I’ve been asked across several platforms, be in talk radio, television, social media, or in person how I feel about the movement toward the construction of a new, multi-purpose arena in Downtown Milwaukee.
To no surprise, I’m in favor of it. And, I believe it will get done.
Last April, I went hard, saying we should just pay whatever a tax may be.
(Turns out, Gov. Scott Walker has done some finagling with the numbers and figured out a way to propose to the state legislature today a way to funnel public funds to the project without shearing a few cents off the paychecks of state citizens.)
I didn’t want to dilute my message in my initial column with caveats, so I’ll say this here: I don’t think the public should pay for any arena, for any sports team. It’s one of the greatest scams in America.
Yes, there’s a huge "but." It just doesn’t work that way.
And frankly, I don’t think Milwaukee (or Wisconsin) should be the city that tries to set an example.
We’re not big enough, or important enough. You set that example with the Bucks, not only is one of only 30 National Basketball Association teams packing up and leaving, no NBA team would ever return.
And no, the National Hockey League wouldn’t come running. Because guess what? That guy would want a new stadium, too.
So then you’re left with Miller Park and the Brewers.
And if Milwaukee sets the precedent that no new public money will be used for sports stadiums, it means we’ve got a couple decades left of Major League Baseball – because at some point, the facility on Miller Park Way will either have to be significantly upgraded and/or replaced.
So then, Milwaukee, one of the nation’s 50 biggest cities, would be left with … what?
Yes, the new Bucks ownership group probably does have $500 million to pay for a new arena. And of course they don’t want to spend it.
Arena financing is a weird thing, and I think there have to be better ways to do it. But nothing about this is magical.
It’s not as simple as "why don’t they just pay for it?"
It’s not as simple as "no one likes (insert sport) so let them leave."
It’s not as simple as "why don’t we use that money for (insert good cause)?"
I don’t know if Gov. Walker’s plan is the best one, from a public perspective. I guess time will tell.
What I do know, is that if you can pay for more than 50 percent of this thing with the private money committed from the ownership group, former owner Herb Kohl, and whatever Marquette University will kick in, that’s better than any alternative.
And, to be 100 percent fair – we haven’t had the press conference where Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, along with every single minority owner, from the "big ones" like Jamie Dinan down to the "small" ones seated behind them – and they break down the financing step-by-step, dollar-for-dollar.
We do know the major players, however, and some key points and figures.
So, I want to hear from you.
- Common Ground calls Bucks co-owner Wes Edens out and wants similar public money for public play areas
- Deadspin.com editorial calls Gov. Walker’s plan a "Brand New Lie"
- Field of Schemes takes the plan apart even further.
- The Milwaukee Preservation Alliance is concerned with how a new arena could affect historical buildings Downtown .
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.