UpFront: MMAC president sees ‘challenging path’ to new Bucks arena

Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce President Tim Sheehy says it will be a “very challenging path” to build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

But he told “UpFront with Mike Gousha” the generosity of former Sen. Herb Kohl, the team’s owner since 1985, and the prospective buyers has boosted the chances of a new arena.

Last week Kohl announced a deal to sell the team for $550 million to hedge fund managers Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry. The prospective new owners have pledged to put $100 million toward the cost of a new arena, while Kohl has promised $100 million as well.

“When you get two guys … who decide to invest $550 million in a community, in a team that’s in your community, that validates what we think is a bright future for this community,” Sheehy said on the program, which is produced in a partnership with WisPolitics.com.

The cost of a new arena is estimated at $400 million to $500 million. Sheehy said more work remains in courting private investors and said he anticipates the project will need public funding. He said a tax incremental financing district that would include retail and restaurants could help the investment payoff for the new owners as well as downtown Milwaukee.

Sheehy said taxpayers would need to take an interest in the funding in order to maintain the basketball franchise long term, adding there are cultural assets that need to be a priority as well, such as the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Sheehy hopes the city and county works together to push for funding on the state level if it is required.

“Our hope is that Milwaukee swims together on this, that this is not a food fight we take to Madison,” Sheehy said. “I think doing this as a region, and that doesn’t mean a regional tax, is going to be critical to being successful.”

See more from the show: http://www.wisn.com/politics/upfront