Milwaukee Brewers President Rick Schlesinger understands $600 million is a lot of money. He also understands American Family Field is running out of money, quickly.
Schlesinger didn’t 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 upgrade the Brewers’ ballpark.
“It is a lot of money,” Schlesinger told The Center Square. “Unfortunately, it is not inexpensive to keep a ballpark of this size and this stature in the condition it needs to be through the next generation.”
The latest ballpark funding plan would have $400 million coming from the state, another $200 million coming from Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, and $100 million from the Brewers.
Rick Schlesinger was 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 is going from one or more governmental entities to a creature of the state government, i.e., the stadium district,” Schlesinger explained.
The Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District was created in 1996 to essentially serve as the Brewers’ landlord. The Stadium District, and what was then Miller Park, were funded through the .1% five-county tax.
That tax was repealed in 2020.
The end of the five-county tax is what Schlesinger says is driving the need for the $600 million.
“The district, which no longer has any revenue source of any amount coming in, other than minuscule license plate revenues, will run out of money in the next year or two,” Schlesinger said. “And the reason I am giving a little bit of wiggle room on the year or two is because we’re not sure how much The Stadium District has in funds right now.”
Much of the opposition to the Brewer ballpark funding deal centers on the idea of taxpayers paying for a stadium where a billion-dollar baseball team and multi-million-dollar baseball players play.
Rick Schlesinger said, again, American Family Field is owned by the state, not all of the money is needed at once, and there is a return on investment for having a professional baseball team in Milwaukee.
“The one thing I’d say to people who rightly focus on the dollar amount is, ‘What are the taxpayers getting for that $600 million?’” Schlesinger said. “I would say the direct revenues that we generate in income taxes and sales taxes exceed that amount. And the economic output and economic multiplier that we create through the ballpark exceeds that amount. The value of having Major League Baseball in the state certainly has a value that you can assign to it.”
Under 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 first proposed.