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Bucks to be sold for $550 million, but will remain in Milwaukee

Sen. Herb Kohl purchased the Milwaukee Bucks in 1985. (Morry Gash/AP)

Herb Kohl

Sen. Herb Kohl has agreed to the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks -- in principle -- to hedge-fund billionaires Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry. While not yet approved by the NBA's Board of Governors, the $550 million deal was announced officially on Wednesday via press conference by Kohl, the Bucks, Edens and Lasry.

The sale of the team concludes a quiet, extended process carried out with specific ends in mind. For months Kohl searched for a promising ownership group that could do right by the team while keeping it stationed in Milwaukee. That the Bucks remain in the city -- where they have resided since the franchise's creation in 1968 -- is an explicit part of the sale agreement.

“My priority has always been and will continue to be keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee,” said Kohl at Wednesday's press conference.  “This announcement reinforces that Milwaukee is and will continue to be the home of the Bucks.  Wes and Marc agree, and they share my commitment to the long-term success of this franchise in Milwaukee.”

Kohl has owned the Bucks since 1985, when he purchased the team for $19 million.

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Once the sale of the team is approved, the next major order of business for the Bucks will be the construction of new playing facilities. The BMO Bradley Center is one of the oldest arenas in active NBA use, and one of the only buildings of its generation to go without a significant completed or planned remodel. Upgrades were made last season to incorporate more suite accommodations and theater-style seating, though then-deputy-commissioner Adam Silver still noted afterward that the procurement of funds and plans for a new arena was a top priority for the league (via Milwaukee Business Journal):

“One obvious issue we all have to deal with is we need a new arena in Milwaukee,” said Adam Silver, deputy National Basketball Association commissioner, speaking of the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

...“At the end of the day compared to other modern arenas in the league, this arena is a few hundred thousand square feet too small,” Silver said. “It doesn’t have the sort of back-of-house space you need, doesn’t have the kinds of amenities we need.

“It doesn’t have the right sort of upper bowl/lower bowl (seating) configuration for the teams frankly that Milwaukee wants to compete against,” he said.

To that end, Kohl has pledged $100 million toward the construction of a new arena while Edens and Lasry will contribute at least that much. Such commitments will alleviate the financial burden that comes with arena building -- an endeavor that has been funded publicly with increasing frequency. Considering that the residents of five surrounding counties will already be footing the bill for the construction of Miller Park, home of the Brewers, through 2020 (a later end date than initially expected), that $200+ million could make the fundraising for a new Bucks arena proceed more smoothly.

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“Today’s announcement signals the start of a new, exciting era for the Milwaukee Bucks,” said Kohl.  “Now, with a long-term commitment from the new owners and major components of the funding in place for a new arena, we need to come together as a community to develop plans for a new sports and entertainment facility that will host more than 200 events a year, including Bucks games.  I am confident we will do this.”

This past season marked a disappointing campaign for the Bucks. The team entered the season with playoff hopes despite the departures of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, but instead sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings at 15-66 entering Wednesday's action.