Bucks Co-Owner Says Arena Deal Needs To Be Reached, And Soon

One of the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks says the clock is running down on reaching a deal for a new downtown Milwaukee arena.

During a brief interview on his way to a meeting at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Thursday, Wes Edens said he wants the Bucks to stay in Milwaukee and that the financing plan that’s been presented to lawmakers is a favorable one for the state.

“We want to be a part of the community,” Edens said. “But getting this thing done and getting it done now is actually quite important.”

Weeks ago, Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Republican legislative leaders unveiled a plan that called for the state, city and county to finance half the costs of a new $500 million dollar arena. Under the plan, the state and county would each issue $55 million worth of bonds to cover their share. The city would contribute $47 million, much of it through building a new parking structure. Hotel, food and rental car taxes that are currently paying off debt for the Wisconsin Center convention hall in Milwaukee would pay for the remaining $93 million in bonding.

Some rank-and-file lawmakers balked at the deal, saying they did not like the idea of government subsidizing “millionaire players and billionaire owners.” Asked if lawmakers were telling him that owners should pay more, Edens pushed back.

“We are paying more,” he said. “We’re going to be — between ourselves and (former Sen. Herb Kohl) — well over 50 percent of the costs for this. So we have dug deep in our pockets to get to this point.”

When Kohl sold the Bucks to Edens and Marc Lasry, he promised to pay $100 million toward a new arena. That left the new owners paying the other $150 million.

Edens and Lasry are both New York hedge fund managers. Forbes has ranked them as among the nation’s wealthiest people.

While nothing is final, GOP leaders have hinted that they’re considering removing the Bucks arena deal from the state budget and voting on it as a standalone bill instead. Doing so would likely win them some Democratic votes, but would also run the risk of losing the support of many Republicans.

Edens had no comment on whether he’d support that move. “We’re just an advocate of getting something done,” he said.