Gov. Scott Walker's office and the Milwaukee Bucks reacted to Tuesday morning's proposal by the Menominee Indian Tribe and Hard Rock International that would funnel $220 million to a Downtown arena if Walker approved a Kenosha casino.
At a press conference Tuesday at the Aloft hotel, Hard Rock International chief executive officer Jim Allen and Menominee Indian Tribe chairman Gary Besaw pledged $220 million of gross revenue from a Kenosha casino to a multi-purpose arena that would house the Bucks, citing growing opposition in the state legislature for sending that amount of money to the arena project as opposed to elsewhere in the state.
Walker is currently in London, England on a trade mission, but his office told OnMilwaukee.com that "Gov. Walker's 'Pay Their Way' plan for the new arena protects current taxpayer dollars. The $220 million would not come from current GPR. Rather it is in the form of an appropriation bond to be paid back by projected growth in income taxes from the Bucks, as well as visiting teams, due to salary increases and new TV contracts. Once the bonds are paid off, tax growth would return to the state."
Bucks president Peter Feigin addressed the proposal late Tuesday afternoon during a press conference at which the team announced a partnership with the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin to re-brand the team's practice facility.
"We stand by how excited we are by the Governor's leadership and building his legislation toward what he started about a week ago and we're kind of in the midst of working with local and municipal, county and state authorities, to really build a public-private partnership and build that legislation," Feigin said. "We're not going off track. We're very centered on following the governor's lead."
Feigin admitted that he didn't like any news that, "takes focus off of the legislation to build this arena" but that the organization wasn't too concerned this news because they are working with local and state officials "to build towards a very accelerated schedule to get a shovel in the ground this fall."
Feigin did say, however, that he would take a call from Hard Rock or the Menominee Tribe.
Democrat Peter Barca, the representative for the 64th Assembly District in Kenosha, came out in support of the proposed plan.
On his Facebook page, Barca said "this is a major new development that would provide taxpayers with a double bonanza and ensure two major entertainment venues that will bring in approximately 5 million new tourists to Wisconsin a year, create roughly 10,000 jobs and free up millions in state revenue. This is a true win-win and I sincerely hope Gov. Walker will reconsider and take advantage of this incredible opportunity."
Walker's office again noted that former "Gov. Doyle’s compacts with the tribes open up the State of Wisconsin to significant litigation risks. Due to those compacts, the long-term economic hit to the state budget would be a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars."
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.