Wisconsin’s governor is selling his plan to spend $290 million in taxpayer money on the Brewers’ ballpark as a way to keep professional baseball in Milwaukee for another 20 years.
Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday said he wants to earmark $290 million from Wisconsin’s record $7.1 billion surplus for long-term maintenance at American Family Field.
“As governor, and also someone who also happens to be a lifelong Brewers fan, I’m so excited about the historic opportunity we have today to keep Major League Baseball here in Milwaukee for another twenty years and to usher in a new generation of Brewers fans in Wisconsin who can grow up rooting for the home team just like I did,” the governor said in a statement.
The Brewers needed state help to build what was then Miller Park back in the late 1990s. The 1% stadium sales tax was the solution in 1996, but that tax was allowed to expire in March of 2020.
Still, the Brewers said they would need hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain the ballpark.
The Brewers are waiting on a study to settle on a price tag, but the cost for long-term maintenance is expected to be between $400 and $600 million. The Brewers have $87 million set aside for those costs.
Evers says his plan would save taxpayers from the cost of borrowing to pay for the work, and would generate $400 million in economic activity by keeping the team in Milwaukee.
“The Brewers are not only a cherished part of our state’s heritage but an essential part of Milwaukee’s and our state’s economic success,” the governor said.
Brewers President Rick Schlesinger on Tuesday said the team is looking for “creative solutions that garner bipartisan support” at the Wisconsin Capitol.
“We are not asking for the Stadium District to take on new financial obligations under the lease, or for a new ballpark – just the resources to make sure the Stadium District’s existing obligations are met,” Schlesinger said. “American Family Field has had a $2.5 billion statewide economic impact, created thousands of jobs, and made it possible for a team in a small market like Milwaukee to compete. We thank Gov. Evers and the Legislature for their consideration of this issue as we work with them, the Stadium District, and all key stakeholders on next steps.”
The top Republican in the Wisconsin Assembly, Speaker Robin Vos, on Tuesday said Gov. Ever’s surprise announcement might make it tough to find those “next steps.”
“When the Bucks had a similar situation, Democrats and Republicans worked together to find a solution on the best path forward. Instead, Governor Evers drops this bomb in the budget, never mentioning or attempting to collaborate with the Legislature in any way,” Vos said on Twitter. “These are typical antics for him not being a leader but rather dictating exactly what to do and how to do it. Gov. Evers’ style makes it difficult to generate consensus. I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the Brewers stay in Wisconsin.”