Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin urged legislative approval of a funding deal for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena, during an informational hearing before the Joint Finance Committee on Monday.
Feigin told committee members that the new arena to replace the aging and inadequate Bradley Center would result in thousands of construction jobs and up to 2,000 permanent jobs.
“This, in my personal opinion, is a great deal for the state,” said Feigin. He was accompanied to the hearing by Bucks General Manager John Hammond and coach Jason Kidd.
Kidd and Hammond left for an event at the Kohl Center, where the NBA team announced that the Bucks will return to Madison in the fall, first for a week of training camp from September 29 through October 2, and then to host a preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, October 20. It marks the first full-team appearance by the Bucks in Madison since a preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks during the 1999 preseason.
Feigin reiterated that the Bucks will leave Milwaukee, as per last year’s sale agreement to new owners, if a new arena is not built. Members of the committee questioned Feigin on when the league imposed deadline would take effect.
“I don’t have the right to release the purchase agreement of the Bucks, without the NBA giving us the right,” Feigin told state Representative Dean Knutson.
“The hard deadline is being able to start construction for a 2017 arena,” he told state Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton). “I think the hard deadline will be installed, the second it is in question if it cannot happen, they will start the process and start exploring for potential buyers.
Monday’s hearing was informational only – there was no public testimony. “I think it would be extremely ill advised to go forward with this, without the opportunity for the public to weigh in,” said Representative Chris Taylor (R-Madison). “This feels like the two minute warning here.”
State Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) has argued that a hearing on the arena deal ought to take place in Milwaukee, since the financing plan would have significant impact on taxpayers there. “I don’t see anything wrong in coming to the voters,” he said.
Under terms of the financing legislation, the state’s share of the $500 million dollar arena project will be $55 million – about equal to the share from the city and county. “It’s definitely a better deal for the state than what was originally proposed,” said finance committee member, Senator Luther Olson (R-Ripon).
Governor Scott Walker’s original budget proposal called for using about $220 million in bonding to help finance the arena, a level of bonding which many lawmakers uncomfortable.
The arena deal is to be taken up separately from the state budget, and will not be on the calendar as the state Senate debates the budget on Tuesday.