MADISON, Wis. — State lawmakers still want to find a way to help cover the cost of repairs and improvements to American Family Field (formerly Miller Park) as part of an effort to ensure the Brewers stay in Milwaukee.

Though a deal was not reached in time for the state budget, some legislators believe more time to hash out the details is a good thing—out of fear that a fast-tracked bill would be doomed to fail.

A special session over the summer is not out of the question. However, there likely will not be much movement on legislation until the floor period resumes in September.

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 and called it a "nonstarter" but members of the caucus are still open to some sort of investment
  • Any deal that takes shape would likely be similar to how Fiserv Forum was funded, with lawmakers expected to return to the floor in September

Regardless, State Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, who voted for the Brewers bill in the mid-1990s when the stadium district was created, has called for an audit of the organization before any more public dollars go their way in an effort to protect the taxpayers.

Carpenter insists he is not trying to kill the bill but has plenty of ideas for improving whatever may eventually take shape.

“Fiserv Forum has a $2 ticket surcharge. I would like that to also be at Am Fam Field, so we gain revenue,” Carpenter explained. “There are many different ways of having user fees for people that are willing to contribute money to help pay for the revenue stream.”

The state owns two-thirds of American Family Field, so Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has acknowledged that lawmakers have skin in the game. However, Vos would like to see more buy-in from local government.

“We know that if Am Fam field closed, just the sales tax that Milwaukee County alone would lose would be almost $2 million a year,” Vos told reporters at a press conference last month. “Well, that’s a huge financial hit that they would not [want]. I’m sure they don’t want to lose the Brewers, they don’t want to lose that $2 million, but they need to be a partner with us, as we would hope the City of Milwaukee would be, to be able to find a package that works for everybody.”

Even though the five-county sales tax to help pay for construction of the stadium lingered on for six years longer than it was supposed to, ultimately ending in 2020, the stadium district still will not be able cover the cost of improvements to meets its obligation with the team through the current deal that ends in 2030.

State Sen. Tim Carpenter (right) discusses his call for an audit with Spectrum News 1 Political Reporter Anthony DaBruzzi. (Spectrum News 1/Mandy Hague)

Carpenter understands why lawmakers would be skeptical of more funding, but he also pointed out that local governments are already struggling.

“Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee can’t afford [it]. We just passed the bill about raising the sales tax two cents for police and fire, we just don’t have the ability,” Carpenter said. “I don’t want to have any heartburn, or I don’t want to have to tell people, ‘Geez, I’m sorry I didn’t know.’ I know where the land mines are and what things people would be asking about to try and do.”

Another key part of the deal to be worked out is how long the Brewers would have to stay in Wisconsin.

Initially, when Gov. Tony Evers called for a one-time $290 million investment from the state, he wanted to extend the Brewers contract by 13 years to 2043.

Some lawmakers, however, want to get closer to 2050, depending on the size of the state’s investment. Regardless, Speaker Vos said a deal will ultimately require support from all four caucuses within the Legislature—Assembly Republicans, Assembly Democrats, Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats.