Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to spend $290 million of the state’s projected surplus on repairs to Milwaukee’s American Family Field is “dead,” and legislative Republicans plan to craft a new agreement to extend the Milwaukee Brewers’ lease in Wisconsin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos signaled Wednesday.
Vos’ comments to reporters come after a statewide coalition of business owners, former lawmakers and other vested individuals announced the creation of the Home Crew Coalition, a new group supporting ongoing talks to keep the Milwaukee Brewers in Wisconsin “for the next generation.”
But according to Vos, Evers’ proposal to provide a portion of the state’s projected surplus to cover repairs and renovations in exchange for a new lease that would keep the Brewers in Milwaukee through 2043 is unlikely to come to fruition.
“I imagine his plan, as devised, is dead,” Vos said. “But hopefully a different plan can come forward that will have some legs.”
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Vos said he has not had formal conversations on the matter, but said his hope is to craft an agreement similar to the state’s 2015 deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. That agreement included $250 million in state funds to help pay for Fiserv Forum, the Bucks’ arena.
Vos also said he’d like to see an agreement that extends the Brewers’ lease even further. The current lease runs through the end of the 2030 season.
“I think there has to be a different deal put together,” Vos added. “Again, I haven’t talked about it with the Senate, I haven’t talked about it with our caucus, so I don’t want to get into all the details, but at the same time I think the deal that he cut is not a very good one for the taxpayer.”
Evers’ spokesperson Britt Cudaback tweeted Wednesday that Evers’ proposal was crafted with input from Brewers’ officials.
“We remain hopeful Speaker Vos’ partisan theatrics will not get in the way of our deal to keep the Brewers in Milwaukee for another two decades,” Cudaback added.
Evers’ proposed 2023-25 budget includes a request for a one-time allocation to go toward more than $400 million in needed upgrades to the stadium covered under the park’s lease, which is held by the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District.
By providing the $290 million in one-time state funds, rather than through bonding, the state would save close to $200 million over the lease term, according to the governor’s office. The state also projects to receive more than $400 million in revenue from the stadium through income and sales tax over the proposed new lease.
Rick Schlesinger, Brewers President of Business Operations, said in a statement "the Brewers want nothing more than to continue playing baseball in Milwaukee for another generation, but the Stadium District needs the resources necessary to make that possible."
"We appreciate Gov. Evers’ leadership in working with the Brewers to put forth a responsible plan to keep Major League Baseball in our state and we remain committed to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to secure a bipartisan agreement on the path forward," Schlesinger added.
Previously, a portion of funding for the stadium was generated through a five-county sales tax that imposed a 0.1% tax on residents in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha, Racine and Washington counties. The Miller Park sales tax was retired in 2020 by the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, which operates as the park’s landlord.
The Home Crew Coalition is being chaired by Milwaukee-area restaurant owner and developer Omar Shaikh. Its creation comes as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle express support for finding an agreement that keeps the Brewers in Milwaukee beyond the current lease.
"We appreciate and applaud the governor’s plan to invest in the ballpark, and we are committed to building bipartisan support for professional baseball in Wisconsin," Shaikh said. "We are excited to have begun our work and welcome anyone who wants to join us in keeping baseball and its massive economic impact here at home.”
Officials say American Family Field has had a $2.5 billion statewide economic impact since it opened in 2001.
Other members of the coalition include: Andrew Disch, political director of North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters; retired attorney and former chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin Mike Grebe, who also previously served as CEO of the conservative Bradley Foundation; former state Sen. Dan Kapanke, owner of the La Crosse Loggers Baseball Team; Commercial Association of REALTORS Wisconsin president Tracy Johnson; Prevea Health CEO Ashok Rai; Visit Milwaukee president and CEO Peggy Smith; NAIOP Wisconsin CEO Jim Villa; and Rob Zerjav, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
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