Monday, April 21, 2014

A Very Tough Sell

I wish the new owners of the Milwaukee Bucks the best of luck--because they are going to need it.

First off, they have bought into a franchise that has become directionless and talentless.  They don't have anyone close to All-Star caliber on the roster, their General Manager has been horrible in the draft and their Head Coach appears to have no answers for all but a few of the other teams in the league.  But talent deficiencies and management issues can be fixed through the draft and a changing of the guard in the front office.  And maybe the new owners will be more willing to spend money on that kind of talent than The Senator was,

But the biggest problem the new owners face is building support for construction (largely with taxpayer dollars) of a new Milwaukee arena.  Despite being only 25-years old, the BMO Harris Bradley Center is considered to be inadequate for the "modern" NBA.  New Commisioner Nate Silver toured the facility last year and deemed that it lacked the "back of house space and amenities" that the NBA needs.  I think the Commish means that there isn't an attached nightclub, upscale restaurant, lounge, team store, and kids playland at the BC--because you wouldn't want to just watch basketball at the arena, would you?

A new arena would cost a minimum of a half-a-billion dollars.  Herb Kohl and the new owners have each promised $100-million toward construction--meaning the city will have to come up with the remaining 300-mill.  With zero job growth and economic development prospects under Mayor Tom Barrett, the city doesn't have that kind of money--so you know where they are going to turn: to the rest of Wisconsin to foot the bill.

I can't see Governor Scott Walker including a 300-million dollar line item into the next two year budget--nor can I see Republican majorities in the Assembly and the State Senate approving that either.  They sill remember Senator George Petak who was recalled from office for casting the deciding vote that instituted the 5-county sales tax used to build Miller Park.

Ah yes, the 5-county sales tax.  It was originally scheduled to expire in 2017--which would set up perfectly for a "temporary extension" to fund a new Milwaukee arena.  But the revenues haven't kept pace with projections in recent years--and it may have to run longer than expected.  There is also a school of thought that maybe it should also be used to build a reserve fund for future repairs and improvements to Miller Park--just like what is being done with Lambeau Field and the Brown County sales tax.

The sad reality is that much of Wisconsin couldn't care less about the Bucks and professional basketball in Milwaukee.  If the team is good, we might watch a game or two--but honestly, the product stinks.  Regular season NBA action is boring--which is why it needs to be infused with music during game action, scantily clad dancers every timeout, half-court shot contests, t-shirt guns radio-controlled mini-blimps, and Bango the Buck doing crazy dunk routines.  That means the inevitable threats to move the franchise--and Seattle is desperate for a team with an empty "acceptable" arena just waiting--won't be as effective as when Bud Selig claimed he may have to sell the Brewers to a group is St Petersburg, Florida.  Plus, Joe Smith from Neenah really isn't keen on having to go to downtown Milwaukee for a game.  Which raises the big question (and looming fight) about where to locate the new facility.  You may recall the battle royale between the Pettit family--who was giving the Bradley Center to the city for free and wanted it built adjacent to County Stadium--and Mayor Henry Maier, who insisted that it must be downtown right next to the MECCA.  Because Maier was the undisputed King of Milwaukee--he got his way.

If there was any attachment at all to the Bucks, the idea of a new facility for the team might be a "slam dunk".  But given the ambivalence toward both the team and the city from those of us "outstate"--it appears to be well on its way to an "air ball".

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