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Bucks Arena Latest: 2015 still targeted for ground-breaking, alderman hoping for $100m in city debt set-aside

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Catching up on news-worthy items from the past couple weeks: the SaveOurBucks crew's latest is well worth your time, with plenty of interesting ideas and history lessons pertaining to the different (mainly downtown) sites currently being considered for a new multi-purpose arena. While the SOBers advocate all proposals be considered carefully over the coming months, they also believe that a location adjacent to the current BC would seem to represent the best compromise:

We advocate a site plan that encompasses the current Journal Communications Building and the existing Mecca Arena as suggested by the Business Journal's Rich Kirchen in a recent article.

That location would require the acquisition of the city block that the Journal owns, including the site they lease to Major Goolsby's restaurant. It would also require razing the Mecca for a portion of the new building's footprint. After the new arena is ready for occupancy, we'd advocate the existing Bradley Center then be demolished for a parking structure that would have great I-94/I-43 freeway access from the McKinley Avenue off-ramp, with said new parking structure having a skywalk across State Street to the new arena.

Check out the full post for more details, though (as previously discussed) the Mecca/Journal building idea would seem to satisfy the publicly stated desires of several key stakeholders. Co-owner Wes Edens stated his preference for a downtown location in late July, while Mayor Tom Barrett has gone on record numerous times advocating for a location as close as possible to Wisconsin Ave.

Whether that means Barrett would also push for tying a new arena plan with an expansion of the Wisconsin Center isn't entirely clear, though at a minimum it would seem to keep alive WCD Chairman Frank Gimbel's dream of a joint re-development. I still don't know if the latter would also be appealing to the Bucks, but we'll hopefully get a better sense of an answer to that question over the coming months.

JS: Sheehy hopes for arena financing discussion to begin in January
LOTS to digest in Don Walker's latest arena story.

Perhaps most notably, Walker reports that MMAC President Tim Sheehy hopes to see substantive steps toward a public financing package starting early next year, dovetailing with previous indications that arena site selection would be complete by late 2014.

"When the Legislature goes back in session, it will be the end of January," Sheehy said. "Between the end of January and the middle of 2015, the community and the team is going to need an answer on the public financing piece of this. So we have to be ready as a community to be in a direct and specific discussion with the Legislature, I think, no later than January."

Back in May, Edens wasn't bashful about his goal of breaking ground on a new Bucks arena by mid-2015, and with good reason. The Bucks' current lease with the BMO Harris Bradley Center will be up by the fall of 2017, and recent arena experiences in Brooklyn, Orlando and Charlotte suggest a two-plus year construction timetable will be required from start to finish. Work that timeline backwards and you can see why Edens and Sheehy are hoping to sort out the all-important question of financing by mid-2015, though it's also no secret that the money question will be the hard part about sorting out a long-term solution.

We can also debate whether that timeline is realistic--especially if significant demolition is required--or just a stretch target meant to maintain urgency around the issue, but the good news is that the world (or in this case, pro basketball in Milwaukee) won't end if a solution isn't wrapped up by mid-2015. Nominally the Bucks have until 2017 to get their arena built or the league can exercise its buy-back clause with Edens and Marc Lasry, but one would assume that having construction in progress by then would be just fine with the league. Nevertheless, the faster the funding question can be sorted out the better, which is why you can understand why the Bucks and local business leaders are looking to sort out the issue as soon as a) an actual site proposal has been put together and b) the dust has cleared from the fall elections.

Walker's piece also has plenty of additional goodies, though generally speaking no major revelations good or bad: some additional discussion about using existing jock taxes (worth $6-8 million annually?) and a new super TIF, more talk of up to $300 million in private financing, and cautious (non-)reaction from Gov. Scott Walker.

Milwaukee Business Journal: Ald. Joe Davis proposes $100 million in city bonding for arena
We're a long way from the city of Milwaukee issuing bonds to fund a new Bucks arena, but Rich Kirchen reports that Alderman Joe Davis wants the Common Council to at least be prepared for that possibility.

Davis said that during the upcoming budget deliberations this fall on the 2015 budget he intends to increase the city's bonding authority. He said his initiative "would not designate a single dime to be used for a new arena" but simply would give the city the flexibility to pursue that option "later in the 2015 budget year if leaders see fit."

Davis' proposal is likely to face questions from Common Council president Ald. Michael Murphy who opposes city financing for a new arena. Murphy believes if there is to be public funding, it would need to come from the southeast Wisconsin region, including surrounding counties, and not just the city.

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