Milwaukee arena financing plan takes step forward, passes state Senate

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Owners current and former of the Milwaukee Bucks have put up $250 million of their money to get a new arena built for the Bucks — something that, if it doesn’t happen, could see the team moving out of state, the team president threatened.

Getting the arena built is going to require another $250 million in state money, something Governor (and presidential candidate) Scott Walker put together a plan to do. However, that plan has to get through the Wisconsin legislature. And while Commissioner Adam Silver supports the plan, not everyone supports public money for arenas.

The Governor’s plan cleared the first hurdle Wednesday when the state Senate approved the measure by a 21-10 vote. The Bucks released this statement from team president Peter Feigin:

“Today’s vote is a significant step forward in our collective effort to build a new sports and entertainment district in Wisconsin. We appreciate the bipartisan leadership in Madison for bringing this transformative partnership one step closer to reality. We’re optimistic that this financing package will receive support in the Assembly and look forward to working with state, county and city officials.”

Bucks co-owner Alexander Lasry tweeted this about the vote:

The state Assembly will take up the issue this week. If it clears that house, the Governor will sign it and the arena will break ground relatively quickly.

Republicans in Wisconsin are the majority and back the plan, but need to get some Democrats on board to make it pass. If you are into the minutia of Wisconsin politics and the horse trading that will go on to get this deal done (or not), this Journal-Sentinel article can explain the details that I’m not going to bother to.

Adam Silver fought to keep the Kings in Sacramento (while Deputy Commissioner he helped make that push) but the new owner and state legislature there were able to get a deal done to build a new arena (which will open for the 2016-17 season).

If this arena deal doesn’t get done, then things will get very interesting. The NBA has the right under the terms of the sale of the team to buy it back from the current owners (at $25 million more than they paid for it) and find another owner. That might be tough to do in state, but there would be a line of people willing to move the team. Not that the threat of moving a squad is a good reason to put public money into an arena that will make billionaires richer.