By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Apr 24, 2014 at 1:09 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

It’s been just about a week since Wes Edens and Marc Lasry were introduced as the prospective new owners of the Milwaukee Bucks, and things seemed to have settled down a bit with the hand wringing over the construction of a new "Bucks arena" somewhere in the city.

Some reports about possible deadlines and who these guys are have trickled out, but no real news of a plan has been rolled out. And it likely won’t be for some time.

But what got people up in arms, naturally, was Wisconsin’s dirty word – taxes.

Honestly, I’m not sure why.

Stuff is cheap here.

I remember when I moved to Milwaukee and heard people still (still!) whining about the miniscule tax that is paying for Miller Park, and I asked my girlfriend (and now wife) if she was enraged by this, too. I mean, she wasn’t a Brewers fan, so why should she have to pay for that? She had no idea what I was talking about. Never noticed it.

I talked to some buddies who were Marquette University alumni, relatively recent graduates with some debt who were now business professionals in the city. Were they outraged by this? No.

People get all worked up over the idea of a tax, than the actual number itself. Let’s be real. If you’re buying a $30,000 car, an extra $200 or whatever it comes out to isn’t a big deal in the scheme of it. Do a better job negotiating that out of your final price if you’re that upset by it.

There’s room for small taxes outside of just extending the Miller Park tax (and rebranding it an entertainment tax) or somehow working this complex into the Wisconsin Center District.

Milwaukee is a major city. It has its problems, sure. But there's wiggle room for an increased tax number here.

Chicago has a sales tax rate of 9.25 percent, compared to 6.75 percent around the rest of Illinois. On top of that, the city imposes a 0.25 percent restaurant tax and downtown restaurants must levy an additional 1 percent tax for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which runs Navy Pier and McCormick Place.

That’s 10.75 percent tax on that dinner when people visit the Windy City.

Oh, there’s more. Chicago has a hotel tax rate of 16.39 percent.

Comparing Chicago to Milwaukee isn’t quite apples to apples, but even Minneapolis has a 10.775 combined sales and meals tax in its downtown area. There is also a 3 percent entertainment tax on food and drink if it’s served where there is live entertainment. Minneapolis’ hotel tax is low however, at just 2.625 percent.


The meal tax here is .05 percent. The basic hotel room tax is 2.5 percent. Sales tax is a mere 5.6 percent.

There’s room there for slight increases that won’t be felt.

Need I mention that Wisconsin only has a 6-cent beer tax, compared to 23 cents in Illinois, 19 cents in Iowa and 12 cents in Indiana? Why not create a Bucks themed scratch-off lottery ticket?

These ideas seem like an easy way to raise some money – because let’s face it – in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, people will complain about the increased tax rate on alcohol while buying the same amount of it, and then scratching off a Bango face with the bottle cap.

Now, someone might say this is the old "if your friend jumps off a bridge, would you do it too?" argument. I’m sure many feel that all these other major American cities are suckers for publicly financing their pro sports team stadiums.

Here’s the thing, though – the people of Wisconsin have gotten a great deal so far and the details aren’t even out yet.

No city, or state, gets a $200 million down payment on a new, multipurpose complex.

Edens told me as much when we first met.

And, more private money will be secured before a balance is rolled out to the public.

If the new ownership group winds up having to sell the team back to the NBA in 2017, the people of Wisconsin will relegate their marquee city a second-class citizen on the national landscape.

No matter what you think of sports, how ridiculous it is, how overpaid the athletes are, or that the "money should be spent elsewhere" – having multiple professional sports teams in your town makes your city a big-time player.

Think about it.

If the Brewers are left alone, Milwaukee becomes … what? San Antonio? Oklahoma City? Jacksonville? Ugh.

I’m sure some would like it to become Portland, but the city won’t allow for strip clubs Downtown and, frankly, we don’t have an ocean about two hours away.

Name every important city in this country. Professional sports are an integral part of its culture, and its economy. It is here in Milwaukee, too. I’m a taxpayer and I won’t mind keeping it that way.

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

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.