Boots & Sabers

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1547, 15 Jun 15

State Not on the Hook for Arena

This is interesting. One of the arguments for public support for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks is that the state taxpayers will owe a lot of money if the Bucks leave. The numbers being told to us were that the state would have to pay about $20 million for outstanding debt and about $100 million for repairs on the old arena. So, it was said, state taxpayers were in the hole about $120 million if the Bucks left, so, it was reasoned, any state taxpayer support for a new arena that was less than $120 million should be acceptable.

Well, the math just changed:

Without a court reviewing the question, no one can know for certain if the state would have to assume the costs of maintaining the BMO Harris Bradley Center if the professional basketball team ended up leaving the city. But this latest finding by the independent Wisconsin Legislative Council counterbalances a contrary finding by a top lawyer and appointee of Gov. Scott Walker, a supporter of public financing for a new arena.

The state has a kind of ownership interest in the Bradley Center, but it is narrow and limited to the future, not the present, allowing state officials to refuse it if they choose, Legislative Council attorneys wrote in a memo this month to Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson), an opponent of public funding for the arena.

“For the reasons discussed above, it appears unlikely that a court would hold the state financially responsible for all debts and obligations of the Bradley Center Sports and Entertainment Corporation solely on the basis of (this) ownership interest,” the attorneys wrote to Knudson, who also sits on the Legislature’s powerful budget committee.


“Documents reveal $16 million in needed repairs to the current arena, however Wisconsin law is very clear that state taxpayers have no liability whatsoever for the Bradley Center, for its maintenance or its debts,” he said.

So the number is not $120 million… it’s more like… zero. That is a very different calculation.


1547, 15 June 2015


  1. Duke

    Note to Vos and Fitz: This should be enough to get this dog out of the budget and make the Milwaukee democRats put a yes or no behind their name on whether or not they want to keep the Bucks in town.

    And on the other side of the issue, why would any out-state legislators throw million$ at this project when they can’t even afford to pave the roads in their own districts?!

    And the final question: Will Barrett finally decide it’s time to lead?

  2. Duke

    I had a really good comment and Owen’s computer ate it!

  3. Jadedly Unbiased

    That’s great news if it holds up. Hopefully it’s not used to say since there is no obligation there tax payers can now afford to foot the bill ($250 mil) on the new arena complex.

  4. dad29

    Seems that MMAC has to resort to pure BS to sell their wares. Too bad; they used to have some honor.

  5. Rick

    From the report.
    In addition, it could be argued that, despite the express limitation of state liability under s. 232.09, Stats., the state’s relationship with the corporation or actions taken by the state may provide a basis for liability with respect to some, or all, of the corporation’s debts andobligations. In the absence of a judicial decision that directly addresses that argument, it is difficult to determine whether a court might find it persuasive.

    In other words, until a court rules, nobody knows if the state is liable. So the real answer is zero to $120 million.

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