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Wisconsin approves key Milwaukee Bucks arena deal

The Wisconsin State Assembly has voted in favour of an initiative that will see $250m (€226.5m) in public funds spent on the construction of a new multi-purpose arena that is crucial in ensuring that NBA basketball franchise the Milwaukee Bucks remain in the city.

First announced in June by Wisconsin State Governor Scott Walker, the funding package will be used to support the construction of a 17,000-seat multi-purpose arena amid a sports and entertainment district in Milwaukee. The project, which could be worth as much as $1bn, forms part of a wider effort to revitalise the downtown area of the city.

Under the plan, Wisconsin taxpayers will bear $250m of the costs initially, but that commitment will grow to $400m with interest over 20 years. Current and former Bucks owners are contributing another $250m.

The funding initiative now looks set to be put into place after the Wisconsin State Assembly passed the measure on a bipartisan 52-34 vote. The bill only requires Walker’s signature in order for it to come into effect.

“For us, it's what we'd hoped for; a good, bipartisan vote,” Walker said, according to the Associated Press news agency. “It had strong votes in both the Assembly and the Senate. A lot of hats off.”

Bucks president Peter Feigin added in a statement: “Today, our collective effort to create a world-class sports and entertainment district in the heart of Milwaukee took a monumental step forward thanks to the bipartisan leadership of elected officials in Madison.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the commitment of state, county and city officials to work together in a historic fashion to help shape this public-private partnership. There’s still work to be done and we look forward to building on this progress with the city and county, but the passage of legislation today makes our future much clearer.

“The Bucks will not only remain home in Wisconsin, but we’ll soon begin a transformative economic development project that will help revitalise our community and region.”

News of the approval will come as a major boost to the Bucks, with the team currently fighting to stave off the threat of the NBA taking control of the franchise. 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.