It's been brewing on the horizon for a few years, and now the issue has come to the forefront. Weeks after Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver told local business owners that Milwaukee "needs" a new arena, Bucks owner Herb Kohl echoed those sentiments.
An apathetic fan base or a lot of games with empty upper bowls is no way to leverage the public subsidies that will be needed on top of Kohl's "significant contribution."
"Naturally you want to be as good as you can be -- that helps -- in moving towards an arena," Kohl said Monday. "But I would not want to put that burden on our basketball operations.
"We're gonna get a facility. I'm confident we're going to get a facility because it's an important thing, not only for basketball but for our community. And in order to keep the Bucks, we have to have a facility. And in order to get a facility, we have to keep the Bucks. So it's like a two-fer: We're either going to get both in the years ahead or we're going to have neither.”
The problem is that building a modern NBA arena has become a much larger undertaking than it was when Kohl took ownership of the Bucks. It takes public funding (or at least, that's the system ownership has driven it to instead of raising the money privately). And that public funding may be very hard to find in Wisconsin.
The Kings managed to beat back the vultures, but the reality is that Seattle now stands as the NBA's leverage piece against any city with facilities that don't maximize profit. Does Milwaukee care enough about the Bucks to keep them in town? Their answer will have to be with their taxes, or we're going to have a repeat of what went on in Sacramento, regardless of Kohl's intentions.