next door, perhaps even on the old Bradley Center site. 🙂

  2. A Prire says:

    Well put MidnightSon. An articulate summation of the reality of naming rights.
    I agree, Fiserv seems well placed!

  3. michael says:

    It would be slam dunk if Fiserv decided to move more operations into downtown. I think MKE’s got a good story to tell; the greater downtown is the home to the premier cultural & civic destinations in the region, there’s a variety housing options & price points within walking distance, it’s got a solid lunch scene, lots of folks jogging along the lake at lunch, it’s home to all the relevant professional networking groups, there’s a good happy hour scene & after-working cultural programming like Jazz in the Park. It’s accessible by car, transit, ped/bike, even train. 10 minute uber to the airport. Lots of near by hotels.

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