Gov. Evers pitches using state surplus for Brewers stadium improvements, to keep team in Milwaukee until 2043

NOW: Gov. Evers pitches using state surplus for Brewers stadium improvements, to keep team in Milwaukee until 2043

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Brewers would call Milwaukee home for the next 20 years and the stadium, American Family Field, would see a series of improvements under a proposal included in Gov. Tony Evers' state budget.

Gov. Evers made the announcement on the heels of his budget address where he'll unveil his 2023-2025 spending proposal to the state Legislature Wednesday evening.

Under the plan, Evers proposed spending $290 million of the state's projected $6.9 billion state surplus to carry out renovations at American Family Field and in return, the team would extend their lease to stay in Milwaukee until 2043. 

If the team does not receive funding, the Brewers may have to leave Milwaukee because the team's ballpark lease is up at the end of 2030, according to Brewers officials. 

Brewers President of Business Operations Rick Schlesinger said Evers’ budget proposal will ensure the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District secures funding to maintain the stadium and make "Major League Baseball possible in Wisconsin for the next generation."

“We are not asking for the Stadium District to take on new financial obligations under the lease, or for a new ballpark – just the resources to make sure the Stadium District’s existing obligations are met," Schlesinger said in a statement.

"As we said when the Stadium District’s funding shortfall first became known, we have remained focused on gathering facts and information that everyone can rely upon through a full capital needs assessment."

In order to secure the funding, Gov. Evers' proposal needs support from the GOP-controlled Legislature and members of the powerful Joint Finance Committee who will consider and review his budget proposal over the next several months.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos criticized Evers for not reaching out to top Republicans ahead of his annoucement, but he did express a willingness to find a solution to keep the Brewers in Wisconsin. 

“When the Bucks had a similar situation, Democrats and Republicans worked together to find a solution on the best path forward, Instead, Governor Evers drops this bomb in the budget, never mentioning or attempting to collaborate with the Legislature in any way," Vos said in a statement to CBS 58.

“Governor Evers’ style makes it difficult to generate consensus. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to insure that the Brewers stay in Wisconsin.”

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said "we will work with our colleagues throughout the state to explore our options and build a budget that makes sense for everyone in Wisconsin.”

The announcement comes as reports suggested the Milwaukee Brewers may ask taxpayers for $100 million to pay for future renovations during a February 2022 meeting when officials announced a study was underway to determine what was needed to maintain the ballpark's longevity.

During that meeting, Brewers officials said they did not want to revive the terminated 0.1% Milwaukee-area sales tax that helped pay for the stadium. The tax, which began in 1996 and applied to residents from Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha, Racine and Washington counties, collected over $605 million when it ended in March 2020.

Now, the district says it will need additional funds to honor its lease obligations to the Brewers. Evers said the one-time $290 million cash investment would save taxpayers money overtime, unlike using bonds for the improvements which includes paying interest rates.

“Using just a small portion of our state’s historic surplus, we can not only save over $200 million in taxpayer dollars in the long run, but keep good-paying, family-supporting jobs here and ensure the Brewers remain in Milwaukee and continue to play a critical role in our state’s economic success for another two decades," Evers said in a statement.

Will the Brewers Leave Milwaukee?

With seven years remaining on their lease, it remains to be seen whether Brewer's officials can strike a deal with lawmakers to keep the team in Milwaukee.

Without an investment, the district would not have the resources it needs to meet its current obligations under their existing contract with American Family Field.

Sen. Howard Marklein, co-chair of the Joint Finance Commitee, said Evers' Brewers proposal is "one idea that may be considered along with all of the priorities and obligations we will be considering in the budget deliberations this spring."

Losing the Milwaukee Brewers would have an impact on the state's economy. Since opening its doors in 2001, the ballpark has generated $2.5 billion in tax revenue to the state and created thousands of jobs, including 3,000 in 2022 alone, according to a study released by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

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