Milwaukee Brewers continue push for stadium funding as lawmakers work out deal

The Milwaukee Brewers are continuing their push to secure public funds for renovations and repairs at American Family Field as a potential deal with state lawmakers remains up in the air. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Friday that the team could start looking at relocating if a deal isn’t reached by the fall — a potential outcome that could push state leaders to act.

Professional sports teams often threaten to move to another city when seeking public subsidies, however, few teams rarely commit to moving. A recent exception is the Oakland Athletics, which has been used as an example by Major League Baseball executives speaking about the Brewers situation. The As currently have a tentative deal to move from California to Las Vegas after the team and local officials failed to come to an agreement on building a new stadium. 

The team has estimated that $448 million in renovations and repairs will be needed over the next 20 years. Renovations are required under the team’s lease with the Southeast Professional Baseball Park District, which owns and leases American Family Field to the Brewers. 

The Major League Baseball team has spent considerable resources lobbying the state Legislature over the course of the state budget process. According to the state lobbying database, the Brewers reported spending $575,000 from January through June 2023 — more than any other lobbyist — and over 143 hours communicating with state lawmakers. 

Wisconsin leaders — Republicans and Democrats alike — are interested in keeping the Brewers in Milwaukee but have disagreed on what a package for the stadium renovations would look like. 

Republican lawmakers have been in the process of creating a proposal for funding the stadium after they rejected Gov. Tony Evers’ plan during the state budget process. Evers’ plan would have used the state budget surplus to dedicate $290 million towards upkeep of American Family Field. In exchange, the Brewers would have needed to agree to extend its lease through 2043, a 13-year extension. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) told WisPolitics on Friday that Republican lawmakers are not close to wrapping up their discussions on the proposal. 

Vos said Rep. Rob Brooks (R-Saukville) is working on a framework for the package and that it will likely need to include a state, local and team contribution. Brooks described a plan to WisPolitics that would include $698 million and cover 27 years. That proposal includes $463 million from the state, $100 million from the team from factors like higher rent and a $135 million contribution — or $5 million annually — from local governments. 

Republican lawmakers’ have insisted that local government will need to be a part of the plan, similar to the deal that was made to keep the Milwaukee Bucks in state under Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The city of Milwaukee has had to pay $4 million per year since 2016 due to that deal and will continue to do so until 2036.

Local Milwaukee officials have not been receptive to having to contribute local money for the Brewers.

Five members of the Milwaukee Common Council issued a statement last month, saying that stadium repairs shouldn’t be paid for by Milwaukee taxpayers.

“With Governor Evers’ months-old proposal to use part of the state’s surplus to fund $290 million in needed repairs to American Family Field all but dead, we want to change the expectations’ trajectory for the funding in a fundamental way,” Alds. Jonathan Brostoff, Lamont Westmoreland, Larresa Taylor, Mark A. Borkowski and Russell W. Stamper wrote. “We believe firmly that NOT A DIME of the funding should be footed by City of Milwaukee taxpayers.” 

The alderpersons said the Brewers and the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball District, the state agency that owns and leases the ballpark to the Brewers, need to identify a funding model that uses private funding, including from team ownership, borrowing and other sources to cover the repairs.

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors passed and County Executive David Crowley signed a resolution in May opposing the use of county funds for future renovations at American Family Field. Supervisors said that they should be focused on investing in public services including parks, public safety, senior services, transit and roadways.

Crowley’s communications director Brandon Weathersby, however, confirmed to CBS 58 that his office is now in the process of seeking flexibility in how the county could use money generated by a recent sales tax increase. Flexibility for the funds — which are meant to be used for pension and public safety costs — could free up money for the county to use for the renovations. 

Weathersby added that they are not “proactively” looking for a local contribution to the stadium. 

“We proposed technical changes to the Act 12 language to allow us to use sales tax dollars to further reduce our structural deficit, and provide more financial flexibility for Milwaukee County to provide a local contribution [to stadium repairs],” Weathersby told CBS 58. 

Weathersby said Crowley is pursuing the changes at the request of Democratic leadership in the state Legislature.



originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F08%2F14%2Fmilwaukee-brewers-continue-push-for-stadium-funding-as-lawmakers-work-out-deal%2F by Baylor Spears

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