Wisconsin lawmakers approved a roughly $500 million funding package to upgrade American Family Field, solidifying the Milwaukee Brewers’ future in Wisconsin — their home since 1970.
After months of back-and-forth negotiation — as well as prior suggestions and then retractions of the team’s relocation — the Wisconsin assembly and senate both approved amended legislation on Tuesday keeping the Brewers in Milwaukee until at least 2050.
The new package calls for $365.8 million in state funding and $135 million from the city and county of Milwaukee, along with $150 million, including rent payments, from the Brewers. The legislation now moves to Gov. Tony Evers, who has been a strong advocate of the stadium funding and lauded the bipartisan path toward the funding’s approval.
The upgrades — aimed at ensuring the 22-year-old ballpark’s functional life for another generation — were always the responsibility of Wisconsin’s Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, which owns the facility. But the funding discussions still heightened a long-running debate across the U.S. over the use of taxpayer dollars to enrich private sports entities.
“The Brewers do not need this cash,” said State Sen. Chris Larson. “The Brewers have decided they need additional cash and we are falling for that.”
With the approved funding, the Brewers will sign a 20-year lease extension. For the club, the issue was critical, as the Brewers play in what is now MLB’s smallest media market. That status will soon change as the Oakland A’s relocate to Las Vegas, but the Brewers’ margin for error remains smaller than many other MLB clubs.
“Even though we knew that the confines of the bill would be different than when we started, we knew and we were confident that we had support in the state for our team,” said Rick Schlesinger, Brewers president of business operations. “We recognized the value of keeping the Brewers here, of keeping the ballpark in great shape, and we stuck to the narrative.”