Full disclosure: I'm a huge sucker for panels of experts engaged in reasoned, productive, and well-informed debate. They act as intellectual Xanax to the anxiety disorder that is simplified Internet opinion.
And when it involves the Milwaukee Bucks and the local economy in which I reside? All the better.
Yesterday's Marquette University and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel-sponsored forum, entitled "A New Milwaukee Sports and Entertainment Arena? Divining the Benefits and Dividing the Costs," featured an all-star cast of experts capable of answering every question anyone could possibly have about the viability of building a new arena in downtown Milwaukee.
Well, every question except, "Is Milwaukee getting a new arena?"
From state politican (Robin Vos), to county executive (Chris Abele), to BMO Harris Bradley Center chairman (Marc Marotta, whom I interviewed last year), to sports economist (Andrew Zimbalist), to business leaders (Tim Sheehy of MMAC, Roy Williams of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber), to journalists (David Boardman, executive editor of the Seattle Times), opinions differed greatly on how to solve the current problems facing the sustainable existence of the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
However, there was one common theme that percolated into each presenter's speech: Regardless of what was discussed, it was only a starting point in what is sure to be a marathon of public forums, guest columns, and Journal-Sentinel comment fights. That's perfectly understandable; any decision (likely) involving public money deserves public input, and it's encouraging to know that, regardless of what happens, we're proactively engaged in these discussions far earlier than necessary.
The conference is currently streamable, and I would personally recommend Williams' presentation on Oklahoma City's rebirth as a destination city, especially if you want to see the model Milwaukee as a whole is attempting to replicate. But if you don't have seven hours to kill, Don Walker at the Journal-Sentinel had a great running blog of the event. I've also included a few choice tweets below (in chronological order, of course).
"This is about how we get this done." Tim Sheehy, pres. of MMAC on #mkearena.— Don Walker (@DonWalkerJS) April 8, 2013
Marc Marotta, chair of BC board on #mkearena, Our mission is to maintain Milwaukee as a top-tier city.— Don Walker (@DonWalkerJS) April 8, 2013
Marc Marotta of the Bradley Center opens door to possible renovation of the existing arena. #mkearena— Don Walker (@DonWalkerJS) April 8, 2013
Extending the Miller Park 0.1% sales tax is a potential option to fund new arena, MMAC chief Sheehy says #mkearena— Don Walker (@DonWalkerJS) April 8, 2013
Marc Marotta of the Bradley Center: there will be private contribs for #mkearena, but some public money will be needed.— Don Walker (@DonWalkerJS) April 8, 2013
MMAC's Sheehy says there will be a public chat on #mkearena. "Milw. will not make that mistake, and that's good for the community."— Don Walker (@DonWalkerJS) April 8, 2013
Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist says avg. arena deal over last 30yrs, is 65% public money vs. 35% private money. #mkearena— Don Walker (@DonWalkerJS) April 8, 2013
Interesting sidelight to the OK City infrastructure plan. No project was done until there was enough money to do it. #mkearena— Don Walker (@DonWalkerJS) April 8, 2013
"[The NBA & Thunder] has given us an awareness we never had." - Roy Williams CEO of Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce #mkearena— Nick Monroe (@nmonroe) April 8, 2013
The MAPs program for public improvement is very impressive. Encompasses parks, schools and entertainment facilities. #mkearena— Nick Monroe (@nmonroe) April 8, 2013
Here's the program Roy Williams is talking about: okc.gov/MAPS/ #mkearena— Jake McCormick (@Jake_BrewHoop) April 8, 2013
Excellent point that sports arena's are not about their economics but about the quality of life for residents. #mkearena— Chris Johnson (@clj05) April 8, 2013
Not an option. Wouldn't in anyway entertain that. - NHL owner Craig Leopold on a NHL team expansion/moving to the BMOHBC. #mkearena— Nick Monroe (@nmonroe) April 8, 2013