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Republicans tweak Brewers stadium repair plan, public would now pay $546 million



FILE - Wisconsin Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos is flanked by State Rep. Robert Brooks, left, and State Senator Dan Feyen as they unveil a stadium repair funding plan aimed at keeping the Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee at a news conference Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, at American Family Field in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican legislators in Wisconsin announced Thursday that they have scaled back their plan to help fund repairs at the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium down to $546 million — a reduction of $54 million, clearing the way for a vote on the state Assembly floor next week.

The Brewers, as a team, are worth a little than half that at $1.6 billion.

In return, the Brewers’ lease would extend 20 years, to to the end of 2050.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ plan in his budget released in February called for spending $290 million, extending the Brewers lease to 2043. Republicans scrapped that.

The GOP plan extends the lease seven more years — a cost difference of about $37 million per added year from 2043-2050.

Reports commissioned by the Brewers and another by a state consultant found American Family Field’s glass outfield doors, seats and concourses should be replaced, its luxury suites and technology such as its sound system and video scoreboard need upgrades, and its signature retractable roof needs repairs. Fire suppression systems, parking lots, elevators and escalators need work, too.

Assembly Republicans released a bill in September that called for the state to contribute $411 million and the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to contribute a combined $200 million from 2024 through 2050. The Brewers have agreed to chip in $100 million and extend their lease at American Family Field through 2050, keeping Major League Baseball in its smallest market for at least an additional 27 years.

The team so far has not threatened to leave Milwaukee if it doesn’t get public help, but relocation is always a possibility if a city willing to pay the team’s bills steps forward.

Republicans touted the proposal, stressing that income taxes on Brewers employees would cover the state’s expenditures and residents would not face any new taxes. But Milwaukee-area leaders argued the cash-strapped city and county can’t afford such sizeable contributions. The city increased its sales tax by 2% and the county doubled its sales tax this year as part of a plan to avoid bankruptcy and deep cuts to services.

Rep. Robert Brooks, the plan’s chief architect, unveiled changes Thursday that would call for the city and county to each contribute $67.5 million through 2050. Their total combined contribution would now be $135 million.

The state’s contribution remains unchanged. The plan also assumes the Brewers will stick to their $100 million commitment.

The changes also call for a study on developing restaurants and bars on the stadium’s parking lots to generate more sales taxes.

The Assembly’s state affairs committee approved the changes Thursday. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the full chamber will vote Tuesday. He called the new plan a “win-win-win” for the Brewers, local leaders and the state.

Assembly approval would send the bill to the state Senate, which could make more changes. Brian Radday, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the changes.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers supports the revised plan, his spokesperson, Britt Cudaback, said in an email to The Associated Press. She called the proposal “a compromise that ensures the Milwaukee Brewers and Major League Baseball remain in Wisconsin for future generations.”

A spokesperson for the Brewers had no immediate comment.

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