MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin state Senate is poised to approve a plan to spend more than half a billion dollars of public funds to help the Milwaukee Brewers repair their stadium over the next three decades.
The Senate is expected to vote on the proposal during a floor session set to begin Tuesday morning. As of last week, Republican Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu was still trying to lock down enough votes to push the package. At least three GOP members, Julian Bradley, Steve Nass and Van Wanggaard, have said they oppose the bill and Sen. LaTonya Johnson has said she’s the only Milwaukee Democrat who supports the package. But legislative leaders typically don’t schedule bills for floor votes unless they’re certain of passage, signaling LeMahieu has mustered up 17 votes between the two parties.
Approval would send the package to the Assembly. Speaker Robin Vos has signaled his support. Assembly passage would put the bill in front of Gov. Tony Evers, who can sign it into law or veto it. Evers’ spokesperson, Britt Cudaback, said Monday that the governor supports the Senate version of the package.
The Brewers say the 22-year-old American Family Field needs extensive repairs. The stadium’s glass outfield doors, seats and concourses need replacing, the stadium’s luxury suites and video scoreboard need upgrades and the stadium’s signature retractable roof, fire suppression systems, parking lots, elevators and escalators need work, according to the team.
Brewer officials initially said the team might leave Milwaukee if they didn’t get public dollars to help with the repairs. Rick Schlesinger, the Brewers’ president of business operations, softened the team’s stance last month, saying the Brewers want to remain in the city “for the next generation” but the prospect of the team leaving still looms.
Debates over handing billions of public dollars to professional sports teams are always divisive. The Brewers’ principal owner, Mark Attanasio, is worth an estimated $700 million, according to Yahoo Finance. The team is valued at around $1.6 billion, according to Forbes.
Legislative leaders have been working since September on a plan to help the team cover the repairs, motivated by fear of losing tens of millions in tax revenue if the Brewers leave Milwaukee.
The Assembly last month approved a plan that calls for the state to contribute $411.5 million and the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to contribute a combined $135 million. The state and the locals would make the payments in annual installments through 2050. The Brewers would contribute $100 million and extend their lease at the stadium through 2050, guaranteeing Major League Baseball would remain in its smallest market for another 27 years.
Senate Republicans balked at the size of the state contribution. They amended the package last week to scale back the state contribution to $382.5 million. They also added a surcharge on tickets to non-baseball events that would generate an estimated $14.1 million by 2050. The city and county’s contributions would remain unchanged but the team’s contribution would increase to $110 million.
The Brewers support the revised version of the package, and Vos said last week that he hopes the Senate changes will push the plan “over the finish line.”