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Wisconsin Herd may look to leave Oshkosh if arena can’t find new owner, report says

Despite reported rift between team and arena owner, the Wisconsin Herd is preparing for next season in Oshkosh

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The Oshkosh Arena is home to the Wisconsin Herd
The Oshkosh Arena is seen on South Main Street on Friday, April 5, 2024. The venue is home to the Wisconsin Herd, the Milwaukee Bucks’ G-League team. Joe Schulz/WPR

The Milwaukee Bucks’ G-League team may look to leave Oshkosh after the 2024-25 season, if the Oshkosh Arena can’t find a new owner. 

Last week, the Oshkosh Northwestern reported the Wisconsin Herd basketball team “no longer wants to work” with arena owner Fox Valley Pro Basketball Inc. The newspaper cited an anonymous source with the team who claimed the arena is in violation of its current lease.

The source told the newspaper that the team has opt-out provisions in its current lease, which runs through 2026 with options to extend until 2028.

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A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Herd declined to comment on the newspaper’s reporting, but provided a statement from team President Steve Brandes, who said the team is “actively preparing for the 2024-25 season in Oshkosh.”

Fox Valley Pro Basketball declined to be interviewed and said it was not commenting at this time. Meanwhile, local leaders have been in communication with the team, expressing a desire to keep the Herd in Oshkosh.

“We’ve made it very clear to them that we would love to have them stay, and I think they want to stay,” said City Manager Mark Rohloff. “I’m very encouraged by the fact that they’ve indicated they plan to be here for the season. That’s all good news to me.”

The news comes as Fox Valley Pro Basketball is looking to sell the arena, which has been home to the Herd since 2017. But Fox Valley Pro Basketball is also behind on its property taxes.

According to online records from the city, Fox Valley Pro Basketball has missed $321,724.66 worth of 2023 property tax payments and interest. In total, Fox Valley Pro Basketball owes the city $619,617.82 in tax and interest.

Rohloff said the property tax situation will be settled when the arena is sold. When the sale closes, Rohloff said the property taxes the city is owed would “come right off the top of any proceeds” Fox Valley Pro Basketball makes on the sale.

“We would fully expect that those taxes would be paid with any land transaction,” he said.

The Oshkosh City Council last week discussed the city’s development agreement with Fox Valley Pro Basketball in closed session. But no action was taken.

Rohloff said the discussion was partially about bringing new council members up to speed on the situation and assessing whether the city could amend its agreement.

“The council wanted to know what types of things are available to us as options,” he said. “We went through what we could and could not do in the terms of a development agreement. It needed to be in closed session because we don’t want to tip our hand to anybody, potentially, (about) where we would be willing to go in terms of negotiation.”

It’s not the first time Fox Valley Pro Basketball has found itself in the center of a controversy. In 2019, the organization filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Amid those proceedings, Fox Valley Pro Basketball President Greg Pierce was sued by a creditor for unpaid construction costs.

The suit settled out of court in 2021, and Fox Valley Pro Basketball eventually emerged from bankruptcy. The arena made local headlines again in 2023, when it was shut down for a week over fire code violations.

Despite past and present troubles, city and economic development officials say the arena has been an important event venue. The Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce estimates that each of the Herd’s 24 home games per season generates roughly $100,000 of economic impact in the area.

Colan Treml, economic development director for the chamber, said that’s likely a conservative estimate when considering families going to dinner or shopping in Oshkosh before and after games.

On top of basketball, the Oshkosh Arena hosts a variety of concerts and comedy shows throughout the year that draw attendees from surrounding communities. 

“The arena is a fantastic addition to the Oshkosh community,” Treml said. “We’re extremely fortunate that we have it here.”

The city and chamber both said they hope to support any potential new owner. Rohloff said he’s been encouraged by the support the community has shown to keeping the Herd in Oshkosh.

“They want to see the arena be successful,” he said. “It’s a great anchor to our Sawdust District, and we’ve gotten interest in other parts of the Sawdust District based on the presence of the arena.”

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