Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed an arena funding bill for a new $500 million arena foMilwaukee Bucks arena on Wednesday.
Walker, who is a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, signed the bill at the Wisconsin State Fair Park surrounded by team officials and lawmakers.
Last month, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill approving $250 million in public funds from the state, city and county of Milwaukee to build a new facility for the franchise. The Bucks will foot the bill for any construction cost overruns and maintenance expenses.
The project, which includes a special arena and an entertainment district, will cost the state’s taxpayers $400 million over a 20-year period. Another $250 million will come from the team’s current and former owners.
Bucks owner president Peter Feigin had said that the NBA could buy the team from the owners and relocate it if the funding package was not approved by the state’s lawmakers.
The league's warning came despite Milwaukee's current arena, the 18,000-seat BMO Harris Bradley Center, receiving $3 million in renovations a few years ago, which included suite upgrades, a new hospitality bar and new theater-style seating sections.
The Bucks have played at the Bradley Center since 1988. It is the fourth-oldest arena in the league behind Oracle Arena, Madison Square Garden and The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The arena’s original plan called for borrowing $220 million to help diffuse cost, but that plan would have cost taxpayers around $80 million.
Critics of the plan have said that the new funding bill would only make the team’s owners richer, citing concerns that taxpayer money shouldn’t be spent on a facility for a franchise that is privately owned.
Walker said that it would cost Wisconsin taxpayers much more money if the team were to relocate.
- Scooby Axson