Over the past few years, here in Milwaukee, we've heard evermore rumblings regarding a new, or remodeled, basketball arena. The usual cast of characters has steadily increased their rhetoric. For them, the bottom line is that these arenas, stadia, etc. are economic engines. If your city wants to be "big league," every 20 to 25 years or so, the public must subsidize the remodeling an existing arena or the building of a completely new arena.
Yet, Don Walker recently reported, Head of Wisconsin Center District Says It Has No Money For Arena. From the Wisconsin Center's website, "The Wisconsin Center District (WCD) is a government body created in 1994 to fund, build and operate the Delta Center in downtown Milwaukee, and continue operating the existing venues now called the U.S. Cellular Arena and Milwaukee Theatre."
I thought the boosters were claiming these convention centers and arenas were economic catalysts? How can these facilities be considered catalysts or game-changers if there isn't any money to show for them?
We're an important part of the economic fabric, business is booming ... nonetheless, we're broke.
Typical businesses have an accounting item called replacement reserves. It's just what it sounds like - a reserve of money to replace and fix things. It's an annual expense item, a reserve of money, just in case there are issues that need to be addressed to allow a continued income stream to the facility, building, etc.
Stadiums, and their ilk, seem to operate under the facade of being economic igniters, yet they have no money for repairs, nor do they have any (or hardly any) money for renovations. Wisconsin continually has pumped money into the Bradley Center, Miller Park and the rest of our white elephants. If you can't fund your own operations, you're not a game-changer, you're a charity case.
The cost to the public for these arenas does not support the return we receive on our investment. The public needs to get out of the business of being responsible for building the playing fields for professional sport teams.