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Sports arena delays Milwaukee convention center expansion

Announced during a Common Council Steering and Rules Committee meeting on June 5, City of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett proposed financing the construction of a sports arena. The cost to develop the arena would be $500 million.

Milwaukee Bucks to relocate if no new arena by 2017.
Milwaukee Bucks to relocate if no new arena by 2017.

Local officials stated that financing for the proposed arena would likely affect funds and possibly delay plans for the expansion of the Wisconsin Center, a convention and exhibition center located in downtown Milwaukee.

Wisconsin Center planned an expansion just north of its facility.
Wisconsin Center planned an expansion north of its facility.

In the financing plan, roughly $93 million in bonds of the $250 million public share of the arena’s costs would be provided by the state-created Wisconsin Center District, operators of the Wisconsin Center and Milwaukee Theatre. State taxpayers would fund another $55 million through tax hikes on car rentals of 3 percent, hotel rooms at 2.5 percent and food and beverage sales at 0.5 percent.

The purchase of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Milwaukee Bucks in Wisconsin included a stipulation for a new arena by 2017. If a new arena is not completed by the deadline set by the NBA, the league reserves the right to buy back its franchise from buyers Wesley Edens, principal, founder and co-chairman of the board of directors of Fortress Investment Group LLC, and Mark Lasry, co-founder and chief executive officer of Avenue Capital Group.

Should the Bucks leave Milwaukee, the city would no longer receive annual taxes from the team, estimated at approximately $10 million.

The Wisconsin Center, which was completed in 2000, planned for a $200 million expansion just north of the facility. Suggested by Mayor Barrett is to house both the convention center and the Bucks arena within the same facility.

Signing of the proposed bill is pending approval from the state legislature and the Common Council.

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