Brewers stadium plan amendment would reduce state funding, add ticket fee

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate proposed tweaks to their plan for repairs at the Milwaukee Brewers stadium that would cut the state's contribution and impose a surcharge on non-baseball event tickets.

Associated Press

November 8, 2023 • Southeast Region

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Robin Vos speaks behind a podium with the Milwaukee Brewers glove logo on its front, with Robert Brooks and Dan Feyen on either side, while standing on the roof of the dugout on the first base line of a baseball stadium, facing about a dozen people seated in the first several rows of seats in the lower section, with a display screen scoreboard over looking right field, the right field foul pole, upper deck seating and an open retractable roof in the background.

Wisconsin Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos is flanked by State Rep. Robert Brooks, left, and State Senator Dan Feyen at a news conference on Sept. 18, 2023, at American Family Field in Milwaukee. Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate proposed tweaks on Nov. 7 to their plan to help fund repairs to the Milwaukee Brewers stadium that would scale back the state's contribution by about $35 million and impose a surcharge on tickets to non-baseball events. (Credit: AP Photo / Morry Gash, File)

AP News

By Todd Richmond, AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate proposed tweaks on Nov. 7 to their plan to help fund repairs to the Milwaukee Brewers stadium that would scale back the state’s contribution by about $30 million and impose a surcharge on tickets to non-baseball events.

The Legislature’s finance committee was set to vote on the changes on Nov. 8. Approval could set up a floor vote in the Senate as early as the following week.

The Brewers contend that their 22-year-old stadium, American Family Field, needs extensive repairs. The team argues that the stadium’s glass outfield doors, seats and concourses should be replaced and that luxury suites and the video scoreboard need upgrades. The stadium’s signature retractable roof, fire suppression systems, parking lots, elevators and escalators need work as well, according to the team.

During early discussions of the plan Brewers officials hinted they might leave Milwaukee if they didn’t get public dollars for the repairs. Rick Schlesinger, the Brewers’ president of business operations, appeared to walk that back at a Senate hearing in October, saying the team wants to remain in the city “for the next generation.”

The state Assembly in October approved a plan that calls for the state to contribute $411.5 million and the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to contribute a combined $135 million. The Brewers would contribute $100 million to repairs and extend their lease at the stadium through 2050 in exchange for the public funds. The lease extension would keep Major League Baseball in its smallest market for another 27 years.

Sen. Dan Feyen released an amendment on Nov. 7 to the Assembly plan that would reduce the state’s contribution to $382.3 million, down $29.2 million from the Assembly proposal, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The amendment would impose a $2 ticket surcharge on non-baseball events such as concerts or monster truck shows. Suite users would face an $8 ticket surcharge for non-baseball events. The surcharge is projected to generate $14.1 million for stadium improvements over the next 27 years, according to the fiscal bureau. The team’s rent payments would also increase by $10 million between 2024 and 2050.

The amendment further calls for a biennial financial audit of the stadium district that administers public funding for American Family Field through 2050.

Feyen declined to comment on the amendment as he left a Senate floor session on the afternoon of Nov. 7. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said Senate Republicans planned to discuss the amendment in caucus that afternoon but declined further comment.

The Brewers’ Schlesinger said in a statement that the team supports the amendment, saying it helps keep MLB games affordable for Wisconsin families.

Senate approval of the amendment would send the bill back to the Assembly. Both houses must pass an identical version of the legislation before it can go to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who can sign it into law or veto it.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he hadn’t studied Feyen’s amendment but said a surcharge on non-Brewer events would be reasonable if it defrays the overall state contribution.

“Hopefully (the amendment) is what gets it over the finish line,” Vos said.

Evers spokesperson Britt Cudaback didn’t immediately respond to a message inquiring about whether the governor supports the changes.

Associated Press writer Scott Bauer in Madison contributed to this report.

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