MILWAUKEE — A recent visit to American Family Field by Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred has spurred more conversations about how the state can find a way to help cover the cost of repairs and improvements to the stadium and ultimately keep the Brewers in Wisconsin.

What You Need To Know

  • In February, Gov. Evers proposed using $290 million from the state's projected surplus to help support the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District meet its ballpark maintenance obligations as part of its agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers
  • Republicans stipped the item from the budget earlier this month and called it a "nonstarter" but members of the caucus are still open to some sort of investment
  • Since it opened in 2001, the ballpark has generated an estimated $2.5 billion in statewide economic impact

We first told you about the Home Crew Coalition in March, which consists of community and business leaders from across the state who want to ensure the team stays in Wisconsin. Now, the organization is growing and adding the following members this week:

  • Tony Bugher, President, Leinenkugel Brewing Co. 
  • Earnell Lucas, Vice President of Security, Fiserv, and former Milwaukee County Sheriff 
  • Ivan GamboaSenior Vice President, Tri City National Bank

Milwaukee restaurateur and developer Omar Shaikh, who also serves as coalition's chairperson, responded to Manfred’s visit last week. During the stop at American Family Field, the MLB commissioner told reporters he was optimistic the state would come to the table and find a way to help fund the repairs, but Manfred did not rule out the team leaving either.

“I think what he was trying to drive home was some urgency here,” Shaikh explained. “‘Hey, let’s really get to the table here and get a deal done’ because the thought of not having the Brewers past 2030 is a pretty scary thing. In any conversation I’ve had with Mark Attanasio or Rick [Schlesinger], they want to be here. They want to make it work here.”

So far, Democrats and Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature have been at odds over funding the stadium district so it can meet its contractual obligations with the team. Progress on a deal has been slow, as state lawmakers try to find compromise on shared revenue reform, which has passed the Assembly but awaits approval in the Senate.

“I don’t want to say we’re on the backburner because the conversations are being had, but it seems that the primary focus is shared revenue and sales tax right now,” Shaikh said. “I can tell you that I feel positive about this. I feel positive about being able to come up with a bipartisan solution to keep the team here for generations.”

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has expressed a willingness to fund the ballpark, so long as it is in the amount the state would lose anyway if the Brewers were to leave Wisconsin. 

Earlier this month, at a Milwaukee Press Club event, Vos said he prefers a deal with more local support, similar to that of Fiserv Forum and the Milwaukee Bucks.

“I do have to applaud Gov. Evers for putting forth a plan to create some funding to keep the team here, but I also applaud [Speaker] Vos as this really has to get done from a bipartisan standpoint. Both of them understand that this is really important and critical to keep the team here," Shaikh said. 

Gov. Tony Evers called for spending $290 million of the state surplus to make a one-time investment that would keep the team in Wisconsin through 2043.

During a stop in Kenosha last week, reporters asked the governor about the MLB commissioner’s comments. Evers said his concerns had not been alleviated after the remarks but remained optimistic his proposal would win out, despite Republicans having already rejected it.

For Shaikh, losing the Brewers, whose current deal keeps them in Wisconsin through 2030, isn’t an option.

“We always talk about the Brewers and the stadium here, but it goes well beyond that too,” Shaikh added. “When we talked to the hotels in the surrounding areas, from Kenosha to New Berlin to Wauwatosa, Morgan Wallen brought them the highest occupancy rates that they’ve had in years. Sold out arena, two days in a row.”