While reports percolate about Herb Kohl possibly selling the Milwaukee Bucks and putting proceeds toward a new basketball arena, a local group is taking a stand.
Common Ground insists that if Milwaukee spends public money for professional athletes, it should also spend money on children.
Business and civic leaders insist Milwaukee must replace the Bradley Center, if the city hopes to retain an NBA team. They say the 25-year-old center cannot generate the money a successful franchise needs.
Keisha Krumm, of citizen advocacy group Common Ground, says she has no problem with private money funding a new arena, but public funding is another matter.
“If we’re going to have a discussion in our city about using public money for play spaces for a professional basketball team, we should be talking about play spaces as well for young people in our community,” Krumm says.
Krumm says Common Ground would oppose public funding for a new basketball arena, unless the community also sinks $150 million into improving the athletic facilities in public schools.
“There are about 290 schools and about 278 facilities and 65 percent of those facilities we rated as terrible, poor or inadequate, and they’re sub-par and they need to be upgraded and fixed,” Krumm says.
Krumm says more than 400 members of Common Ground will meet Tuesday night at Hamilton High School to vote on a formal position.
Board chair of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce Ted Kellner calls Common Ground’s remarks premature. Kellner says no one has yet suggested a plan for building a new downtown arena.
“There will be recommendations and there will be financing plans put in place, that would be the appropriate time to have any discussions,” Kellner says.
An MMAC panel has been meeting with consultants to come up with a plan to present to the public. If a tax would be involved, planners would need state permission.
Republican Rep. Dale Kooyenga sits on the Legislature’s budget committee. He says to his knowledge, no one involved in the discussions has approached the state, asking about a regional tax to help finance an arena. Kooyenga says he doubts there would be much support.
“The counties have almost unanimously outside Milwaukee County said the suburbs weren’t going to support it. There’s within Milwaukee, groups on the right and the left that have concerns with it,” Kooyenga says.
Bucks Owner Herb Kohl has said he would contribute a significant amount of his own money toward a new facility. The Bradley Center used a big gift from the late Jane Pettit.