HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — The good news, Milwaukee, is the BMO Harris Bradley Center will unveil a new home court this season designed in the spirit of Robert Indiana’s awesome MECCA floor at the Bucks’ old home.
The bad news is neither their old home nor the current BMO Harris Bradley Center is fit for an NBA team. Incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver made that much clear Wednesday in speaking to a gathering of Bucks corporate sponsors at a reception called the “Bucks Partner Summit.” It essentially started the clock on the 25-year-old arena and, quite literally, on the franchise’s future in Milwaukee.
“One obvious issue we all have to deal with is we need a new arena in Milwaukee,” Silver said. “At the end of the day, compared to other modern arenas in the league, this arena is a few hundred thousand square feet too small. It doesn’t have the sort of back-of-house space you need, doesn’t have the kinds of amenities we need. It doesn’t have the right sort of upper bowl-lower bowl (seating) configuration for the teams frankly that Milwaukee wants to compete against.”
Silver is the deputy commissioner to David Stern, who has announced plans to step down on Feb. 1, 2014. Silver told the Milwaukee crowd that the league’s collective bargaining agreement ratified in December 2011 positions all 30 teams, regardless of market size, to prosper. A prerequisite is a modern-day arena. Silver also made it clear that cities such as Seattle — which lost an eleventh-hour bid on seizing the Sacramento Kings — Las Vegas and Kansas City are planning NBA-quality arenas to attract teams. Expansion, Silver said, is not on the table, leaving relocation as the only way for a non-NBA city to gain a team.
The Seattle SuperSonics were the last team to relocate in 2008. The franchise was purchased by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett, and when efforts failed in Seattle to secure public funding to match private funding to renovate the aging Key Arena, Bennett got the green light to leave.
The Bucks remain under the control of one of the NBA’s all-time great owners, Herb Kohl. At the meeting, Kohl described the difficulty he faced just last year in getting the league’s owners to approve the Bucks’ lease extension at Bradley Center through September 2017:
“Getting an extension was not an easy thing. There was some opposition there. None of it was personal — it was all a matter of good business in terms of what’s good for the NBA.”
Milwaukee’s other professional sports team, MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, moved into Miller Park in 2001, the $392-million stadium that was largely paid for by taxpayers in the five-county region through a 0.1 percent sales tax, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (The in-state NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, are in a unique situation as the only community-owned professional sports franchise.)
The estimated cost for the new downtown arena in Sacramento is $448 million.
The NBA has no interest in seeing the Bucks and their rich history leave Milwaukee, the franchise’s only home since it joined the league in 1968.
The franchise outgrew the MECCA and the Bradley Center too. A similar version of the old MECCA floor will be great to see this season at Bradley Center, but it’s ultimately plans for a new building the NBA will need to see.