The Milwaukee Bucks might be relocated to Las Vegas or Seattle if the current ownership group stays true to their threats of moving the franchise without money for a new arena, although it’s not going to be that easy, as it doesn’t seem the NBA or the owners actually want to make that switch.
The Milwaukee Bucks were sold by Herb Kohl to Wes Edens, Marc Lasry, and Jamie Dinan for $550 million. In a number of sources (Yahoo, SI) it was reported that part of the deal with the new owners, New York based Hedge Fund managers, was that the franchise remains in Milwaukee. But turns out it isn’t stopping the owners from making threats about leaving.
Team president Peter Feigin demanded in local hearing with state and local lawmakers to be granted $250 million plus interest in taxpayer money in order to fund a new arena and replace the Bradley Center, which has been the home of the Bucks since 1988. The deal of the sale included provisions for $100 million each from Kohl and the new ownership group, for a total of $200 million, towards the construction of a new downtown arena. The NBA has issued a mandate requiring the Bucks to relocate, or be close to completion of a new facility, by 2017. In the event that funding is not secured in time, the new owners have the option to sell the team back to the NBA, which could relocate it to a new market. If construction doesn’t begin in 2015, according to that quiet provision of the sale, the NBA will buy back the team and relocate it.
This negotiating has been going on for months, and it seems the Bucks are hitting the city and state with a take-it-or-leave it kind of offer, which tells the taxpayers to fork over half of the $500 million it’ll cost to build the new arena, including $93 million in bonds that would accrue interest for 13 years before they would even start to be paid off. At the most conservative of estimates, interest costs should reach $174 million on top of the $250 million cost to the taxpayer.
The last city to lose an NBA team was the Seattle Supersonics, turning in 2008 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Seattle weren’t far from getting a team back from Sacramento before a last minute salvo and ownership change in the Capital of California. It’s the same old story in professional sports. Owners want the public to fund most of the costs or all of them as they build a new stadium, and threaten to go elsewhere if it doesn’t happen.
Some think that in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t cost all that much per citizen to fund the arena, so there shouldn’t even be an argument. Others think big decisions like this should be put up to a vote for the public in a referendum. Either way, we’re probably going to be hearing about this tug of war for a while.
The Bucks have been in Milwaukee since the franchise was founded, in 1968. The Sonics were founded a year earlier, spending 41 years in Seattle before the relocation.
Hat Tip: Deadspin