BREAKING: Milwaukee Sports and Entertainment Arena Passed in Wisconsin State Senate


“This deal has taken a little work, but the Bucks are big bucks for Wisconsin.” – Senator Lena C. Taylor (D-Milwaukee).

Around 5:47 PM today, Wednesday, July 15, 2015, the Wisconsin State Senate passed the Bucks arena bill with 21 votes to 10. Two Senators were absent: Sen. Frank Lasee (R) and Sen. Mark Miller (D).

Click here for the Bucks’ statement on the arena bill being passed in the Senate.

The original plan only had two major changes: (1) adding a $2 ticket surcharge tax for all arena events and (2) eliminating the state’s plan to provide debt relief for the county. The surcharge revenue will be 75% ($1.50) to the Wisconsin Center District (WCD) and 25% ($.50) to the state [surprisingly instead of the county]. It’s unknown exactly how much revenue the surcharge will create, but it’s estimated to be between $10-15 million per year. Milwaukee Mayor Barrett wanted the WCD to get all (100% instead of 75%) of the ticket surcharge, as it will build up a lot of debt through the years on this bill. Regardless, Mayor Barrett assured that passing the bill today was important:

The debt relief change eliminating the county’s delinquent debt of $80 million the state was going to help recover was very upsetting to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who cancelled his events early in the day to go to Madison. Abele was reportedly “livid” about making the county’s taxpayers now pay $4 million per year as part of the county’s budget..Essentially, the state will not collect $4 million per year that they were supposed to collect from taxpayers that owed money (delinquent debt). Luckily for Abele, a separate agreement can still be made to have the state collect some debt on behalf of the county. Additionally, it looks like the county will make money off selling the property of Park East, where the arena will be built. It was reported the county could sell the property to the Bucks’ owners for $1, which will likely change now that the county feels they are getting the worst part of the deal. Here are the details from the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Sean Ryan on the Park East deal:

Like the Bucks owners, the competing team offered $1 for the land, but also requested public money to remove the more than 100 underground footings for the former Park East freeway spur’s support columns. The Milwaukee Bucks owners, in their offer for the Park East, would pay the cost of removing the footings, which is estimated to be at least $2 million.

The county’s $8.8 million appraisal for the Park East land does not include the discount for the cost of removing the footings, or an estimated $6 million in work to relocate an underground sewer lateral.

One of the best parts of this deal is that both parties agreed upon the deal in the end. The Democrats and Republicans worked together to find a compromise that made sense for the state and the Milwaukee area. There was not a “Democratic” nor “Republican” side to exactly take on the deal, which really helped push it through the Senate. In fact, two Democratic leaders will be added to the arena’s board to help balance out the politics that may be forthcoming. Bipartisanship at its finest.

We now await the Assembly to decide the next steps for caucusing and voting upon the bill, which will have to be the exact same one passed in the Senate. Start calling your Assembly reps!


Here is the amendment document pertaining to the arena bill (very detailed).

Here is the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s memo on the changes (much easier to read).


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