Saturday, August 17th, 2019

Bucking the trend: Dorow, Kapenga right to oppose arena deal

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Waukesha Freeman Page A6 Opinion 6/4/15

Bucking the trend

Dorow, Kapenga right to oppose arena deal


So how bad is the latest proposal for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks? Both of the leading candidates for state Senate in the special election for the 33rd District are opposed to the current proposal.

Brian Dorow issued his statement first, saying that he would prefer the arena proposal be considered separate from the state budget. He wants the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to pick up more of the tab. He is also concerned that the state will be stuck for any cost overruns.

State Rep. Chris Kapenga is also opposed to the arena proposal and its inclusion in the state budget. He has also said he will vote against the state budget if the arena proposal is included.

Kapenga’s announcement of possibly voting against the budget because of the arena is probably the first in the state Assembly. He may not be the last, especially as there is no reason for outstate legislators to support a state subsidy of the arena.

Gov. Scott Walker would disagree with that statement. He has stated that if the Bucks leave town the state will lose out on the income tax revenue. He also claims that the Bradley Center has approximately $100 million in deferred maintenance, for which the state would be responsible.

There are estimates of the deferred maintenance costs that are lower, but even using the governor’s numbers the deal does balance out. State and local funding of the arena is closer to $400 million because of all of the borrowing.

In addition, if the Bucks leave Milwaukee for a better deal elsewhere, the reason to maintain the Bradley Center ceases to exist. WISN’s Mark Belling has been reporting the Milwaukee Admirals were going to have to move if a new arena is built, so the loss of the Bradley Center is the status quo for them. The Milwaukee Wave and the Marquette basketball teams could move to the UW Milwaukee Panther Arena because they won’t be able to support the Bradley Center. The state could then tear down the Bradley Center and get out of the entertainment business.

Proponents of building a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks say it’s crazy that anyone would consider saying no to $500 million in investment. They believe that the arena will spur economic development on the site of the old Park East freeway.

But it’s not $500 million in investment, it’s $250 million. Meanwhile the taxpayers will have to sink in $400 million to subsidize the business operation of billionaires who are employing millionaires.

As for the economic development that will supposedly result, sports arenas are notoriously bad at meeting economic growth expectations. The new arenas may look pretty, but they are taxpayer-subsidized competitors for food and entertainment dollars, and they are rapacious.

The new arenas are built with maximizing the revenue for the team owners. The restaurants and shops inside the new facilities directly compete with the outside restaurants and facilities.

When the stadiums just served hot dogs and beer, it made sense to stop in the community before or after the sporting event. Now the new stadiums are complete entertainment customer experiences, right down to artisanal pizzas, wine tastings and steak dinners. The only difference is that the stadium vendors won’t have to add taxes to their overhead.

Milwaukee has already proved that economic development is possible without a taxpayersubsidized arena. Well away from the Bradley Center, the convention center and even Miller Park is the Third Ward, a thriving mix of commercial and residential development.

When the Milwaukee Brewers asked for taxpayer help for a new stadium, a case could be made because the ownership, the Selig family, did not have the deep pockets of the other major league baseball teams. But thanks to the Brewers we learned the real value of a team is not the annual revenue but what the team will sell for.

So, too, is it with the Milwaukee Bucks. If Wisconsin builds the arena, the value of the team will shoot up, further enriching the billionaire ownership. Meanwhile taxpayers will be stuck with the bill for the cost of improving someone else’s investment.

It’s easy to see why the Bucks’ ownership is in favor of the taxpayer subsidy for their investment. It’s easier still to see why Republican legislators should reject the deal.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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