True
Sheehy
A 50-50 public-private split for paying for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena would "be much better -- in terms of the portion of the public financing -- than most of the other arena projects done around the country."  

Tim Sheehy on Friday, April 10th, 2015 in an interview

Would paying half the cost of a new Milwaukee Bucks arena be a relatively low share for taxpayers?

This is a rendering of an arena and entertainment complex that is proposed to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

News broke on May 27, 2015 that an agreement was close on how to pay for a new $500 million arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, the basketball team that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once led to glory.

Some details of the proposed arrangement between the Bucks and state and local government officials were new. But the overall cost sharing was, more or less, what had long been expected: The Bucks’ owners would pay half and taxpayers would pay half.

According to Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, such a split would be good for taxpayers. Here is what he said April 10, 2015 on "Here and Now," a Wisconsin Public Television show:

"If this comes out close to a 50-50 partnership, it will be much better -- in terms of the portion of the public financing -- than most of the other arena projects done around the country."

In other words, Sheehy, who supports the new arena, is saying that taxpayers picking up half the tab for a new Milwaukee arena is relatively low, compared to how much taxpayers have contributed toward arenas for other National Basketball Association teams.

The parties set a self-imposed deadline of May 29, 2015 to try and finalize the financing deal, which would have to be approved, likely within the next few weeks, as part of the 2015-’17 state budget.

So, let’s take a look.

The Bucks and their arenas

The Bucks joined the NBA in the 1968-’69 season. Led by Abdul-Jabbar and another future Hall of Famer, Oscar Robertson, they won their only league championship in the 1970-’71 season. That, according to the team, meant the Bucks went further, faster, than any expansion team in the history of major professional sports.

In recent years, however, the Bucks have struggled, and that is one reason there has been a drive to build a new arena. The team’s current home -- the $90 million BMO Harris Bradley Center, which was built through a donation by the late Milwaukee philanthropist Jane Bradley Pettit -- opened in 1988. The 18,600-seat arena is the third-oldest and the third-smallest in the 30-team NBA.

Momentum for a new arena picked up in April 2014, when the Bucks’ longtime owner, former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl of Milwaukee, announced he was selling the team to New York hedge-fund investors Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens. Kohl and the new owners pledged to contribute $250 million toward a new arena.

Coming up with the other $250 million has been the sticking point, leading to months of negotiations involving Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. There is time pressure in that the NBA has said a new arena must be built by the fall of 2017, or Milwaukee would risk losing the team to another market.

Other arena deals

To see how other NBA arenas have been financed, we turned to two sources: The 2012 edition of "Financing Economic Development in the 21st Century,"  a textbook that includes a chapter on financing professional sports facilities. And a database, last updated in August 2014, that is maintained by Marquette University Law School’s National Sports Law Institute.

We’ve listed the 15 NBA arenas -- comprising half the arenas in the league -- that have been built since 1999. We went back to 1999 because a wave of NBA arenas -- seven of them -- went up that year.

As we’ll see, there is some disagreement between the figures provided by the textbook and by Marquette. Holy Cross College sports economist Victor Matheson, who wrote the sports facilities chapter in the textbook, told us that’s not surprising because there are different ways to define a public contribution and because stadium financing deals aren’t always transparent.

Based on the two sources we checked, at least eight of the 15 NBA arenas built since 1999 were financed with more than 50 percent taxpayer support. Indeed, although there is some variation in the figures in the two sources, seven of the eight arenas were built with at least 82 percent public money (the total cost figures are according to the textbook).

Arenas built with more than 50% public money

NBA city

Year arena built

Total cost

Portion paid by taxpayers per the texbook

Portion paid by taxpayers per Marquette

Orlando

2010

$480 million

90%

87.5%

Charlotte

2005

$265 million

100%

100%

Memphis

2004

$250 million

100%

83%

Houston

2003

$235 million

82%

100%

San Antonio

2002

$186 million

85%

84%

Oklahoma City

2002

$89 million

100%

100%

Miami

1999

$213 million

100%

59%

New Orleans

1999

$114 million

100%

100%

 

Conversely, the textbook and Marquette agree that only four of the arenas were built with taxpayer contributions of 50 percent or less.

Arenas built with 50% or less public money

NBA city

Year arena built

Total cost

Portion paid by taxpayers per the textbook

Portion paid by taxpayers per Marquette

Dallas

2001

$420 million

50%

30%

Toronto

1999

$265 million

0%

0%

Denver

1999

$160 million

22%

3%

Los Angeles

1999

$375 million

16%

19%

 

There was not agreement between the between the two sources on the public portion paid for arenas in Brooklyn, Indianapolis and Atlanta:

NBA city

Year arena built

Total cost

Portion paid by taxpayers per the texbook

Portion paid by taxpayers per Marquette

Indianapolis

1999

$183 million

100%

43%

Atlanta

1999

$214 million

29%

91%

Brooklyn

2010

$637 million

24%

N/A

 

Our rating

Sheehy said a 50-50 public-private split for paying for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena would "be much better in terms of the portion of the public financing than most of the other arena projects done around the country."

Of the 15 NBA arenas -- comprising half the cities in the league -- built since 1999, at least eight were built with more than 50 percent of the money coming from taxpayers. Seven of those eight were built with at least 82 percent public money.

We rate his statement True.