By Don Walker of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Original Article from JSOnline)
The president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce says his group is optimistic that major local corporations will commit to raising sponsorship support for the Bradley Center, a move he said was a significant first step towards a new facility.
MMAC president Timothy Sheehy said in an interview that a group that includes Bradley Center and Milwaukee Bucks representatives had been meeting with corporations to convince them to raise sponsorship support beginning this summer or the beginning of the Bucks' regular season. He said he hoped a formal announcement of the financial commitment could come in a month or so.
"It's fair to say that this effort is aimed at raising support in the business community to improve the financial position of the Bradley Center," Sheehy said.
"We also recognize that if the Bradley Center isn't healthy from a financial standpoint it won't be in a position to sign a market-rate lease with the Bucks."
Sheehy declined to say what companies his group was talking to, but said the financial support was well over $6 million.
"I've got a lot of optimism in this regard," Sheehy said. "And this will help put Milwaukee on a path that we need to be on. I am also cognizant that this turns over the hourglass on a new facility.
"It's the first brick in the road to a new facility."
Increased financial support for the Bradley Center would not only give the Bradley Center a sounder financial footing, it would demonstrate to the National Basketball Association the community is committed to supporting an NBA franchise.
More corporate support also is an incentive for the Bucks to sign a longer-term lease with the Bradley Center. The team played this season without a lease. That has been commonplace in recent years.
"This is not a situation where we panicked because the team doesn't have a lease," Sheehy said. "I would also say there is a recognition in the business community over the urgency to get the team in a position where they sign a longer term lease, say five or six years. We also want these companies to make a longer term commitment, too."
Sheehy said U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), the Bucks owner, has been supportive of the effort. Kohl, who is retiring from the U.S. Senate this year, has said for years that he would sell the franchise only to a owner or group that was committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee.
Bradley Center officials and Kohl have said the community needs to consider a new facility for the Bucks and other tenants, noting that the building has a useful life of between five and seven years.
No specific financing plan has emerged, and the Bradley Center does not have any public taxing support.
For the year ending June 30, 2011, the Bradley Center reported a loss of $300,000, which includes an annual depreciation expense of $2.6 million. Operating income totaled $16.3 million, which includes $5 million from the state for capital repair and maintenance.
Bradley Center spokesman Evan Zeppos said Bradley Center officials were working with the MMAC. "They have kept us informed, and we're very pleased with where things are headed. A lot of work needs to be done. The next few weeks and months will be very important," Zeppos said.
Gov. Scott Walker said late last year that the Bradley Center had the ability to raise capital on its own merits.