On Wednesday evening, WISC TV in Madison reported that there would be a 3pm press conference on Thursday to announce a funding plan for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee. At the time, the original report had no new information as to what Governor Scott Walker and state politicians had agreed upon in order to make that announcement happen.
That original report was never refuted, but this morning, Governor Walker did couch things a bit, stating that he expected an announcement either today or tomorrow. The 3pm press event was still on the schedule, but wasn't guaranteed that it would happen.
Then, finally, a bit after 9am, Mary Spicuzza of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel confirmed that the press event would take place at 3:15pm on Thursday afternoon. As of right now, there is no new information as to how the public side of the funding would be squared away. Former Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl and current Bucks owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry have committed to spend a combined $250 million on the project, but the total cost is expected to reach $500 million.
The most recent plan to have circulated is to use tax funds from hotels, restaurants, and car rentals in Milwaukee to pay back the bonds that would be issued to cover the immediate cost of the arena. The issue with that plan is that that tax money is currently paying off debt on the Milwaukee Theater and the Wisconsin Center convention complex. How this plan (delaying paying the bonds until the Theater & Wisconsin Center are paid off) is better than Governor Walker's original plan (use income tax from NBA players), I'll never know, especially since one of the early ideas on where to locate the arena involved tearing down the Milwaukee Theater and the newly rechristened UWM Panther Arena.
A lot was made recently about how the "actual" cost to taxpayers would be in the neighborhood of $400 million instead of the $250 million that's needed to match the Bucks ownership's contribution. As Save Our Bucks pointed out: If you get a loan to buy a $250,000 house, you end up paying $456,000 in principle and interest on the loan payments. That's just the cost of doing business. Ideally, if the tax dollars to pay for the arena are coming from restaurant taxes, a booming entertainment complex downtown will raise the amount of tax dollars that are flowing into the state coffers.
If they're announcing a plan, then it's likely that the state legislators have agreed to pass whatever the plan is. However, that's not a guarantee, so we're still a long ways away from putting a shovel in the ground.
Stay tuned as updates are sure to keep coming throughout the day...