Earlier this month, a Milwaukee County Board supervisor submitted a resolution calling for the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District to work with local officials to explore the possibility of creating a nearby entertainment district. [Brewers President of Business Operations Rick] Schlesinger pointed to the Deer District in Milwaukee and Titletown near Lambeau Field in Green Bay as successful examples of similar developments in Wisconsin. “Not only does it have to co-exist with the prime goal of the ballpark, which is to provide a beautiful place to go to a baseball game, and to provide tailgating opportunities for our fans … but it has to make sense within the neighborhood, and it has to make sense economically for us,” he said. Schlesinger said a stadium needs assessment report, conducted by Venue Solutions Group, is expected to be complete this summer. He expects it will highlight a funding shortfall, but declined to speculate on a specific number as the report is still in progress. He also noted the Brewers don’t want to bring back the five-county sales tax that generated over $600 million before ending in 2020. “We don’t need the five-county tax back,” he said. “There’s other solutions that I think can be creative that require a lot of different analysis … so I don’t look at the retirement of the five-county tax as this horrible disaster that has now created this huge problem. The reality is, we have to be creative in how we fund what we need.”Here are Schlesinger's full thoughts at the event. He mentions price tags of $435 million over 15 years to renovate Cleveland's stadium and more than $600 million needed for Baltimore's Camden Yards. But Urban Milwaukee's Bruce Murphy noted that there was a problem if the City or County of Milwaukee gave the green light to some kind of "Beer District". Murphy says such a move could actually could be counterproductive for the team, because it already enjoys a great deal on their property, and doesn't need a TIF exemption because they don't pay taxes on the property anyway.
....the entire idea is based on a misunderstanding of just how all-encompassing the tax exemptions granted to the team are, something only Urban Milwaukee has reported. The stadium and all 265 acres leased to the Brewers are tax exempt, which has tremendous value for the team. Over the presumed 40 year life the stadium, (though it could last longer), the exemption on the stadium will save the team nearly $217 million in taxes and the exemption on the land will save the Brewers $483 million. But that’s not all that is exempt. The state law funding the stadium includes a property tax exemption that “is very broad,” noted Ryan LeCloux, of the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau, when asked by Urban Milwaukee to analyze the law. The property that is exempted “includes but is not limited to: ‘parking lots, garages, restaurants, parks, concession facilities, entertainment facilities, transportation facilities, and other functionally related or auxiliary facilities and structures,’” LeCloux noted. “Because of this, a hotel developed on the stadium property would become ‘property consisting of or contained in a sports and entertainment stadium’ and not subject to taxation,” he explained. As for, say, building an apartment complex on the land nearest to the Menomonee River, that, too, “would fall within that exemption,” he said. Moreover, should the Brewers work with another developers to build any such facilities they would still be tax exempt: “leasing or subleasing the property; regardless of the lessee, the sublessee and the use of the leasehold income; does not render the property taxable.” With a tax exemption that sweeping, why would the Brewers want to make some of its land taxable, in order to generate funding from a TIF district that would then be paid back through future property taxes paid by the team? As a top local developer told me, no TIF or other such deal would compare to a total property tax exemption: “If you can develop without any tax liability, that is the best-case scenario.”To review, here's what the Brewers have right now. It's the ballpark, the parking/tailgate lots, and some land east of the east lot toward the Menomonee Valley.