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Issue of the Week: Will Milwaukee Profit from a New Bradley Center?

Apr. 11, 2013
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On Monday, Marquette University and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sponsored a conference on the future of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The business community wants a new or a greatly expanded facility so that the city can keep the Milwaukee Bucks, boost the city’s economy, and generate permanent and temporary employment.

But would it stimulate Milwaukee’s growth? And who should pay for the upgrades?

Milwaukee Ald. Michael Murphy sought answers to those questions when he asked the city’s Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) for an independent economic report on sports venues’ economic impact. Last Friday, the LRB reported that the economic benefits of a sports venue are usually exaggerated.

Take Oklahoma City, Okla., which Milwaukee leaders are using as an example to learn from. Oklahoma City has revitalized its downtown via tax-funded pay-as-you-go projects, including sports and entertainment facilities. Civic leaders claim that the $365 million of sales tax-funded projects have created $5 billion in private investment.

Yet the LRB found that the actual number is closer to $500 million, one-tenth of the touted impact.

But what about the revenue generated by ticket sales, parking, restaurants and bars on Game Day? That’s likely inflated, too, since people who spend money on sports events would simply spend those dollars on other entertainment options if they weren’t at a game.

And the jobs created by the sports venue aren’t overly significant, the LRB found. Yes, local people work in the venue in concessions and operations, typically low-wage and part-time jobs. But the high-earning athletes and executives usually live elsewhere, spending their money in affluent communities.

So as Milwaukee’s leaders talk about upgrading the Bradley Center, ask them, what are the community’s priorities?

Taxpayers should only consider supporting the Bradley Center after local leaders secure sustainable funding for public assets and services like the transit system, schools, museums and parks. These are the assets that will truly make Milwaukee a well-educated, forward-thinking, economically thriving metropolitan area.





The Shepherd offers our congratulations to five Milwaukee nonprofits who were collectively awarded $100,000 from the Open Society Foundations to develop a plan to increase the influence of low-income and minority residents and improve their economic, civic and political opportunities. The five organizations are Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund, 9to5 Milwaukee, Partnership for Working Families, Voces de la Frontera and Wisconsin Voices. The group of Milwaukee organizations will present its plan to the foundation later this year so that it can be considered for up to $1 million annually for three to 10 years to implement its proposal.


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