At this time last year, the Milwaukee Bucks were about to begin a first round playoff series against the defending champion Miami Heat. Though Brandon Jennings infamously predicted “Bucks in six,” Milwaukee was swept and lost all four games by double digits.
The end of the Bucks’ 2013 season marked the beginning of franchise turmoil. On the court, the team faced decisions on restricted free agent Jennings and Monta Ellis’ club option. Head coach Jim Boylan was at the end of his interim tenure and a replacement was needed.
More importantly, questions continued to plague the Bucks about their future in Milwaukee. The aging BMO Harris Bradley Center was no longer adequate for an NBA franchise, and an ownership group from Seattle expressed interest in bringing the Bucks to the Pacific Northwest to replace the departed Supersonics.
Fast forward to the present day. This week, the most encouraging Bucks news in years came when hedge fund billionaires Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry agreed Wednesday to purchase the team from longtime owner Herb Kohl for $550 million. The sale still needs to be approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors, a process that should be finalized within a month.
Kohl reportedly turned down a more lucrative offer from the Seattle group to instead sell to Edens and Lasry, who are committed to keeping the franchise in Milwaukee. To do so, they will need to have serious discussions about building a new arena as soon as possible.
In September, then-deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the Bucks needed an arena that met the league’s standards. The Bradley Center has long been considered a facility that lacks sufficient amenities like luxury boxes and merchandise stands.
Additionally, the NBA has previously stated that the league will not allow the Bucks to stay at the Bradley Center once the current lease expires in 2017, unless the completion of a new arena is imminent.
Both the new ownership group and Kohl have pledged $100 million apiece toward the construction of a new arena. With the stadium expected to cost in the $450-$500 million range, their contributions will fund nearly half of the project.
Some form of public funding will likely be required to finance the rest of the arena. While the words “tax increase” automatically draw opposition, the financial impact on local residents would be minimal thanks to the large amount of private money from Edens, Lasry and Kohl.
The new ownership group has called for an aggressive timetable for developing arena proposals and figuring out financing plans. One year removed from serious relocation threats, it seems the Bucks are finally on stable footing once again.