Basketball arenas owned by billionaires get built by public money. That’s always the case. As it is with the Milwaukee Bucks and the state of Wisconsin, as governor Scott Walker cut $250 million from the state’s higher education system, while approving $250 million of taxpayer funds going to the new arena.
Although the two figures aren’t 100% comparable, the message is clear. The voices against the public financing of sports arenas around the country get drowned out each time as cities, councils and states don’t want to lose their franchises. The leagues sign certain deals and make promises about the team not going anywhere, but will almost always side with the owners when it comes to disputes about new arena financing.
The spending on the stadium will be spread over 20 years, but with bond interest, the cost to Wisconsin residents is expected to hit $400 million. But not everything is coming from the state government. About $80 million is, while the rest is financed by the city and county of Milwaukee, and by a $2 surcharge on tickets to events at the Bucks’ current stadium.
The argument Walker is making suggests that the state loses $299 million in players salaries (taxes) over the next two decades if the Bucks fold and relocate, although that’s based on a prediction that player salaries keep rising at a certain rate. It makes sense in a way, but there are arguments against it, and when it comes alongside higher educations costs, it’s a little bit more than just infuriating.
The threats of relocation are gone, as the team and especially owners get their new shiny toy in the form of a brand new arena, but as always, it comes with a bitter taste in people’s mouths, slightly feeling like they’ve been extorted in order to keep a franchise that’s been in town since 1968.