By James E. Causey of The Milwaukee Journal Sential (Original Article from JSOnline)
The Bradley Center is old and outdated by NBA standards. Although it may still look good and certainly isn't crumbling, the 24-year-old structure is a veritable dinosaur among National Basketball Association arenas.
Pushing for a publicly funded, state-of-the-art facility that could run as much as $300 million in this economic climate is a tough ticket to sell. But if groundbreaking for a Bradley Center replacement is not under way in the next five to seven years, keeping the facility's largest tenant - the Milwaukee Bucks - in Milwaukee will be nearly impossible.
That could be a tough loss for Milwaukee and the region.
The Bradley Center has value. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce said the facility generates $95 million in direct revenue each year and has a gross economic impact of $204.5 million right now. But today's NBA facilities need to generate money all year round through team shops, restaurants and luring top-notch concerts.
Losing the Bucks would mean losing 41 games that bring thousands of people to downtown Milwaukee. Losing an NBA franchise is devastating. Officials are often left with the burden of finding a new tenant or tenants to replace those home dates. If they can't fill those dates, they are left with the decision of what to do with a mostly empty facility.
For those who don't think the Bucks could leave, consider a story that appeared in The Seattle Times last month. The story listed the Bucks as one of five teams that would be a good fit for Seattle. Seattle lost its team to Oklahoma City in 2008, after unsuccessful efforts to persuade Washington state government officials to provide funding to update KeyArena.
The Seattle Times put the odds of the Bucks moving in the next five years at 10-1.
Paul Swangard, managing director at the University of Oregon's Sports Marketing Center, said the Bucks would be intriguing for any city looking for an NBA franchise because the team has an aging owner in Herb Kohl and it lacks a sizable increase in local support.
"It has the characteristics one would look for in saying that's a team ripe for ownership change and quite possibly location change," Swangard said in an interview with The Seattle Times.
For the record, Kohl has said he sees the team staying in Milwaukee and something happening on a new facility in the future.
Last week, Kohl said making the postseason was crucial for the Bucks.
We know it's a lot easier to sell a winning product, and getting to the playoffs would be a good first step for this team.
But win or loss, local civic leaders in government and out need to start a conversation about keeping the team in Milwaukee. That conversation should start with a talk about a new facility.