May 21, 2024 2:21 pm
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Funding to Keep Milwaukee Brewers in Wisconsin Up in the Air

Credit: iStock

by Baylor Spears, Wisconsin Examiner

A deal to secure state funding for renovations of American Family Field remains uncertain amid comments from a top Major League Baseball executive suggesting that the Brewers could leave Milwaukee and local city leaders rejecting spending money on the stadium.

Gov. Tony Evers proposed $290 million in his executive budget for American Family Field, where the Milwaukee Brewers play. The money would have gone to the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, which is responsible for overseeing and maintaining the field. Under that proposal, the Brewers would have committed to staying in Wisconsin through at least 2043, extending the team’s current commitment by 13 years. 

However, Wisconsin Republicans killed Evers’ proposal, removing it alongside over 500 other items from the budget and leaving a new proposal to be worked out among lawmakers and presented to Evers. Republican leaders said Evers should have discussed the deal with them before making a proposal and that they would develop their own plan. 

A representative for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told WPR that lawmakers are “brainstorming ideas so [the Brewers] don’t relocate, and hope to have a plan in the near future.” Vos has previously said that he wants to see some local money put into any deal, similar to the one made under former Gov. Scott Walker’s administration to build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. That deal has cost the city $4 million per year since 2016 and will continue to do so until 2036.

As lawmakers work to develop a plan, stakeholders have been making their position on the issue known. 

The Milwaukee County Board unanimously voted to pass a resolution opposing the use of county funds for future renovations at American Family Field. 

County Supervisor Sequanna Taylor said the city, which is on the brink of a financial crisis, could use the money to pay for essential services including “parks, public safety, senior services, transit, and improving our roadways.” She said she couldn’t support using county money for the Brewers when there are so many budget holes.

On the same day, Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred indirectly hinted that the Republican-led Legislature and Evers need to come to a deal to avoid the same fate as the Oakland Athletics. 

Under a tentative deal announced by Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, the Athletics would move from the California city to Las Vegas. The team has looked to move due to conditions at the stadium where it plays in Oakland, and the inability of the team and local officials to come to an agreement on building a new stadium.

Manfred told reporters that Oakland’s local government officials “made some unfortunate decisions not to maintain the ballpark in the way that it needed to be maintained.” He said that a ballpark like American Family Field requires “regular money” to keep up with “regular maintenance.

“You need to get this issue resolved so that the things that need to get done to keep this an A-plus facility are done in a timely manner,” Manfred continued. 

Manfred said he is confident, however, that Wisconsin’s government leaders will come to a deal and find a way to fund the stadium.

“I think the Brewers are interested in a long-term relationship, an extension of the lease that keeps them here,” Manfred said. “Major League Baseball provides great economic activity in all of its markets, especially in a market where you draw like this market does and so it’s not just an expense item, it’s an investment in keeping Milwaukee a Major League city.”

This story was written by Baylor Spears, a staff reporter at the Wisconsin Examiner, where this story first appeared.

Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.