For the last few months, the Brewers have been begging city/state leaders to give them money for so-called ballpark upgrades. Last month, the Governor of Wisconsin proposed giving the Brewers almost $300 million in public money in exchange for an additional 13 years being added to the lease. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote a good story detailing how this proposal really meant that taxpayers will end up paying closer to $450 million in renovations over the next 20 years.
Several Brewers executives did a PR tour and tried to tell everyone that the Brewers “want nothing more than to continue playing baseball in Milwaukee for another generation”. He goes on to claim that the only people that can help the team are the city/state leaders … not the team itself, who are worth billions? The Brewers even hired a “consultant” who found that “additional funds” were needed for the ballpark. This report comes to us from Venue Solutions Group (VSG). This group is paid by the professional sports teams to give inflated statistics to cities/states so that the team can get whatever taxpayer funding that they want.
Several months ago, the city of Nashville, Tennessee, paid VSG to write a report that would help city leaders determine whether to build the Tennessee Titans a new stadium or to renovate the current one. The report told city leaders nothing. Currently, Nashville and the Titans have a lease agreement that states that the city is “required to provide a first-class stadium”. VSG’s report did not include what “first-class” meant nor what it may look like. Did the VSG report explain the difference between what costs are required versus “bells and whistles” improvements that are not required under the lease agreement? No. Must have forgotten that part.
When Nashville Scene asked VSG why they didn’t answer that question, a partner at VSG claimed that “We are not qualified to make that determination”. Yet, the mayor of Nashville used this report to justify why the city should build a new stadium and no renovate the current one. Now we are at the end of the day and city leaders still have no idea what it would have cost to renovate Nissan Stadium. They paid and received a report which merely goes over the Titans’ proposed renovations. Let’s see how much the VSG report impressed several city council members:
- “This does not provide me with the information that I need to make a sound decision on something that’s gone have a huge fiscal impact on our city for generations”, stated Council Member Delishia Porterfield. WPLN, 11/08/22
- “The report was a complete waste of money”, wrote Council Member Erin Evans. Center Square, 11/08/22
- “My concern, and I think a lot of my colleagues’ concern is the fact that … we have no idea within the cost what’s a need and what’s a want, what we’re obligated to, and what we want to be nice and shiny and cool”, stated Council Member Courtney Johnston. Tennessean, 11/08/22
Back to Milwaukee. Thankfully for local taxpayers, the Brewers proposal is now “dead”. One of the many complaints about the proposal was not just the amount of money being given, but that the city was only getting 13 years added to the lease? Considering that the ballpark was built and “largely financed” by Milwaukee-area sales taxes, why not add a number of additional years to the lease?
After a number of people complained about the VSG report, the Brewers decided to have a “private consultant” go over the VSG report. They quickly hired a company, CAA ICON, who openly claims to be “trusted by owners” and is the “industry-leading owner’s representative” and a “strategic management consulting firm for public/private sports and facility owners”. Nothing bias about that. Even though prior ballpark reports took months and even years to finish, this one only took 30 days! To the shock of almost no one, this new report found that the Brewers need even MORE public money than previously thought.
Then I saw a piece in the Business Journal that discussed the Brewers situation with several local business owners. Everyone wants the funding to get done and for the Brewers to stay. But how to get that done is different depending on whom you speak to.
- According to one business executive, city/state leaders should get a deal done since they “reap massive benefits” and “continue to bring in millions in revenue” from the ballpark. Fantasy numbers. Why don’t we just pay for the ballpark upgrades with these benefits and revenues that the cities/states get but apparently don’t report to the public?
- Other executives told the Business Journal that the state of Wisconsin should “agree to provide additional funding” because Milwaukee must have that money for more police and local services. Really?
- Another executive wanted more city/state funding, but also noted that the sports team should therefore give a new revenue source to the city/state in exchange. That will not happen here. I don’t see any way that the Brewers would allow city or state leaders to get a consistent revenue stream, no matter how big or small, out of this ballpark.
One last thing. The Milwaukee Brewers president of business operations has a favor to ask of you. Please stop calling the public money that the Brewers want an “allocation of money” and instead call it an “investment from the state”. Then the Brewers did what they always do when the subject of money comes up. We have created $2.5 billion worth of economic impact over the last 20 years! Except, as this site has written about a few times, the Brewers have not nor ever created such a large economic impact. Like the Titans did with VSG, the Brewers hired a company called Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSLI), to write a report stating that the team did create this economic paradise. As Urban Milwaukee reminds us, the report used “questionable data”
But so what? The Brewers got out of it what they wanted. I still see that stat put into a number of different articles around the country.