Bucks president says team could move to Las Vegas or Seattle without public funding for new arena

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The last time Bucks president Peter Feigin made a public threat related to his team’s new arena, he backed off a few hours later.

How long will this one last?

Mark Kass Milwaukee Business Journal (hat tip: Ananth Pandian of CBSSports.com)

Milwaukee Bucks president Peter Feigin told Wisconsin lawmakers Monday that time was of the essence in approving $250 million in public funding for the proposed arena in downtown Milwaukee or the NBA will move the team to another city.

At an informational hearing held by the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, Feigin said the Bucks owners’ purchase agreement for the team includes a provision that construction of a new arena start in 2015. If that does not occur, he said the NBA will buy back the team for a $25 million profit and move them to “Las Vegas or Seattle.”

The Bucks are trying to secure $250 million in public funding for a new arena, so they’re talking about Las Vegas and Seattle to scare Wisconsin lawmakers.

But the local governments shouldn’t be rattled. They have plenty of leverage.

Beyond the fact that most public financing for professional sports arenas does not improve the area’s economy, Bucks owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry have incentive to pay more themselves. The NBA can buy back the team for $575 million if a new arena isn’t in the works by 2017. I suspect the Bucks are worth more than that, so Edens and Lasry surely don’t want to sell.

Wisconsin lawmakers shouldn’t blink at this “Las Vegas or Seattle” threat. Play hardball. Dare Edens and Lasry to let the NBA exercise is buyback option. I bet the two owners will pay the $250 million themselves if the alternative is losing their team.