No deal reached on new Milwaukee Bucks arena; lawmakers call meeting productive, positive

The Milwaukee Bucks and state and local officials did not reach a financing deal for a new $500 million arena during a closed-door meeting Wednesday in the state Capitol, though those who attended described it as productive and planned to meet again Thursday.

The team, state and local leaders are trying to come up with a plan to split the costs of the new arena in downtown Milwaukee that would be put of a larger $1 billion entertainment district. Without a new stadium by 2017, the NBA has said it will buy back the team and relocate it.

Those attending Wednesday's meeting included Bucks president Peter Feigin, Republican legislative leaders and Milwaukee officials. The discussions come as the Bucks are playing the Bulls in the NBA playoffs.

The new arena would be built on about 30 acres of largely vacant land next to the existing arena, the BMO Harris Bradley Center, which opened in 1988. Various funding proposals have been floated, but no agreement has been reached.

Current and former Bucks owners have committed $250 million. Republican Gov. Scott Walker has proposed borrowing $220 million, with the city and county putting in the remaining $30 million. But Republicans in control of the Legislature have said they want the state portion to be only around $150 million. There is no concrete funding proposal from the county, while the city has come up with about an $18 million package and argued it's already spent millions getting the proposed site ready for construction.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has proposed taking as much as $220 million from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands and perhaps loaning some to Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. Fitzgerald said after the meeting that tapping resources of the board remained the primary option.

"We continue to strive for a solution," said Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos after the meeting.

Walker, who was in Appleton for a groundbreaking ceremony and did not attend Wednesday's meeting, said the city and county need to come up with a "greater impact" to make the project happen.

"The city and county are going to have to come to the table. The question is what format do they feel comfortable with. ... The bottom line is we're not going to raise taxes and we're not going to eat into current state funding to do that," Walker said.

Feigin said he was pleased with the meeting, which he described as positive and collaborative.

"It was a good give and take," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. "We're pleased."

The team wants a deal included in the state budget, which is likely to pass sometime in June, so ground could be broken on a new stadium in the fall.


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