The owners of the Milwaukee Bucks next week will review design possibilities for a new arena, a project that co-owner Marc Lasry said will require public money.
Lasry, who took questions from the media Monday during a Milwaukee Press Club event, said he does not know yet what a request for a public contribution would entail. He said he wants the arena to be the focal point of a larger development that could include retail, residential and commercial space.
The designs, Lasry said, are expected to be for a 16,000- to 18,000-seat arena. He declined to name the companies that responded to a request for proposals to design the arena but said he and team co-owner Wesley Edens expect between $350 million and $400 million in construction costs.
The ownership team has $200 million so far, with Lasry and Edens putting in $100 million on top of the $100 million that former Bucks owner and former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl contributed.
Lasry said he envisions an arena similar to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. That complex is home to the Lakers and Clippers of the NBA, the Kings of the NHL and the Sparks of the WNBA.
The Staples Center is adjacent to the Los Angeles Convention Center and the L.A. Live entertainment district, which includes hotels, restaurants and other attractions.
“You want it to be more than just the stadium,” Lasry said.
Jonathan Ward, a design partner for Seattle-based NBBJ, which designed the Staples Center, said an arena can be integrated into a larger complex in two ways: as a strip of development, with retail, commercial and residential; or in the shape of a wrap around the arena, making it the focal point of a larger development.
“It’s a little more dense,” he said. “It’s not so spread out. It feels a little more urban.”
Whatever the design choice, Ward said, arena visibility to the surrounding area should be a focus of the planners. If the arena is built as part of a row of development, he said, glass facades and areas where people could step outside during a game would shift some of building’s internal activity to the outside.
If the retail, commercial and other uses are wrapped around the arena, Ward said, the concourses with fan amenities should be visible from the buildings in the surrounding development to help the complex appear unified.
“I think a successful approach,” Ward said, “is to really open the arena up to the city.”
Once the team has a preliminary design for the arena, Lasry said, he and Edens will have a firmer grasp on estimated construction costs and will speak to public officials about possibilities for using public money.
“I think it’s going to be a process,” Lasry said. “I think we’re going to have to get the governor involved and get other people involved.”
According to an email attributed to Gov. Scott Walker’s press secretary, Laurel Patrick, Walker declined to comment on the possibility of including state tax money until a formal plan is proposed.
Jeff Fleming, spokesman for the Department of City Development, which oversees tax increment financing districts for the city, said any contribution of city money would have to be supplemented by assistance from the wider region in southeastern Wisconsin.
Officials from Ozaukee, Racine and Waukesha county governments already have criticized the possibility of a regional sales tax, as was used to pay for Miller Park, according to the Associated Press.
Failing to build a new arena is not an option, Lasry said, because if construction does not occur within about three years, the NBA can void the sale of the team. Follow @bkevit