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MILWAUKEE – Taxpayer dollars helped build American Family Field. Now, there is ongoing debate about whether taxes should pay for renovations – and a Wednesday report suggests MLB could be getting involved.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred will be visiting the ballpark Thursday, the same day the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors will vote on a resolution that, if approved, would say the board officially opposes the use of county tax money to fund renovations.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, pitched spending $290 million on the work, tapping into the state’s estimated $7 billion budget surplus. In exchange, the Brewers would extend their lease through 2043; it is set to expire in 2030. The plan struck out with Republicans.
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“I think for many of my colleagues who don’t live in the southeastern Wisconsin region, the idea of writing a check out to any professional sports team in Wisconsin was probably a non-starter,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican.
The Brewers commissioned a study looking at stadium wants and needs – concrete cracks, rusted seats, corroding metal under the roof.
“The goal here is for people to come to this ballpark for the next 20 years and, hopefully, beyond and recognize this is a great facility,” said Rick Schlesinger, Brewers president of business operations.
The debate comes 22 years after the ballpark’s first pitch. Taxpayers from five southeastern Wisconsin counties helped pay for it with an extra sales tax. Vos said there is a case for the state to help keep the franchise in Milwaukee.
“The stadium is owned by the taxpayers,” he said. “We still own the stadium and either have to pay to take it down or find somebody else to use it. The chances of us getting a professional baseball team to come to Wisconsin after we lose one are zero.”
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Vos said he’d be open to investing the income tax Wisconsin gets every time any players plays a game in the state.
“Every single time a professional athlete who doesn’t live in Wisconsin plays a game here, that percentage of their salary stays here,” he said. “If somebody plays 10 games a year, and one of those is in Wisconsin, that means 10% of their income is taxed at our income tax rate to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.”
News/Talk 1130 radio host Dan O’Donnell reported MLB told the Milwaukee Brewers they need to repair the ballpark. He said an unnamed source said it’s not an ultimatum. FOX6 News has not independently verified that.