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Bucks owners want new arena site in three to four months

Posted August 4, 2014

 

The new owners of the Milwaukee Bucks hope to identify a site for a new multipurpose arena in the next three or four months, according to Ald. Bob Bauman.

Bauman and Common Council President Michael Murphy met Friday at City Hall with Wes Edens, who along with New York investor Marc Lasry bought the Bucks from former Sen. Herb Kohl.

Edens also had a separate private meeting with Mayor Tom Barrett. Earlier Friday, Edens met with County Executive Chris Abele.

"They have a very tight timetable," Bauman said. "They want to have a site identified in three or four months. Then they want to do the engineering and design. Then they will focus on the financials."

In a brief interview at City Hall, Edens said the meetings were about "educating me about the city and the different constituencies and what people are thinking about development and the pluses and minuses of different places."

Edens said the meetings were the first prolonged sessions he has had with elected leaders about the arena process.

"I'm spending the morning meeting different people in the public eye," Edens said.

After meeting with Edens, Barrett said the New York billionaire "is learning the territory very quickly."

"The most pressing issue is to find a site that is compatible," Barrett said. "I want it as close to Wisconsin Ave. as possible. There is opportunity there."

Barrett has said in recent days that the downtown area east of the Milwaukee River has become a hot spot for development and housing. He hopes to accomplish the same thing west of the river and has hopes a new arena and ancillary development will provide that spark.

The National Basketball Association wants the Bucks to have a new arena by 2017. That is the same year the Bucks' lease with the BMO Harris Bradley Center expires.

Barrett said he told Edens that the city's Department of City Development would assist the Bucks owners in locating the best site for the arena.

Lasry and Edens have committed $100 million toward construction of a new arena. Kohl pledged an additional $100 million. Since that time, six local investors have purchased shares in the franchise; those shares are investments not just in the franchise but also in the upcoming arena development, a source with knowledge of the deal said. It is anticipated that additional investors will be involved.

Murphy and Bauman said they were impressed with Edens.

 

"He's excited about the city," Murphy said. "He's very much an urban enthusiast. And he thinks he can put a deal together."

Murphy said Edens told him the financing package needed to build an arena — estimated between $400 million and $500 million — would require some form of public support. With that in mind, Murphy said, he told Edens the city could not bear the burden of providing some kind of tax support alone.

"The burden can't be on the city," Murphy said.

County boards in Ozaukee, Racine and Waukesha have already staked out stands, expressing opposition to providing any form of public tax support toward a new arena or expansion of the Wisconsin Center.

Accompanying Edens was Robert J. Cook, who was named this week as the franchise's vice president of business affairs.