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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Wisconsin Legislators Make Renewed Pitch To Keep Brewers

  • Republican-led effort looks to retain MLB club in the state
  • Proposal already facing pushback from political opponents
Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Wisconsin legislators unveiled a plan worth more than $600 million to renovate American Family Field and keep the Milwaukee Brewers in their current home.

On Monday, after months of up-and-down negotiations over the 22-year-old stadium and the future of MLB in Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers unveiled a plan to use both state and local tax funds, primarily derived from player salaries, to fund a growing list of needed renovations at the ballpark. 

The deal would also extend the Brewers’ lease through 2050.

“The state of Wisconsin owns this facility. If the Brewers leave, we will continue to own this facility, and the taxpayers are on the hook, whether we like it or not,” said Robin Vos, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker. “It is definitely better for the taxpayer to have revenue being generated here to keep the team and all the economic benefits.”

But the proposal is likely only to be the beginning of Wisconsin’s political wrangling over the Brewers. The Republican plan must still gain approval from not only the state legislature the party controls, but also Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and politicians in both Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee. 

Evers has already signaled some resistance to the Republican proposal, months after his plan to fund the repairs was struck down earlier this year.

The Republican plan also calls for about $100 million in team contributions toward the renovations, though the current lease running through 2030 calls for the state’s Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District to be responsible for “all major capital repairs.”

“While it’s good to hear Republicans are getting serious about keeping Major League Baseball in Wisconsin, it’s unfortunate Republicans rejected Gov. Evers’ commonsense proposal that ultimately would have saved taxpayers millions of dollars in the long run,” Evers’ office said. 

MLB Facility Progress

Stadium discussions for the Brewers — who are poised to reach the postseason for the fifth time in six seasons — add to a fast-growing list of other MLB teams either striking or nearing deals for new or improved facilities, including Baltimore, Tampa, and Oakland.

But unlike most other new facility projects across pro sports, the Brewers’ stadium project avoids turning surrounding surface parking lots into parcels for mixed-use development.

“I’m very sensitive to real estate development that would encroach upon our culture of tailgating,” said Rick Schlesinger, Brewers president of business operations. 

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