Monday, June 25, 2012

Get ready for the Bradley Center scam

I know it’s been a busy few months, but when was the decision made that there absolutely has to be a new Bradley Center, and that the public will bear the brunt of the cost?
An article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Business Section on Sunday assumed that a new center was a done deal. The only question seemed where it will be built, with the Park East area the preferred location.
A couple of other whoppers were buried in the story. First, that the public likely will be stuck with most of the bill, which is expected to range between $350 and $500 million. Second, that the arena probably won’t even pay property taxes on the new building.
You don’t have to be a financial wizard to know that when multimillion-dollar buildings don’t pay property taxes, the bill goes up for Joe Average homeowner.
Boosters for a new arena say it will be provide for more club seats and suites, and for higher-priced tickets closer to the court. “All of those changes would make the center more lucrative for the Bucks,” the article noted.
In other words, more profitable.
WHY THE RUSH?                                                                           Although the Bucks are the main tenant other teams use the aging center, such as the Milwaukee Admirals and Marquette University. (If you want to be like the rest of the Milwaukee media, you have to use the adjective “aging” before any reference to the arena.)
One final thing. You can’t call it the Bradley Center anymore. It’s now the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Yes, that’s the same BMO Harris which recently announced that it will close 17 bank branches in Wisconsin come October, eliminating jobs for an undisclosed number of people.
Why the rush for a new Bradley Center? The existing one is only 24 years old. As columnist Jim Stingl infamously noted a few years back when talk of a new center first surfaced, “I have underwear older than the Bradley Center.”
Apparently, you can never underestimate the longing of boys for their toys. Building a new center is a top priority of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), probably only outdone by the association's love affair with publicly funded but privately run voucher schools.
One wishes the MMAC had a jobs strategy that went beyond building sports stadiums catering to businesses that use their fancy luxury boxes to watch the games far from the huddled masses — and then writing off the cost of the boxes as a business expense
Herb Kohl, the Bucks owner, has gained kudos for saying he will provide a “significant” contribution to help build a new center. But he’s been mum about exactly how much.
And shouldn’t Kohl and the Bucks, as the arena’s main beneficiaries, bear the main cost? Isn’t that one of the supposed rules of capitalism? That entrepreneurs get to make all those profits because they are willing to take the financial risk?
But if the public pays for most of the Bradley Center, and the center doesn’t even have to pay property taxes, where’s the risk?
This Bradley Center proposal has “scam” written all over it.
During an ongoing economic downturn, with unemployment, poverty and foreclosures in the City of Milwaukee at heart-breaking levels, why is the focus on building a new Bradley Center subsidized by taxpayers but catering to the rich?
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This blog is cross-posted at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Purple Wisconsin project. 

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