March 11th, 2008

Courage, Vision Needed for Bradley Center Situation

By Dave Begel
OnMilwaukee.com

There are moments when a situation arises that cry in a loud voice for a new leader to emerge.

It can be a crisis situation that demands the new leadership or it can be an ongoing problem that vexes on a continuing basis.

I think that now is the time for a leader to emerge because we need him or her.

I’m talking about the Bucks and the Bradley Center and the decision by the Bradley Center board to find a way to sell the naming rights for the 20-year-old facility.

The Bradley Center was built 20 years ago as a $90 million gift from Jane Pettit to the city. It was named to honor her father, one of the co-founders of the Allen-Bradley Company.

We have now reached the point where the board has hired a Colorado firm to broker the sale of naming rights and there are several points that must be made.

1. The pressure for the increased revenue comes from the Bucks. They need to generate more revenue and the Bradley Center board thinks selling naming rights for about $3 million a year will do that. For the life of me, I can’t believe that a measly additional $3 million a year will have a drastic impact on the Bucks’ bottom line.

2. The Bradley Center people are quick to say that the facility is the third oldest in the NBA. That may be in fact, but in general there are five or six facilities that were built within a year or two of the Bradley Center. So we are not as out of step as it might seem. But even with an additional $3 million a year or so, I don’t see how that stops the aging process of the building. It’s going to keep getting older.

3. How in the world can this board dishonor the gift that Ms. Pettit made to this city? Her two children have different reactions to the plan. Her son, David Uihlein is resigned and understands the need. Her daughter, Lynde Uihlein, is apoplectic about the plan. People ask why Mrs. Pettit didn’t put a condition on her gift regarding naming rights. But 20 years ago nobody was selling naming rights and it wasn’t even an issue.

4. The final thing to consider, and more important even than the naming rights, is the fact that the Bucks need to generate more revenue. Now, some people may love the Bucks, others may hate them and some are lukewarm or luke-cold. But it’s impossible to argue their value to the city. We want to think of ourselves as a major league city. If we don’t have the Bucks, we are a lot less major league than we think they are. Some people think that Herb Kohl should build a building himself. But first of all he’s not that rich. Secondly it’s not his responsibility.

Having made those points I want to publicly announce that I have a solution to part of this mess.

Let’s have somebody show some leadership and spearhead a move to get a new arena. We can keep the Bradley Center for some things, especially since the building is paid for and we only need to keep it up.

But let’s get a new building.

The old Milwaukee was a city of “Why Not?” We were great at coming up with reasons not to do something. For example, there was a huge crowd that thought it was crazy to stage a big summer music festival in the pit of ground near Lake Michigan. There were a thousand reasons why it “couldn’t be done.”

But the new Milwaukee, the Milwaukee 7, is supposed to be a place where we have a “Can Do” attitude. We can put our shoulders to the wheel and make things happen. Positively Milwaukee.

But it isn’t going to happen without leadership. Maybe the mayor (has anyone seen him lately?). Maybe the county executive. Maybe the new county executive. Maybe the Bradley Center people. Maybe the Wisconsin Center District people. Maybe the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. Maybe somebody we don’t know yet.

But here’s the call:

SOMEBODY COME OUT OF THE WOODS, BITE THE BULLET, GIVE SPEECHES LIKE BARACK OBAMA, HAVE THE POLITICAL SENSIBILITIES AND GRIT OF WINSTON CHURCHILL, HAVE THE VISION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING AND HAVE THE DETERMINATION OF GANDHI!

We’re going to give you some grief, but in the end, we’ll all be very, very thankful you showed up.

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