Friday, October 17, 2014

"Economists" Are Just Economics Professors (and Other Bucks Arena News)

The Bucks play the Timberwolves in Iowa tonight, which means it's the first of (probably) many Wiggins vs. Parker matchups.  There's no major news that I'm aware of coming into the game.  I would expect Brandon Knight to sit as he recovers from his groin injury and it seems likely that Jason Kidd will tinker with floor combinations again.

The bigger notes of the day come from off the court.  The New York Times ran an article decrying Milwaukee's arena push while parks & recreation facilities need repair and Urban Milwaukee ran an article floating the idea of building a new arena on the North Side instead of downtown.  The author is much more sympathetic to the second notion than the first.

#BucksForest is all for building an arena on the downtrodden North Side.  The Chicago Bulls' arena is located in the Near West Side neighborhood of Chicago, which is a similar distance from Chicago's downtown as the old A.O. Smith site proposed by Reverend Willie Brisco.  While the Bulls' arena certainly has not turned the Chicago ghettos into a utopian paradise, the arena has brought economic activity to the area.  Chicago's arena placement is also nice because parking is easy.  Some of the proposed locations for a new Bucks' arena would require parking in structures, which would be enough of a hassle that I would likely cancel my season tickets.  A new Bucks arena on 27th & Capitol Drive would allow for street level parking within a short walk of the arena.

Even in the Urban Milwaukee article that discusses the idea of an arena on the North Side, Rev. Brisco is pessimistic.  He and the author of the article mentioned that the Bucks have not shown and are unlikely to show any interest in building an arena outside of downtown.  And there is something to that.  In the mid-00's the arena's location was cited as one reason that the Blackhawks were unable to draw fans in Chicago (boy, how things have changed) and the city of Miami famously built the old Miami Arena in a downtrodden area when the Heat started up in 1988, only to see the team leave for the much tonier locale of the Biscayne Bay area of the city only eleven years later.  Still, the author is all for both retaining the Bucks and improving the North Side, so I'd love to see the Bucks give Rev Brisco's idea a look.

The New York Times article on the Bucks arena was mainly a recycling of anti-arena tropes, but it did come from a big time paper.  The Times pointed out the fact that the city seems content to let play spaces for poor citizens become unkempt, while giving plenty of attention to the complaints that a couple of hedge fund billionaires (or, at least a hundred millionaire in Marc Lasry's case) have about a pretty well-appointed arena.  Economics professors (the majority of whom are both politically left-wing and fond of calling themselves "economists") were also cited in the article; playing their typical role of casting doubt upon the wisdom of using tax money for big time sports arenas.

Yours truly is sympathetic to the Times' case that a new Bucks arena isn't really necessary.  The design of the seating bowl is the only significant thing that can't be solved with an extensive renovation of the Bradley Center.  Even with the current seating bowl, the franchise could be viable if the team was a consistent winner.

None of this is to say that the author is against kicking back tax money to a new arena.  Milwaukee already collects $25 million per year in tourist taxes (hotels, rental car and downtown bars/restaurants) and it's a good idea to stop using a large amount of that money to prop up the MECCA Arena (now UWM Arena) & Milwaukee Theater, and instead kick it back towards a new arena.  Though the Bradley Center is adequate, it was built on the cheap.  From the size of the seats to the layout of the concourses, it has always been clear that the original goal was to open a building in 1988 that could crap as many people into as inexpensive a place as possible.  Having a building built for fan comfort would be nice.

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