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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

To not recognize the need for a new arena to replace the Bradley Center is to live in denial of economic reality.

The deer are in fear


It's a bad idea. It's fiscally irresponsible. School budgets are being cut and yet you want to build a palace for millionaires? Make 'em pay for it themselves! It's an empty threat – they'll never leave! Besides, they've been awful for so many years anyway, so what's the difference if they do leave?

I'm of course talking about the Milwaukee Bucks, right?

Nope. At least not entirely.

All of the arguments being bandied about regarding the Bucks might sound familiar because they were the exact same arguments the hand-wringing naysayers said about the construction of Miller Park in the mid-1990's.

Go ahead. Read the first paragraph again. You will instantly be transported back to 1995. The fight to finally put shovel in dirt was long and protracted; ugly and intense. Even after the ballpark's Nov. 9, 1996 groundbreaking there were still some that tried to kill the project and drive the Brewers out of town, most notably former State Sen. Joe Wineke (D-Verona). While Wineke never said that he did not care whether or not the Brewers remained in town, his posturing and stonewalling nearly prevented the passing of the bill in Oct. 1995 in the first place.

Every politician wants to make it clear to their constituents that they are fiscally responsible with the taxpayer's money. This should be admired. However, you won't be able to find many people opposed to Miller Park today considering the sold-out crowds and division champions we all witnessed this past summer.

This brings me to the increasingly-fragile Milwaukee Bucks.

You cannot pin anything on one loss. That would be absurd. However, the Bucks, in this perilous time are losing what casual fans they have in their corner by failing on the court.

Thursday night's 103-100 loss at Sacramento has become a microcosm of where the Bucks are right now. Every time you think they do something good they blow it. Just look at all of last season.

Getting back to Thursday, leading by 21 points at halftime and 14 after three quarters, Scott Skiles crew forgot how to defend and rebound, falling yet again on their current West Coast road trip.

Monday night in Denver, the Bucks led by 9 points in the second half, but again fell apart in the fourth quarter, losing 91-86. Opening night, Milwaukee led by as many as 14 at Charlotte before losing 96-95 to the Bobcats, one of the few teams in the Eastern Conference that were actually worse than the injury-riddled, zero-cohesion Bucks last year.

Yes, it is early, but the returns in a shortened season have not been promising.

The Bucks only two wins have both come at home against Washington and Minnesota, who are a combined 2-10 this season and were a combined 84 games under .500 last year.

That's pathetic.

Coming up, Milwaukee has road games against the much improved Clippers and the Suns. Los Angeles is in first place and the Bucks losing streak in Phoenix dates back to the Reagan Administration (that isn't an exaggeration, by the way).

The problem with the Bucks right now on the court only magnifies the intense battle they are going to face when it comes time to stop speaking in abstracts and actually put forth a plan to build a new arena. To show urgency, you need to demonstrate a public desire for such a venue. Without wins, playoff appearances, and most importantly, hope, the public sentiment for such a capital expenditure will be solely limited to rabid sports fans.

Unfortunately, it is not the rabid fans that you need to court. It's the casual fans that need to be wooed. And right now, this team's pitiful displays of basketball ineptitude are turning the masses off.

To those who think the bluster of a new building is just a lot of hot air, hear me loudly and clearly: Without a new facility in the next 5-8 years, the Milwaukee Bucks will no longer be here.

While the arguments against construction of a new building are virtually the same as with County Stadium, the economic times are certainly different. In 1996, the dot-com boom helped swell an economy that was more favorable to investing in capital improvement projects. Since the Sept. 2008 Wall Street collapse, discretionary spending has been put on hold by most companies and families.

The other argument against construction is that most of us remember when the Bradley Center opened. It doesn't aesthetically look all that bad, even if it compares unfavorably to it's brethren around the NBA.

However, facts are facts. When the NBA season began, the Bradley Center was tied with the Detroit Pistons' Palace at Auburn Hills and the Sacramento Kings' Power Balance Pavilion for the third-oldest facility in the league. The two buildings that are older, Oracle Arena in Oakland (1966) and Madison Square Garden (1968) have either had or are undergoing a complete refurbishing.

In Sacramento, where the Bucks imploded Thursday night, the Kings are on life support, with the looming threat of moving to Anaheim being held over the heads of their fans this past off season. That threat still remains absent a replacement for their arena that opened at the same time Milwaukee's did.

In Seattle, fans never thought that the Sonics would really move. They had just spent almost $75 million in renovations less than 15 years earlier, but Key Arena still lacked the amenities places like the newer Staples Center and Canseco Fieldhouse had. Fans were warned that if a new arena wasn't going to be built, the franchise's new owners would take their budding superstar, Kevin Durant, and move them to greener pastures. After 41 years and an NBA championship, the Sonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder because there was a community thirsty for the prestige of professional sports and the nearly brand-new Ford Center ready to be called home.

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Talkbacks

EastSideMKE | Jan. 7, 2012 at 3:32 p.m. (report)

@DowntownRed First of all, Milwaukee is not a first class city. And more importantly, can you name any other first class cities that lack pro sports teams? I didn't think so.

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TosaJim | Jan. 7, 2012 at 10:22 a.m. (report)

Bucks need a new owner.

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DowntownRed | Jan. 7, 2012 at 3:38 a.m. (report)

It's easy to compare the desire for a new basketball arena to the desire for a new baseball stadium. They're both sports. But I think you need to look at several factors. First, what's more appealing: sitting outside on a summer day watching baseball or sitting in a closed arena watching basketball? The Cubs haven't won a championship for years yet they still draw a crowd every game. It's the atmosphere. It's the socialization. It's more fun than a basketball game. That's one reason while there will always be more support for a baseball stadium than a basketball arena. Second, you need to look at the health of the whole industry. The NBA is coming off a huge setback and public relations nightmare. There's a large percentage of people who don't like the NBA players. Also, outside of the NBA games, there are fewer events to fill arenas. I would love to see Milwaukee lose the Bucks. Because it would really force people to think differently and perhaps actually come up with a plan that shows you can be a 1st class city without pro sports.

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badger80 | Jan. 6, 2012 at 4:46 p.m. (report)

Miller Park is great, but any stadium is a terrible investment for a community. We foot the bill and the owners of the professional teams make the money, money that isn't invested back into the community. Sorry, but there is plenty of research on the impact of publicly financed stadiums, and none of it is positive for the taxpayers. Professional teams are just a pricy luxury item.

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MilwaukeeCity | Jan. 6, 2012 at 4:23 p.m. (report)

If the bucks had a donate money fund for a new arena I would cut a $2,500 check right now!

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