State Rep. proposes Meonomonee River Valley site for new arena

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by Lane Kimble

MILWAUKEE -- If you look out over the Menomonee River Valley west of 13th Street, you see large warehouses, big brick buildings and a lot of storage space.  But State Rep. Josh Zepnick (D - Milwaukee) sees 600,000 square-feet of prime real estate just waiting to house a state of the art arena.

"I think it's ripe for redevelopment," Zepnick said.  "Looking for underutilized land that's not paying taxes could help pay back the investments that  we're going to have to put in to build and construct the thing."

Zepnick wants to build either near 13th Street and Canal where a DPW yard stands or just across  the river at the site of a non-profit recycling plant.  Both sites feature close access to the freeway, the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, Marquette University and, Zepnick says, wouldn't require a tax increase like a downtown arena.

"What we've seen time after time is they've struggled to fill the Bradley Center at its current  location," Zepnick said.  "To my knowledge, the only way to build it [downtown] is to subsidize it."

Along with getting private investors like the Potawatomi, Zepnick's plan would have the city take out loans to help pay for parts of the arena, then use property tax increases generated from the new building to pay back the money.

"I'm a huge bucks fan, but I'm also a huge not-spending-your-money fan," Milwaukee County Exec. Chris Abele said.

Abele appreciates Zepnick's idea, but he feels the arena belongs in - and would most benefit - downtown Milwaukee.

"When the Bucks were really rolling at the Bradley Center, they had no problem getting people downtown and we've all seen, when it works, it's a huge added value," Abele said.

BMO Harris Bradley Center Board of Directors Chair Marc Marotta agrees and stresses any decision needs to be about the city, not just one team.

"More restaurants, more business developments in and around the arena, which would enhance our downtown experience," Marotta said.
 

Zepnick admits his plan might not be perfect, but says now is the time to get all options on the table.

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