Bucks: Gov. Scott Walker signs arena bill, city on deck


Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Wednesday authorizing $250 million in public funding for the construction of a new downtown arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

That puts the proposal in the hands of the Milwaukee Common Council, which will begin hearings on the issue at the end of this month and is scheduled to vote on the measure in September.

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With approval, groundbreaking could happen as soon as October.

The Republican presidential candidate left the bill as it was passed by the Legislature with no changes.

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“This is an important day for the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, at the bill-signing ceremony at Wisconsin State Fair Park. “It’s not just important for Milwaukee, but the state as a whole.

“We think this is a good solid move as a good steward of the taxpayers’ money here in Wisconsin.”

Walker was joined by lawmakers from both parties and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, among other dignitaries.

“A strong city makes a strong state,” Bucks president Peter Feigin said. “This is much more than a basketball arena, this is where people are going to live, work and play by the thousands.”

Common Council president Michael Murphy said the city’s contribution to the project will have at least three public hearing before a vote set for Sept. 22.

The first hearing will include a fiscal analysis by the city comptroller on Aug. 31.

“This meeting will stress the importance of digging into the numbers, because this proposal has the potential to impact the city for decades,” Murphy said. “I want to ensure that we are as inclusive as possible at the city level. To that end, citizens will be given an opportunity to offer their input and views on the plan.”

The mayor didn’t see any real roadblocks.

“I’m very confident questions will be answered,” Barrett said. “I remain very optimistic.”

Criticism of the measure has been bipartisan with liberals being joined by conservative groups normally in Walker’s corner, such as Americans for Prosperity.

While Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he’s a proponent of free markets, he understood the gravity of the situation with the Bucks.

“It would have been easy for us to say, ‘We’re not going to be involved,’ and the team would have left,” Vos said. “So it wasn’t an idle threat. We knew they were going to go. And this is a prime example where allowing us to keep the revenue definitely is cheaper for the state.”

Before groundbreaking can begin, the Bucks will also need to finalize a land sale with Milwaukee County.

Marquette University president Michael Lovell praised the deal and confirmed that the new arena would be the home for the Golden Eagles men’s basketball team, as BMO Harris Bradley Center has been for years.

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  • “The new arena is critical to Milwaukee’s growth and its status as a first-class city and the state’s investment in that is commendable,” Lovell said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be a tenant in the new facility and we look forward to breaking ground for the new home of Marquette men’s basketball.”

    The council vote is not a slam dunk.

    “I have absolutely not committed to supporting this,” Alderman Bob Bauman said. “There are still a lot of holes in this.”

    Bauman said the design of the arena and configuration of streets in and around the complex were questions he still needed answers for.

    Alderman Bob Donovan, a mayoral candidate, said he is going to support the initiatives, even though, “In a perfect world, the owners would have built it.”

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