(The Center Square) – Milwaukee Brewers President Rick Schlesinger understands that $600 million is a lot of money. He also understands that American Family Field is quickly running out of money.
Schlesinger did not downplay the cost to taxpayers after Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol introduced a plan to spend $600 million over the next 25-plus years to maintain and improve the Brewers’ ballpark.
“It’s a lot of money,” Schlesinger said at Center Square. “Unfortunately, it is not cheap to keep a ballpark of this size and stature in the condition it needs to be until the next generation.”
The latest rough funding plan would call for $400 million from the state, another $200 million from Milwaukee and Milwaukee Count and $100 million from the Brewers.
Schlesinger has been clear, however, that none of that money is going to the team or its owner Mark Atanasio.
“The money is not going to the Milwaukee Brewers baseball club. It goes from one or more government entities to a creature of state government, which is the stadium district,” Schlesinger explained.
The Southeastern Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District was established in 1996 to essentially serve as the landlord to the Brewers. The Stadium District, and what was then Miller Park, was funded by the five-county tax of 0.1%.
This tax was repealed in 2020.
Ending the five-county tax is what Schlesinger says is behind the $600 million need.
“The district, which no longer has a source of revenue of any amount other than tiny license plate revenues, will run out of money within a year or two,” Schlesinger said. “And the reason I’m giving a little wiggle room in the next year or two is because we’re not sure how much funding the Stadium District has right now.”
Much of the opposition to Brewer’s rough financing deal centers on the idea that taxpayers are paying for a stadium where a billion-dollar baseball team and multi-million-dollar baseball players play .
Schlesinger said, again, American Family Field is owned by the state, not all the money is needed at once and there is a return on investment for having a professional baseball team in Milwaukee.
“The only thing I would say to those who are rightly focused on the dollar amount is, ‘What will taxpayers get for this $600 million?’ “,” Schlesinger said. “I would say the direct revenue we generate in income taxes and sales taxes exceeds that amount. And the economic output and economic multiplier that we create through this estimate exceeds that amount. The value of having Major League Baseball in the state certainly has a value that you can attribute to it.
As part of the new deal, the Brewers would also sign a new lease that would keep the team in Milwaukee through 2050, 20 years longer than the current lease and seven years longer than what Gov. Tony Evers had proposed for the first time.