Cost of keeping the Brewers: How taxpayers might have to fund AmFam field repairs

NOW: Cost of keeping the Brewers: How taxpayers might have to fund AmFam field repairs

MADISON Wis. (CBS 58) -- While negotiations continue about a spending plan for renovations at American Family Field, we're learning the final deal could include obligations from the state and taxpayers.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) suggested the Brewers package will likely include similar provisions included in the Milwaukee Bucks deal lawmakers approved in 2015, which included funding from the state, city and county to build what's now known as Fiserv Forum.

Vos said it's "not realistic" to expect the state to cover all the costs.

"I think it's fair to say most people around the state would have some kind of participatory role. Has that been defined? No," Vos told reporters Tuesday. "But the idea of saying the state is going to bear all the responsibility for a local project, probably not realistic either."

One thing we know for sure: Gov. Tony Evers' proposal to use $290 million of state taxpayer money for upgrades at AmFam Field to extend the Brewers lease until 2043 is "dead," which received bipartisan criticism.

The Rochester Republican also said last week it would be difficult for his caucus to support using state aid for the stadium beyond the income and sales tax it currently generates in Wisconsin.

Whatever the final product looks like, Vos said it won't be included in the state budget, but he wants lawmakers to vote on the proposal in tandem with the budget this summer.

Since it will be introduced as a standalone bill, the plan will likely need Democratic support because Republicans could vote against it more freely – whereas if it was included in the budget a majority of the caucus would likely vote in favor.

"We're going to have to have bipartisanship because this is not something that one party passes," Vos said.

Democrats also have mixed reviews. Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) said a Brewers package that uses state taxpayer funds or imposes a sales tax on residents is not something she would support.

"I hear the people, and they are saying we are strapped right now," Taylor said.

It comes as major investments in sports teams have become the center of debate across the county and in Wisconsin largely because these deals include a portion of public funding.

Private and public funds were used to construct and run the ballpark under the plan lawmakers approved in the 1990s. It included a 0.1% sales tax in Milwaukee County and the four counties surrounding it (Ozaukee, Waukesha, Racine and Washington). The tax, which began in 1996, collected over $605 million by the time lawmakers voted to eliminate it in 2020.

"If you do another stadium sales tax, why does Milwaukee County or the surrounding counties the only ones paying into that when all counties are benefiting for whatever revenue comes into the state," Taylor said.

With Milwaukee leaders also lobbying for a 1% local sales tax increase, Taylor added many of her constitutions are “fed up.”

A handful of Democratic lawmakers have expressed the same concerns as Taylor, sources tell CBS 58.

Sen. Tim Carpenter, a Milwaukee Democrat whose district includes AmFam Field, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel some lawmakers are receiving pushback from their constituents.

"I've had a couple of town meetings and people are not in support of this," Carpenter said.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley didn't have much to say when asked about the possibility of a county stadium tax or other funding mechanism they may be responsible for.

However, both offices did mention how the city and county are already struggling financially.

"The discussions on this topic are at an early stage," Jeff Fleming, Johnson's spokesman, said. "The mayor certainly wants the Brewers to remain in Milwaukee. However, the city currently has no money available to consider additional expenditures."

Brandon Weathersby, communications director for Crowley, declined to comment but reiterated Crowley's support for finding "a solution that keeps the team here."

"For now, his main focus is securing much needed additional local revenue to avoid a future fiscal cliff for Milwaukee County in just a few short years," Weathersby said.

There is bipartisan agreement that any funding proposal should guarantee the Brewers have a long-term commitment to Milwaukee, possibly even longer than the 20 years Evers proposed, according to Vos.

Price Tag

We also know whatever deal is made with the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, the board that oversees the stadium and leases it to the Brewers, the modernization of AmFam field won't be cheap.

The renovations, which range from updating the boilers in the basement to maintaining the retractable roof, are estimated to cost $428 million, according to an analysis the Brewers commissioned.

The Evers administration asked for their own quote, which put the cost at $604 million. Both the Brewers and the Evers administration did settle that it will be upwards to $400 million.

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