Economy & Business
12:38 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Proponents of New Basketball Arena Try to Court Local Support

The Bradley Center is the current home of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Credit compujeramey/Flickr

Lake Effect's Mitch Teich interviews writer Doug Russell, about the future of the Bucks and the Bradley Center.

The Milwaukee Bucks will open their home basketball season November 2nd against the Toronto Raptors.  As they have since 1988, they’ll call the BMO Harris Bradley Center home.

But in February, a new commissioner will take over in the NBA – and Adam Silver is on the record as saying he doesn’t believe the Bradley Center is up to NBA standards.

Vague proposals for how to accomplish a new downtown arena have been in the air for some time, and Bucks owner Herb Kohl has pledged to contribute some significant amount to get it done. 

But as Doug Russell writes in Milwaukee Magazine, the Bucks’ future here is far from certain.

He says the NBA is concerned with what the current arena has to offer because of revenue-sharing in the league. While some teams and arenas generate a lot of revenue, others, like Milwaukee, are lagging behind.

"When there are teams that are generating as much revenue specifically with their buildings, that's when the league starts to get involved and they look at the situation," he says.

Russell says there are a few buildings among NBA teams that have "glaring deficiencies." They include tow in California that are planned for demolition and replacement.

"There's no plan yet here in Milwaukee and that's why Adam Silver...said Milwaukee's part of our culture, Milwaukee's part of the NBA. (But) the Bradley Center...needs to be replaced," he says.

Even though the Bucks did well last season, that on-court success isn't impressing business people who are concerned about revenue bottom-lines, Russell says. It does, however, build good-will among fans and could potentially build grassroots support for a new arena.

While many in the business community see the need, Russell says there is reluctance among local politicians to get behind a plan. He says many remember when then state Senator George Petak from Racine was recalled after supporting the sales tax to fund building Miller Park.

"It's a  political hot potato right now and nobody wants to stick their necks out...because taxes are too high and what are we getting for those taxes, and why should a billionaire owner and multi-millionaire players be subsidized by we the taxpayers?" he says.

Though some are concerned that without a new arena, the team could leave Milwaukee, Russell says the experts are split on what impact that could have on Milwaukee. He also dismisses the idea that the NBA doesn't appreciate small-market teams.

Doug Russell’s article on the future of the Bucks and the Bradley Center is in the October issue of Milwaukee Magazine.  In his other life, he covers sports across town at WTMJ Radio.