PantherU

Op-Ed: Chad Knodl on adding to the Milwaukee Arena package

TWO THINGS I WOULD ADD TO THE MILWAUKEE ARENA PACKAGE

By Chad Knodl

As a resident of Milwaukee, and as a big sports fan, I want to see the new arena get done. The package that has been put together is reasonable. However, I have three concerns that arise out of this agreement: The increase in scope of the Wisconsin Center District, the complete lack of a contribution from Marquette University to the project, and the apparent disregard for the future of the Milwaukee Admirals.

I firmly believe that the proposed vast increase in scope of the Wisconsin Center District to include the new arena and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts is not in the best interests of UWM. Under this scenario, Panther Arena would presumably fall from the WCD’s second priority behind the Convention Center, to fourth out of five (The Milwaukee Theatre being the last priority in both cases). This is not a good place to be in the pecking order. So, I propose my first amendment to the package:

TRANSFER OWNERSHIP OF THE UWM PANTHER ARENA TO THE UNIVERSITY

Transferring ownership of the Panther Arena to UWM not only frees the Wisconsin Center District of a building, it cements the future of Panther basketball indefinitely. Panther Arena would also give the University a new revenue stream, as well as provide jobs to students and/or alumni were the university to take the arena operations (concessions,etc.) in-house. It would also give Milwaukee Athletics the autonomy to remodel the interior of the arena into the true home of Milwaukee Basketball beyond black and gold seating.

Secondly, I have been completely fascinated by the free pass Marquette has gotten in this whole negotiation. Their stance has remained “We’re happy being a tenant.” I guess that’s fine, but the fact remains that state money is being spent to bolster a private university that is in direct competition with state universities. I propose a second amendment:

FOR THE ENTIRETY OF THE 20 YEARS THE PEOPLE OF WISCONSIN WILL BE CONTRIBUTING $4,000,000 TO THE HOME OF THE MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES, THE MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES SHALL SCHEDULE 10 HOME AND 10 ROAD GAMES EACH WITH UW-MADISON, UW-MILWAUKEE, AND UW-GREEN BAY

Since Marquette has no apparent desire to contribute a lump sum to the arena construction, and since as a tenant the Milwaukee Bucks will receive the revenue from Marquette playing in their building, the ways for the State of Wisconsin to directly get any return on investment from Marquette is limited. However, if each of the three Division I UW schools can market a home game against Marquette every other year over the next 20 years, the ticket revenue from those presumably highly attended games would bolster the coffers at each respective school. This would at least give the state something of an “in-kind” contribution to the arena construction. Also, by giving each state program 10 dates in the new arena, it would give more people across the state a reason to visit Milwaukee and the new building.

In addition, the limbo into which the Milwaukee Admirals have been thrown by the Bucks ownership is a concern. Were my first amendment to come to pass, the Admirals pose a huge opportunity for revenue to Milwaukee Athletics. It has been estimated that an investment of $300,000-$500,000 is needed to get the Panther Arena updated for regular hockey action. Admirals owner Harris Turer is a longtime friend of Milwaukee Athletics, and I’m sure a deal great for both the University and the Admirals could be struck. Heck, maybe it could even pave the way for Panther Hockey down the road!

Will these proposed amendments move the needle in the legislature to get the arena bill passed? Probably not. However, I believe that they are both viable and palatable to the public. I also believe that the Marquette amendment would increase excitement for college basketball across the state, as it would guarantee fair rivalries for all three state schools with Marquette for the next 20 years. Also, the time for Milwaukee Panthers basketball to have a permanent, adequate, university-owned venue is long overdue. This is the perfect opportunity to make it happen.

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