Monday, September 18, 2023

WisGOP releases Brewers stadium plan. And it needs a lot of work

Over the weekend, Wisconsin Republicans released their plans for funding repairs and maintenance for the Brewers’ stadium, and let’s see what’s in there.

This was followed by Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos and two other WisGOPs having a dog-and-pony show at AmFam Field today.
The Republican plan calls for the state to spend around $411 million through 2046. After an initial $60.8 million payment to the stadium district those annual payments would be capped at $20 million, according to the legislation.

Another $50 million would be available through short-term loans by the state to the stadium district through 2045.

Most of the state money would come from income taxes on Brewers' employees, including players, and on visiting team players. Those payments would go directly to the stadium district, said Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, a legislation co-author.
How is the money from MLB-related employees going to go “directly to the stadium district”? Is there some kind of segregated fund that is going to be set up by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (likely without any funding for the extra government work that’ll be required to do so)? Or is this just some estimate of “jock [income] taxes” that’ll be paid in to the state, with a set amount sent back out. Much like we do with the income taxes generated by the Bucks and NBA players?

Relying on “jock taxes” from highly-paid Brewers and visiting players is also quite the irony, given what Republicans in the Legislature have voted for earlier this year. An official with the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity group in Wisconsin took note.

Nice little two-step there, guys. Wonder if they’ll be asked about it.

Despite an earlier resolution from the Milwaukee County Board saying they would not pay local tax dollars toward future stadium repairs, the WisGOP plan has that happening anyway.
Milwaukee County and City of Milwaukee would together pay $7.5 million annually, totaling around $200 million. "They have the most to benefit by having professional baseball in their community," Feyen said. Meanwhile, the state sales revenue generated by the Brewers benefits all Wisconsin communities, he said.
That part of the package led to immediate pushback from the other side 0f the aisle. Dem Assembly Leader Greta Neubauer and Dem Assembly Number 2 Kalan Haywood released a statement saying that they were willing to help on a Brewers stadium deal. But they had a concern over how much Milwaukee would have to pay.
“Throughout negotiations, Democrats have been optimistic about reaching a deal that keeps the Brewers in Wisconsin. However, the Republican proposal released today falls short of recognizing the regional benefit of American Family Field and places too great of a financial burden on the city and county of Milwaukee.
Senate Dem Leader Melissa Agard sounded a similar tone – we want to help, but don’t lay so much on Milwaukee.

And Milwaukee writer Dan Shafer notes that the GOP package connects back to the shared revenue deal from earlier this year, and how the City and County are now basically expected to kick back some of their new sales tax funds to the Brewers Stadium.

You could translate that as another way that the gerrymandered GOP Legislature is trying to micromanage Milwaukee’s finances (I sure do). And Milwaukee community board member Jordan Morales brought up that the Brewers’ own studies show that a majority of attendees come from outside of Milwaukee County.

Which begs the question as to why none of the suburban counties would be chipping in tax dollars for future repairs to the ballpark, like they did when then-Miller Park was built. Oh wait, I know why. Because WisGOPs from the 262 cling to this outdated notion that they can get all off the benefits of big cities without having to pay in.

To me, there's an obvious solution to the “local contribution” question. Just set up a “Beer District” east and south of the ballpark, and include a ticket tax for events.

Yet Brewers’ officials are saying that they are not in favor of having the state give up the land that they own around AmFam Field.

I beg to disagree, Rick. I don’t think there would be many Brewers fans losing their chance to tailgate if we got rid of the back half of the Yount and Uecker lots. And I think the ball club would get by just fine without those last thousands in parking revenue. Besides, how many renters get to keep all of the parking revenue from their facility anyway (like the Crew does today)?

Milwaukee’s mayor went on the record today saying that he’d like to see a stadium deal allow for more privately-owned land and buildings around the ballpark – not unlike what we saw with the Bucks’ Deer District. And that maybe Milwaukee should continue to have a say about what happens with the ballpark that's located in their community.

“I’m happy there is a bipartisan push for the Brewers to stay here,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson in an interview. “Do I have issue with the local contribution? Yeah, I do. And not just with the local contribution, but with the makeup of the board itself.” He also took issue with the lack of development for the “sea of parking” that surrounds American Family Field.....

The current proposal calls for a new nine-member board to be established, with four appointees for the governor, two for the senate leader, two for the assembly speaker and one from the Brewers.

“That’s taxation without representation,” said Johnson.

The current board has 13 members: six appointees made by the governor, one by the mayor, two by the county executive and one appointee by each of the four suburban counties that levied the initial stadium tax.
Yeah, I'm with Chevy on that one. It's absurd to make Milwaukee governments pay in and then get no say in what happens to that money.

I do think it is worthwhile for tax dollars to go toward the Brewers staying and keeping the ballpark up to standard (and I am aware some of you disagree with funding sports arenas on general principle). And our visit to AmFam Field for Saturday night's Brewer game illustrates why. My wife and I had a great afternoon in MKE before then, including a stop at Black Husky Brewing in Riverwest. I doubt we head into Milwaukee if the Brewers weren’t playing that evening, and we certainly do not visit the 414 nearly as much in MLB’s offseason.

But I also think there are plenty of opportunities to improve this deal for both Milwaukee and everyone else in Wisconsin. And while I have enjoyed going to Brewers games for 43 of my 49 years on Earth, it’s also not a “pay any price, bear any burden” situation. So let’s set up the Beer District with new development, put in a ticket tax and/or a special district tax to capture some more of the money that out-of-towners pay when they go to Brewers games, and let’s keep the Crew here for another generation.

Now please excuse me on this topic, as the biggest thing I care about with the team right now is seeing a repeat of this picture, hopefully in the next 7-10 days.

Then give me some more time to watch the team in October. After the postseason run happens, then we can do more serious talk about the Brewers situation off the field. OK?


  1. Mark Attanasio has a projected net worth of $700 million, he could give less than 1% and solve the problem with no cost to taxpayers.

    1. Uh... 1% of $700 million is $7 million. Math much?

    2. I'm going to guess the $7 million is referencing the combined amount each year that the City/County is going to be expected to chip in for the ballpark repairs.

      1% of Attanasio's own wealth to be put in each year? Doesn't seem like much of a price to pay, especially given how much the franchise's value has gone up in the 18 years he has owned it.

    3. Oh, OK. If that was the intent, I stand corrected, and could not agree more. We pay the bills and the owner(s) get the benefits when they sell?? That's just nuts. Gee, can I find 'someone else' to replace my furnace/AC and roof, but I get to keep the full appreciated value when I sell the house?