Sen. Herb Kohl says Bucks will stay despite revenue woes
MILWAUKEE -- Despite low attendance, poor revenues and an aging arena, Sen. Herb Kohl said he'll never take the Bucks out of Milwaukee.
"Milwaukee is a permanent fixture in the NBA," Kohl said Wednesday after he announced that Larry Harris left as general manager. "I'm not in this business to make any annual profits. The value of the asset fortunately has appreciated over the years. On an annual basis, it's a money-losing proposition. I'm in it because I love the sport, I love the competition and I love winning."
That's something the Bucks haven't done a lot of lately, and during Kohl's 23 years as owner, the team has not added to its lone NBA championship in 1971.
Milwaukee, which has been in the bottom third of attendance in the league each of the last four seasons, is facing another lottery pick, its third in four years, this offseason.
But Kohl said he hasn't given up, even though the Bradley Center, built for $91 million in 1988, is considered woefully outdated in the modern era of corporate suites and club seats.
"The revenue streams are inadequate. I put in considerable amounts of money every year," Kohl said. "People ask me how much and I don't specify because the fans don't really care and they shouldn't. Fans want to see a good product on the floor."
While Milwaukee remains one of the league's smallest markets, Kohl, who made millions by building his family-owned business of grocery and department stores, said he has no plans to relocate the team or sell to investors who might move it.
"Fortunately, we're not at the time of emergency or immediacy," Kohl said. "The Bucks have never demanded, insisted, threatened. Nobody even begins to think here that the team might leave at some point in the foreseeable future because I've never even suggested it and it's not going to happen. But at some point, we'll have to have a new facility."
Several NBA franchises have relocated in recent years. Vancouver moved to Memphis and Charlotte went to New Orleans.
The Seattle SuperSonics seem next, with a plan in place to move to Oklahoma City. The NBA's board of governors is to vote next month on owner Clay Bennett's application to relocate the team at the earliest possible date.
But public money would be tough to come by in Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Brewers had a long, contentious fight to raise the money needed to build Miller Park, which opened in 2001 at a cost of $400 million with $310 million coming from public financing. Lambeau Field in Green Bay also received a $295 million facelift with help from tax money.
"I am a little envious of those two fabulous venues, Miller Park and Lambeau, which were built with public monies, because they are facilities that are as good or better than anything you can find in baseball or football across the country," the senator said.
Kohl said one catch for anyone wanting to make an offer on his team is that they have to come up with how they plan to get the Bucks into a new facility.
"I will not sell the team unless the person is prepared to keep the team in Milwaukee," Kohl said. "That person or group of people will have to consider the needs of the franchise, including how do they think they will put the franchise in a new facility whenever the time comes."
Kohl also said he hopes the NBA will come up with a revenue sharing model to help the Bucks, similar to those in the NFL and MLB.
"They have a fabulous revenue sharing program in Major League Baseball, primarily due to (Commissioner) Bud Selig," Kohl said. "It has put teams like Milwaukee in a position to be successful and make money and spend what is necessary."
The senator joked about taking on a minority partner. He said he'd listen to offers, but that he wasn't so sure he'd jump on one.
"Would I talk with them? Yes," Kohl said. "But, with all humility, it's not as though I need their money."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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