Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

On Bucks, the draft, a new arena

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Greg Peck
Thursday, June 27, 2013

I admit, I am curious to see who the Milwaukee Bucks choose in tonight’s (Thursday’s) NBA Draft. I’m not sure why, however. I haven’t been to a Bucks game in many years—since they laid a stinker during the George Karl coaching reign that they later said marked the turning point in a season that put them on the brink of making the playoff finals. I haven’t even watched a full game in years.

Still, as a Wisconsin native and sports fan, I’m still interested. I was a big enthusiast as a child, back in the Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson glory days, and I’d like to see the team return to its winning ways—eventually. Many analysts, however, think that dream is hopeless without a new arena to attract more fans and thus more revenue and better players.

That seems odd, given that I still recall the great fanfare over philanthropists Jane Bradley Pettit and Lloyd Pettit giving money to build the Bradley Center as a tribute to Jane’s late father, Harry Lynde Bradley of the Allen-Bradley company. How can an arena built just 25 years ago be deemed so outdated?

Many people argue it will take public money to help build a replacement and make the Bucks a financially viable and winning ball club.

The Gazette publishes Froma Harrop’s syndicated columns in our print edition as space allows, and her latest column explores the habit of cities in getting wrapped up in their sports heroes and approving of such public funding. She notes that Brazil, which will invest greatly to host soccer’s World Cup next year and the 2016 Olympics, is getting kickback from citizens living in poverty and with lousy streets and substandard schools.

Harrop also argues that Arlington, Texas, only enriched billionaire Cowboys owner Jerry Jones by using public financing to help him build his football palace.

“Stadiums are sold as economic engines,” Harrop writes. “But when you add it all up—the subsidies, local dollars diverted to far-off owners and players, and the rest—sports facilities provide little economic benefit, notes Harvard urban planning expert Judith Grant Long. She found that the average 'public-private partnership' to build stadiums left the cities paying 78 percent and the teams 22 percent.”

Many people still believe Milwaukee’s Miller Park—home of the Brewers—with its expensive retractable roof was a boondoggle foisted on the public and regional taxpayers.

So what do you think? Will the Bucks stay in Milwaukee without a new arena? Is it reasonable that public funding help build one to keep our state’s largest city—one with plenty of poverty, education, unemployment and other financial difficulties—among the “big leagues” of cities nationwide? Are the influence and prominence of being home to professional sports worth such an investment?

And, oh, by the way, if you're a fan, who should the Bucks pick tonight?

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

Last updated: 8:23 am Monday, July 29, 2013

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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