The Clock Is Ticking...
That's all that Milwaukee's Bradley Center has left, says the man who chairs it's board.
Ulice Payne did one of Mike Gousha's Marquette Law School public forums this past week put a time-stamp on what many in town know but don't want to talk about: the shelf life of our premier indoor sports venue.
The Journal/Sentinel ran the story. It's short:
Ulice Payne Jr. has been saying for some time that the need for capital repairs is outpacing the ability of the Bradley Center to pay for them.
During an issues forum with Marquette University Law School students this week, Payne, the departing chairman of the Bradley Center board of directors, said the arena has about eight years left.
Until now, Payne has never said exactly how long he thinks the Bradley Center can remain a useful arena for its tenants. He could be right, or a solution could be found to extend the life of the arena.
Opened in October 1988, the Bradley Center does not receive direct public-tax support. This year, however, state budget-makers, supported by Gov. Jim Doyle, approved $5 million in bonding to the Bradley Center for maintenance purposes.
Payne, who has told Doyle that he wants to step down as chairman but will serve until a replacement is found, has been saying for years that the community needs to discuss the possibility of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, the Milwaukee Admirals, the Marquette University Golden Eagles and the Milwaukee Iron arena football team.
In his remarks to students Tuesday, Payne said the scoreboard at the arena is 14 years old. Payne also said that maintenance crews on average replace 1,000 ceramic tiles inside the arena. Most arenas now do not have ceramic tile.
This year, the Bradley Center produced a fact sheet detailing the other issues facing the arena. They include outdated mechanical and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment; a deteriorating roof and exterior façade; an obsolete hockey rink system; outdated event production technology; and a significant number of seats that need to be replaced or refurbished.
If Payne is right, there's less than a decade left for Milwaukee and it's leaders to make some large decisions. Given the glacial pace of decision-making around here, eight years might as well be eight days.
We can bemoan the fact the Bradley Center will be only 29 years old when it expires by Payne's math. We can rehash the building's design and lack of built-in revenue streams when Jane Pettit handed over the keys to the BC to the city two decades ago--it was a different world back then, and the business of sports changed. Second-guessers can wonder why such a generous gift was left with no visible means of financial support after it's construction. You can wonder why the Bradley Center isn't included in the Wisconsin Center District--the outfit that runs the Arena, Midwest Airlines Center and Milwaukee Theater--and it's access to tax revenue. And, if you really want to stoke some fires, discuss among yourselves why the city put millions into the hardly-used Theater when the money could've been spent bucking up the home of the Bucks.
Talk usually isn't enough, but it would be more than what the Bradley Center seems to be getting right now. No one wants to bring the issue up--or, if they are, it's not out in the open.
Senator Herb Kohl, who has a fairly hefty stake in the building's future, has yet to put the venue's fate on the front burner. I can't imagine anyone on the Wisconsin Center District is eager to have the BC's hand in it's trough. Mayor Tom Barrett has a budget and a potential bid for governor on his plate, not to mention his recuperation.
Ulice Payne put a clock to the problem. Now, it's up to someone out there to come up with some answers.
A lot can be done in eight years. Then again, this is Milwaukee.
Tick, tick, tick...