When the Milwaukee Bucks changed hands from Herb Kohl to Marc Lasry and Wes Edens back in 2014, the new ownership group pledged to remain in Wisconsin and invest not just in the team, but in the city. Today is a major milestone for the franchise as the Bucks open the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center. (The Cousin’s Center, it ain’t.)
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel released an in-depth article early this morning that summarizes the amenities offered by the practice center. Turns out, you can include a ton of amenities for $31 million, including:
- Two basketball courts
- Full weight room
- Underground parking(!)
- A barber (courtesy of Gee’s Clippers)
- Multiple meeting spaces (Bucks President Peter Feigin referred to one as a “player sanctuary”)
The Bucks’ activity level across downtown Milwaukee over the past few months might be more visible, but isn’t a huge departure for how the team has contributed to the Milwaukee area since Edens and Lasry bought the team. The practice facility, located on 6th St. and Juneau, was privately-funded. It also does not offer public access, but a publicly-available Froedtert medical clinic is planned to open across the street later this year. The opening of this facility also comes on the heels of a sponsorship for a new school on the south side of Milwaukee, St. Augustine Prep Academy, which is also planned to open later this year.
From a basketball standpoint, what does a multi-million dollar practice facility offer?
"I believe this is a real weapon to recruit players," said Mike Fascitelli, a New York real estate executive who's part of the Bucks ownership group. "We wanted it to be very state of the art, very futuristic."
He added: "We paid attention to every detail. We designed it from the outside in."
As the NBA becomes further globalized, some factors that held Milwaukee back as a free agency destination will be lessened. Market size matters less when fans are able to stream games from (almost) anywhere, and the structure of the NBA’s salary cap and collective bargaining agreement puts large and small markets on a more even playing field when it comes to salary offers.
As these variables decline in importance to players, the vacuum is filled by other priorities. Chief among them is usually winning on the court (which the Bucks should do more of) and maintaining a stable, well-organized franchise (which the Bucks really should do more of). Amenities like the Froedert Sports Science Center and the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center (coming next year!) will certainly impress visitors, but it will take more than facility-centric financial commitments for power agents to line up outside Jon Horst’s office.
Still, the Froedert Sports Science Center is an impressive building that gives Bucks players a place to hone their skills and develop into a winning NBA team. Wes Edens, Marc Lasry, Jamie Dinan, and the rest of the ownership group should be applauded for following through on their commitment to literally rebuilding the franchise into a world-class organization. There’s still tons of opportunity to improve (including getting into the habit of “staying out of our own way”), but this is a win for the team and for the city.