Milwaukee City Council Approves Arena Financing Plan

Vote Means Public Financing Deal Will Move Forward

Casey Eisenreich (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett signing the plan shortly after the City Council approved it. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

The Milwaukee City Council approved $47 million in spending to help finance a new basketball arena Tuesday — the final endorsement needed for an overarching $250 million public financing deal to move forward.

The council voted 12-3 in favor of a plan to use tax incremental financing to fund the construction of a parking garage and entertainment plaza for the Bucks.

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Council members also voted to spend the city’s half of revenue from any naming rights to the garage on improving Milwaukee playgrounds. That decision made the deal slightly more palatable for Jennifer O’Hear of the citizens group Common Ground, although she said it was still “not enough.”

“Until the magnitude of what the new investment in kids and neighborhood is equal to the new investment in the Bucks, it’s an issue of what’s right and just,” said O’Hear.

Several aldermen say the amount of the city’s commitment is up to the Bucks ability to market the naming rights for the garage.

In addition to the city’s $47 million, the state and Milwaukee County are contributing $55 million each toward the arena, and the Wisconsin Center District is giving $93 million in tax collections.

A further $250 million will be supplied by private investors — namely, the team’s current owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, along with former owner Herb Kohl.

Much of the public funding would be provided through bonding — meaning the overall price tag will end up being higher than $250 million once interest is factored in.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with more information on the vote to fund city playground improvements.