Evers proposes $290 million investment in Brewers’ stadium

By: - February 15, 2023 6:21 am

Evers showing off his Milwaukee Brewers bobblehead collection. (Screenshot via Gov. Tony Evers Twitter)

Gov. Tony Evers, as a part of the state budget proposal he will lay out Wednesday night, plans to invest $290 million in upkeep of American Family Field, where the Milwaukee Brewers play. The Major League Baseball team, in exchange, would have to agree to extend its lease through 2043. 

Evers said Tuesday the one-time money would come from the state’s estimated $7 billion budget surplus. He said the funds will help keep the team in Milwaukee for the next generation.

“I’m so excited about the historic opportunity we have today to keep Major League Baseball here in Milwaukee for another twenty years and to usher in a new generation of Brewers fans in Wisconsin who can grow up rooting for the home team just like I did,” Evers said in a statement. 

The funds would be given to the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, which is responsible for overseeing, operating, and maintaining American Family Field, and used to maintain, repair and improve the baseball park facilities.

The development of the stadium was originally funded with money by a 0.1% tax in Milwaukee County and four surrounding counties. The “baseball stadium district tax” ended in March 2020.

“We oppose the return of the five-county tax, and we are prepared to commit to a lease extension for the Brewers to remain at American Family Field through at least 2043,” said Rick Schlesinger, president of business operations for the Milwaukee Brewers, in a statement.

“We are not asking for the Stadium District to take on new financial obligations under the lease, or for a new ballpark – just the resources to make sure the Stadium District’s existing obligations are met,” Schlesinger added.

According to Evers’ office, the district would not have the resources to “meet existing contractual and legal obligations to maintain and update American Family Field” without additional investments, and this poses an “imminent risk of Wisconsin losing the Milwaukee Brewers and Major League Baseball.”

Neil deMause, author of Field of Schemes, a blog that analyzes public subsidies of athletic stadiums, said that professional athletic teams — apart from certain NFL teams — almost never relocate because the value of a team comes from being in a sizable media market, and the best markets are already taken. He said in an email that team owners do, however, often threaten to move to “shake loose subsidies in their current cities.”

The Brewers’ current lease runs till 2030, meaning Evers’ proposal would extend this an additional 13 years. As deMause noted in a blog post, Evers’ proposal would come out to $22.3 million for each additional year, and it would be the biggest per year lease subsidy in MLB history. 

He also said it’s unlikely it will cost $290 million just to maintain the current stadium: “More likely they meant they would spend that to give it bells and whistles on par with other new stadiums in the league, which is a bit like buying a new car every year and calling that ‘auto maintenance.’”

Evers said the investment is necessary for sustaining jobs in Milwaukee, especially as the team has generated $2.5 billion in economic output for the state since the stadium opened in 2001. According to the release, the ballpark also supported 3,000 jobs in 2022.

Evers’ plan will need approval from the Republican-led Legislature, which may not come easily. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) criticized Evers’ announcement on Twitter saying that the Democratic governor is not working with the Legislature to find solutions. 

When the Bucks had a similar situation, Democrats and Republicans worked together to find a solution on the best path forward. Instead, Governor Evers drops this bomb in the budget, never mentioning or attempting to collaborate with the Legislature in any way,”  Vos tweeted Tuesday. 

“These are typical antics for him not being a leader but rather dictating exactly what to do and how to do it,” Vos continued. “Evers’ style makes it difficult to generate consensus. I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the Brewers stay in [Wisconsin].”

DeMause also said the investment could set a new precedent, and set the stage for new requests down the road.

“Spending $290 million for just a 13-year lease extension is an extravagant sum by any historical measure, and almost certainly would lead to even larger demands once this lease extension ran its course,” deMause wrote in an email. “Or sooner — if Evers is willing to hand over $290 million with seven years to go on the Brewers’ lease now, that means we should expect to see fresh stadium demands somewhere in the middle of the next decade.”


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Baylor Spears
Baylor Spears

Baylor Spears is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner. She’s previously written for the Minnesota Reformer and Washingtonian Magazine. A Tennessee-native, she graduated with a degree in journalism from Northwestern University in June 2022.