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Key finance deal announced for new Milwaukee Bucks arena

Wisconsin State Governor Scott Walker has outlined the details of a finance deal to help fund the construction of a new multi-purpose arena that is crucial in ensuring NBA basketball franchise the Milwaukee Bucks remains in its home city.

Plans were unveiled in April to develop a multi-purpose arena and sports and entertainment district in Milwaukee in a project that could be worth as much as $1bn (€900.4m). The development scheme forms part of an effort to revitalise the downtown area of the city.

Reports in the US media estimated that the new 17,000-seat arena and plaza will cost approximately $500m, with the franchise hoping that this will lead to an additional $500m being spent on further development of downtown Milwaukee.

The project includes plans to build the arena across an area of land next to the team’s current BMO Harris Bradley Center home, a facility that would be demolished to make way for buildings to accompany the new arena.

The Bucks have now been given a major boost after Governor Walker outlined plans to fund half of the estimated $500m in construction costs for the arena. With $250m having already been put forward by the Bucks’ current and former owners, Walker said an additional $250m will come from Wisconsin taxpayers. Walker confirmed that this amount will be capped at $250m, with the team taking responsibility for any cost overruns.

Speaking to the Associated Press news agency, Walker said that the state would run the risk of losing the team if it did not commit any funding to the project. The NBA has previously committed to buying the team back and relocating it to another city if a new arena was not in place by the 2017 season.

“The price of doing nothing is not zero, it is $419m,” Walker said, referring to the estimated lost revenue and growth over a 20-year period if the Bucks were to relocate. “It's not just a good deal. It's a really bad deal if we don't do anything.”

In response to Governor Walker’s plans, Bucks president Peter Feigin said in a statement: “We're incredibly thankful for the leadership and commitment of state, city and county officials to put together a viable financing framework for this public-private partnership to build a new sports and entertainment district in Wisconsin.

“While there is still a lot of work to be done in a short time frame, this is a big step forward in our collective effort to build a transformative economic and cultural asset in downtown Milwaukee. We will continue to work closely with our public partners to make sure this historic effort is successful.”

Construction of a new arena formed a key part of a successful takeover of the Bucks last year. Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens, who purchased the franchise in April 2014, pledged to spend at least $100m on a new venue for the team before this figure was raised by $50m in December.

The team’s prior owner, former US Senator Herb Kohl, has also pledged $100m towards the development. Kohl said before selling the franchise in a $550m deal that he was only willing to hand the team over to new owners who would keep the franchise in Milwaukee.