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Billionaire Bucks Owners Get $250 million For New Arena

The billionaire laden ownership group that controls the Milwaukee Bucks got their $250 million government subsidy approved on Wednesday for a new arena, but not everyone was happy about it as reported

Wisconsin Governor and Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker will sign a bill Wednesday finalizing his controversial plan to spend $250 million in state, county and city funds — plus tens of millions more in interest and future tax breaks — on a new basketball arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

“Government shouldn’t be in the business of financing private sports stadiums,” said the Koch brothers-backed group Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin. “The current deal is based on fuzzy math, complicated accounting and millions of taxpayer dollars. Whether it comes from the state, the county, the city or other authority, these are taxpayer dollars.” The Libertarian CATO Institute added: “Any presidential candidate who believes that taxpayer-subsidized stadiums are ‘a good deal’ shouldn’t be anywhere near the federal Treasury.”

It has always been  sore point with taxpayers – not all of whom are professional sports fans – when a billionaire owner gets a massive public handout to provide his franchise with a new arena so he can earn even bigger profits. However, with the very real threat of moving their franchise to another community hanging over their heads, state and municipal governments have caved in to the pressure so often that some owners believe it’s become a right.

Ollstein also pointed out the cozy connection between Governor Walker and the Bucks owners in this arrangement. One of the Bucks owners is Walkers’ Presidential campaign finance co-chair and a major contributor to his current and past campaigns.

On the very day that Walker began pushing for taxpayers to foot much of the bill for the new arena, one of the team’s owners donated $150,000 to his super PAC. The investor, Jon Hammes, has donated directly to Walker’s past campaigns, as well … Walker hired him as his national finance co-chairman. Another Bucks owner, Ted Kellner, gave $50,000 to Walker’s Super PAC.

This subsidy is for a lot more than just half the cost of a new arena. According to USA Today, the final bill will total closer to $400 million with interest.

Taxpayers will contribute $250 million to the arena over 20 years, although that commitment will grow to $400 million with interest. Current and former team owners will spend another $250 million.

However, the community supposedly did get what they supposedly wanted out of the arrangement. The very real threat of moving the franchise has been squashed – for now, as reported by b

The team’s ownership group — which includes one of Walker’s top campaign fundraisers — had threatened to move the Bucks to another state if the taxpayer financing did not come through.

The new owners promised to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee as long as they got a new arena by 2017.

However, one more step remains before the entire arena proposal is final. The Milwaukee City Council has yet to vote on their portion as per USA Today.

Feigin said the next step will come in September, when the Milwaukee city council votes on the city’s segment of the deal. Assuming that part of the plan is approved, the Bucks hope to break ground in October or November, he said.

Since the sale of the Bucks a year ago, the new Bucks ownership group has continued to expand to include several of the 400 richest people in America. Hammes is a real estate developer specializing in arena projects, so with all the expertise this group has, the project will go smoothly. But one really has to wonder why an ownership group this wealthy needed a government handout?



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

photo credit Paul Saini