The new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks moved a step closer to reality Tuesday when the State Assembly passed a measure to provide $250 million in public funding.
The bill already passed the Senate, 21-10, and now needs only Gov. Scott Walker's signature, which is expected soon. Walker has said he will sign the package.
The vote in the Assembly, where there had been rumblings of discontent, was 52-34, and it came while Bucks' President Peter Feigin and Coach Jason Kidd were in the audience.
The Bucks were under a 2017 deadline from the NBA to build the new facility, and it's expected that groundbreaking will come soon. The arena will be built in north of the Bradley Center and is expected to be the central piece of a $1 billion entertainment district envisioned by the Bucks.
Senator Herb Kohl has pledged $100 million to the project, and the Bucks owners have committed $150 million. The project is expected to cost $500 million, and the Bucks will be responsible for any cost overruns.
Shortly after the deal passed the Assembly, Feigin released the following statement:
"Today, our collective effort to create a world-class sports and entertainment district in the heart of Milwaukee took a monumental step forward thanks to the bipartisan leadership of elected officials in Madison. We’re incredibly grateful for the commitment of state, county and city officials to work together in a historic fashion to help shape this public-private partnership. There’s still work to be done and we look forward to building on this progress with the city and county, but the passage of legislation today makes our future much clearer. The Bucks will not only remain home in Wisconsin, but we’ll soon begin a transformative economic development project that will help revitalize our community and region."
State Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) released statement in support of the arena deal Tuesday afternoon, noting, "I cannot imagine a Milwaukee without the Bucks nor my community losing the opportunity for this critical investment. However, this proposal is about more than the Bucks. It’s about progress. It’s about momentum. It’s about a confidence and a feeling of pride in our community and the direction that it is headed. Milwaukee’s momentum is real. We see it and feel it every day.
"The Bucks' presence, and continued commitment to Milwaukee, will bolster the city’s ability to continue to attract and retain bright young minds. Many of our residents will help build it and ensure its success for years to come. It will continue our city’s movement towards a brighter future."
Explaining his no vote, Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) released a statement addressing and explaining his opposition to the plan, noting the cost to taxpayers and the lack of taxpayer proceeds from the arena's naming rights.
"I am supportive of building a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks and for the potential that comes with it," Bowen said. "The Bucks are an important part of our local and state economy, and I want them to remain in our city. However, I couldn't support the arena deal without reducing the $400 million financial burden on taxpayers, much of which will be paid for by Milwaukee residents."