- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A plan is gaining traction to tap the state public lands board for a loan to help finance a new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

The proposal from Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald would use $150 million in funding from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands and its $1 billion in assets. It’s similar to a loan that funded improvements to the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field.

Republican legislative leaders met this week with the Bucks and officials from Milwaukee County and the city.

“We’re certainly making steps in the right direction,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said.

The public lands board lends money to local units of government around Wisconsin at low interest rates and directs the earnings to public school libraries. That has included a past loan of some $67 million to the Lambeau Field stadium district.

Secretary of State Doug La Follette, a Democrat, said he has seen a preliminary proposal. He tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1P20q2d ) that he has some concerns about it, including the fact the board would need to sell some of its assets to make it work.

Fitzgerald’s plan is a rewrite of Gov. Scott Walker’s idea to sell $220 million in state bonds to help pay for the arena. In an interview aired Thursday on WTMJ-AM, Walker acknowledged his own financing plan was dead and urged the City of Milwaukee to be more active in the push for a new arena.

But later Thursday at a city hall news conference, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he prefers Walker’s original plan over Fitzgerald’s.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and WITI-TV reported that Barrett also outlined the city’s expected contribution, saying Milwaukee would provide $17 million in infrastructure improvements, plus a parking ramp and a parcel of land.

The city and county combined will be able to contribute $50 million, Barrett said.

Bucks’ owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry have already committed $150 million to the project. Former Sen. Herb Kohl - who sold the Bucks to Edens, Lasry and Jamie Dinan for $550 million - committed another $100 million.

The new arena is estimated to cost between $400 million and $500 million.


Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, https://www.jsonline.com

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