Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Wisconsin Governor plans for $220 million in state bonds to help pay for new Milwaukee arena

<> on January 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.

DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 24: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on January 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The summit is hosting a group of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates to discuss core conservative principles ahead of the January 2016 Iowa Caucuses. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Scott Olson

The Milwaukee Bucks need a new arena. Meaning, if there is going to be an NBA team in Milwaukee there needs to be a new arena, and the running price tag on something like that starts at around $450 million.

The Bucks may have found the money.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (a potential presidential candidate for the Republicans) announced plans for $220 million in state bonds to help pay for a new arena as part of his new state budget proposal. Add that to the $150 million committed by owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, plus another $100 million from former owner Herb Kohl, and you are at $470 million.

Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains the plan, which is essentially to use increased jock tax revenue to pay off the bonds.

Walker said the plan, simply put, is a “Pay Their Way” proposal.

Recent estimates indicate that the amount of income tax revenue from NBA athletes in 2015 would total $15 million. That number is expected to increase dramatically in the years to come, due in large part to the explosive growth in revenue the NBA is expected to receive from its TV network partners. That, in turn, will boost player salaries, giving the state more revenue.

That growth in income tax revenue due to future contracts and estimated pay increases would be used to repay the bonds, which would only be issued after all other funding totaling $300 million is secured.

Walker sent out tweets on the matter.

Of course, there will be opposition to the plan, with the argument being that these increased revenues should be going to the state not to help billionaires build a new arena that makes them wealthier. Opponents will say studies have shown having a sports team in a city is not the economic boost backers claim it to be (see the new Yankee’s stadium in the Bronx for Exhibit A). Remember this plan is part of Walker’s budget proposal, which has to be approved by the legislature.

There are a lot of questions to answer still, including where to build the arena. The current rumored leading location is just north of the existing BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Regardless of the questions, for Bucks fans, this is a good day. There is a path to getting the funding for a stadium — not a smooth path, but a path. With billionaires in Seattle and other cities lurking, looking for a team to buy and move, this is a big step to keeping a team in Milwaukee.