White and green Milwaukee Bucks flags fly on bridges across the Milwaukee River, to remind fans of the new NBA season and perhaps the arena the team says it needs.
While the regular season begins this week, leaders in metro Milwaukee continue debating whether to build a new basketball arena and if so, how to pay for it. The league and team insist it needs a more modern venue.
Professsor Rob Baade studies sports economics at Lake Forest College in northern Illinois. He says the limited number of pro sports teams puts them in the driver’s seat, so Milwaukee will have to build a new arena if the city hopes to retain the Bucks.
The typical financing model these days, according to Baade, is one in which the host community provides a significant portion of the upfront financing and does not receive a share of significant revenue streams. "A lot of new arenas are built simply to accommodate luxury seating. In the case of any city simply building a new stadium to replace an old stadium, once the construction phase of the project is done, there is nothing new under that city's economic sun," Baade adds. He says economic trickle is particularly absent when it comes to nighttime games during the school year.
Baade says sports leagues are pushing hard for luxury loges because if leagues are going to create more comprehensive revenue sharing, "which is really necessary if you're going to have small market clubs and large market clubs coexisting, it's got to be that every single host city is doing their utmost in terms of revenue generation," Baade says.
As for the role of winning and losing seasons, Baade says ultimately teams have to win in order to get people passing thru the turnstiles. Otherwise, he says fans will look for other entertainment.