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Build It: Bucks fans set to rally for arena development on June 9

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Tom Dickerson

With details of a public financing plan still being wrangled over in Madison, the wait for a new downtown arena continues. But despite delays in bringing a plan to the Joint Finance Committee, there's still been plenty of wheeling and dealing. Among other things, the jock tax could return as the primary funding mechanism for the state's $55 million portion (good), the talking heads have done plenty of talking (meh), and polarizing Wisconsin Center District Chairman Franklyn Gimbel appears likely to be replaced as part of a broader merging of the WCD and the new arena.

The good news is that for all the political posturing we've seen over the past week, the fundamental incentives haven't changed; while details over naming rights and cost overruns remain ripe for negotiation, some type of compromise over a public-private financing agreement remains in the best interest of all parties. That's of central importance, even if the politics around the issue remain a threat to derail common sense. Looking ahead, the next steps toward a binding arena agreement remain the same: agreement from stakeholders on the parameters of a financing plan, subsequent approval from the legislature's Joint Finance Committee to include that package in the state budget, and then approval of the overall budget from the full legislature.

In the meantime, the Bucks' plans for ancillary development around the arena continue to take shape, in the process providing even more incentive for lawmakers in Milwaukee and Madison to find a solution. Save Our Bucks summarizes the latest news:

Today the news came out that the Bucks' owners are looking to purchase the remaining Park East acreage west of the river for development of not only the arena but also a new practice facility, restaurants, a hotel, apartments, parking garages, etc. Tom Daykin with MJS first reported it here. This would be a $400 million privately funded development in addition to the arena itself.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is proposing to sell the 10-acres of Park East land west of the river to the Bucks owners for development purposes for the price of $1. The County Board of Supervisors will need to approve the sale. To that end, the County Board has announced a public hearing on Tuesday, June 9th at 5:30pm to allow the public to weigh-in on the proposal.

By now you probably know all about the Park East corridor -- it's the eyesore north of the current BMO Harris Bradley Center that's been sitting mostly vacant since the I-43 on-ramp was demolished in 1999. It's been assumed that the county would donate Park East land toward the arena project, and now the Bucks are taking it one step further by proposing their privately-funded $400 million project to complement the $500 million public-private arena project.

To kickstart it, County Executive and arena advocate Chris Abele will need the approval of the County Board, and that's where you can help on June 9. Again, here's the Save Our Bucks gang:

The good news is that the location of this hearing will be at the War Memorial Center on the lakefront and free parking will be provided (750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive.) We anticipate that this hearing will garner significant media coverage. At this hearing there will be a veritable Star Wars bar scene of different people with different agendas. Some will be excited about the fact that Park East land west of the river is actually being developed after being on the market since 2002 with no takers. There will also be citizens who will insist the property is worth more than the island of Maui and that the County board should hold on to the land for another decade or more until they can find a new developer willing to pay an exorbitant price for it.

What we'll need at this meeting is YOU! We'll need you in your best Bucks gear at the War Memorial to represent Bucks fans everywhere. Attendance at this meeting does not mean you will need to speak at the hearing unless you want to. The most important thing for us will be the number of people wearing Bucks gear at this meeting. Supportive signs are good as well.

We're going to spend the next week in conjunction with the other members of the Bucks online community in getting the word out. This will be the first chance for local and State legislators to see if Bucks fans "care". If only ten of you show up? Well let's just say that will embolden the arena detractors.

Needless to say, we encourage Bucks fans to make their voices heard.