With the news of Steve Ballmer purchasing the Los Angeles Clippers dominating the recent headlines here in Seattle, there are some things that have gone completely unnoticed.
On May 15, 2014 the sales agreement between Herb Kohl, Marc Lasry and Wes Edens was finalized for the purchase of the Milwaukee Bucks. Their first order of business is to get a new arena up in Milwaukee. That is going to be their most complex issue in this whole situation.
If you start at the top of the political situation in Wisconsin you have the worst kept secret in all of national politics. Governor Scott Walker is not just contemplating a run for the presidency of the United States, he’s going to do a full run. It’s not expected for him to win the Republican Party’s nomination, but he’d be a strong Vice Presidential candidate.
As Walker gears up for his run, his base is very staunch against taxes on… well, anything. Scott Walker is going to be raising money over the next year but it will not be for the Milwaukee Bucks, it will be for him to be the most powerful man in the free world.
After discounting anything potentially coming down from the state level, you have to begin to look at the county and the city level. This will certainly not be a Sacramento situation where the mayor of Milwaukee and the city council vote on an arena deal themselves and completely circumvent the voters.
Judging by the current political climate, the polled voters would most likely shoot the proposition down for any public money going toward a new arena that would save the Bucks and keep them in Milwaukee.
The only ray of hope for the Bucks would have to be a substantial private contribution. Before the sale both Kohl and Edens/Lasry said they would contribute $100 million each to the new arena, cutting the public contribution by nearly half. Edens and Lasry have also discussed the potential of adding 5 to 10 additional investors to their group.
After the sale, however, multiple sources have told me that the amount is still $100 million, but not from each party as stated before the sale-just total. This would put the needed public contribution in the neighborhood of $350 million.
Edens and Lasry are doing the right thing currently by rallying the troops on the ground to get the grassroots support that is needed to get the motion to pass. These new owners are energetic and it can be infectious. We’ve seen the affect that Chris Hansen has had on our people locally. Their goal is to have a plan in place within a year. "The one-year target will be May 15, the anniversary of when the NBA approved Edens and Lasry’s purchase of the Bucks." according to the Milwaukee Business Journal.
That deadline is more than just a personal goal, though. While it's been reported that Milwaukee has until 2017 to get an arena deal in place, that is not correct. In fact, Milwaukee would need to have an arena operable by 2017, not just a plan in place. The Milwaukee Business Journal goes on to say that Lasry and Edens "are working under an NBA deadline to produce a home court that meets current league standards by fall 2017."
According to sources with knowledge of the sales agreement, they must have made "significant progress" towards building an arena by May 15, 2015. If the Edens/Lasry group cannot rally the troops on the ground and get momentum toward a new arena within a year, then at that point the NBA can purchase the team back from them for a $25 million profit.
"The fact is, the stadium has to get built if the Bucks are going to stay in Milwaukee. That's the full stop. You got a great start. You've got the senator, (who) made a very generous gift, $100 million. We've committed a bunch of personal capital and now it's just a matter of figuring out the right way to fill in the balance," Edens said in an interview with WISN 12 News.
How long would the NBA hold on to the Bucks? Would they let them play out the lease until 2017? It's more likely that they would search for a local ownership group who could potentially build an arena on their own or with very little public funding, or they would pull the plug right there. I think they give them at least a year.
As May 15, 2016 nears you may hear rumors of potential buyers from out of town lining up, and whispers of a new owner will be confirmed at the Board of Governors meetings in early June.
Just enough time for new ownership to get front office, coaching staff, uniforms in place and ground broken for a new arena.
Potentially in Seattle?
If not to Seattle, what impact does it have on our chances at getting a team? There are a number of unknowns at this point that keeps our situation mired in complexity.
Our own Brian Robinson shared this with our leadership team:
Sources around the league have described Adam Silver as incredibly consistent in both public and private statements that the league must "take care of the 30" before they consider expansion. It was becoming obvious that expansion to Seattle could not be considered until after the national television contract is extended and the leagues final arena problem resolved.
The TV contract is still a significant issue in all of this. There is still no official deadline for completion of the contract, but it would appear that early fall will be the point where it gets finalized. With that settled, the Clippers ownership issues in the rear view mirror, and what appears to be a hard date set for action in Milwaukee, it seems things are starting to move for Seattle again.
Brian Robinson also had this to say:
The NBA did Seattle a tremendous service by accelerating the timeline in Milwaukee. I was significantly concerned that former owner Herb Kohl would be too worried about his own legacy to take any action prior to our MOU expiring in 2017. With Kohl out of the picture and a May 15 deadline now in place Sonics fans don’t have to root for the Bucks to relocate. Instead they can choose to cheer for a swift conclusion, knowing that one way or another there will be certainty in Milwaukee 2 years before our window of opportunity closes.