Franklyn Gimbel calls Bucks arena negotiations ‘uncivilized’
MJ Sentinel Bice 6/11/15
The head of the Wisconsin Center District has attacked those working on a deal to build a new $500 million arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, saying the talks were too secretive and “uncivilized.”
Franklyn Gimbel, chairman of the district, said he was particularly upset that he has yet to be informed about the details of the plan even though it would require the district to borrow heavily, take on new responsibilities and restructure its board.
Gimbel would be ousted as board chairman under the proposal.
“I’m very unhappy with how this financing bill was handled because it wasn’t transparent,” Gimbel said Friday. “Stakeholders like the Wisconsin Center District weren’t at the table. Decisions were made about them that were uncivilized.”
Last week, Gov. Scott Walker and other top officials unveiled the details of their plan to provide $250 million in public financing for the new arena.
The plan calls for the Wisconsin Center District to sell $93 million in zero-coupon bonds that would be repaid with income from the hotel, car rental and food and beverage taxes beginning in 2028. The total cost to the district for the bond issue would be about $200 million, including interest.
In addition, the proposal would merge the district with the BMO Bradley Center board and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in a new superboard overseeing much of the city’s entertainment offerings.
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said the board would be made up of six city appointees, six county appointees and three board members selected by the state. The state secretary of the Department of Administration would serve as board chairman.
Asked if Gimbel would be removed from the board, Abele said, “It’s still being tinkered with, but the idea is to start tabula rasa.”
In other words, Gimbel is as good as gone.
But no one has told him.
“Nobody’s talked to me — ever,” Gimbel said.
Gimbel said he knew that Abele wanted to oust him. But he said no one addressed the issue with him.
In fact, the bulk of what he knows about the deal has come from the media.
“I didn’t have sources — I had you and Don Walker,” Gimbel said, referring to the Journal Sentinel reporter who died last month. “I don’t think I got respect.”
Gimbel said his firm has been a Bucks season ticket holder and that he considers it important for the NBA franchise to stay in the city.
What upsets him, though, is that no one from the district had any input in the deal. He noted that he put “my heart and soul” into getting the Wisconsin Center convention center and the Milwaukee Theatre built and rebranding the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
In the end, Gimbel said he hopes he can stay on as a member of the new district board. He is currently an appointee of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
“I’m about ready to pack in the chair because it’s going to be replaced by a Republican bureaucrat. I don’t want to arm wrestle with the guy,” Gimbel said. “But I do think I’d like to stand for a short period of time during the transition. I’d still like to be a credible voice for expanding the convention center.”
His term expires in 2017.