The Bucks are facing trouble in their plan to build a new arena.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal has failed to receive support, and potential federal changes could limit public funding. Bucks owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry have pledged more money, but they’re still short.
Professional teams always overstate the importance of getting a new stadium built, but the pressure is particularly high on Edens and Lasry. If the Bucks don’t have a new arena by 2017, the NBA can buy the team for $575 million.
So, the Bucks are trying everything.
First came the carrot, pictures of a beautiful new building.
Then – at least temporarily – came the stick.
A day before key figures plan to meet in Madison to try to reach agreement on an arena financing plan, the president of the Milwaukee Bucks said a deal needed to be finalized in 10 days.
Then he backed off. Way off.
Over the noon hour Tuesday, Peter Feigin, addressing a conference of commercial Realtors and shopping center executives, said, “The clock is ticking. This has to be wrapped up in the next 10 days.”
However, late in the afternoon — and three hours after his comments were posted online — Feigin released a statement from the Bucks that attempted to backtrack.
“There is no immediate deadline for a financing plan and we’re not creating one,” it said. “We’re simply hopeful that progress continues with our partners and throughout the legislative and political process.”
Bucks’ spokesman Jake Suski said Feigin had misspoke. He said Feigin didn’t want to leave the impression that the Bucks were imposing their own deadline. “That wasn’t his intent,” Suski said.
Earlier, however, the Bucks president had been quite clear, saying if an arena financing deal doesn’t get completed, “the Bucks will be gone from the state of Wisconsin.”
It seems the Bucks realized Feigin’s ultimatum was ridiculous – and it was.
Wisconsin lawmakers shouldn’t donate public money to Edens and Lasry, the latter of whom is a billionaire. If those two want a new arena, they can afford to build it.
Sure, Milwaukee doesn’t want to lose its NBA team. But study after study has shown people spend money they would have spent on a professional sports team on other forms of entertainment. That money is not lost from the local economy.
Plus, in this case, Edens and Lasry have a lot more to lose – their team. They can’t just move it to another location if Wisconsin doesn’t pony up. State and local governments should use that leverage, which would probably cause Edens and Lasry to contribute more toward an arena rather than lose their ownership for a low price.
So, the Bucks can set – and backtrack – from whatever deadlines they like. They need Wisconsin a lot more than Wisconsin needs them.