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News » Kohl bullish on rebuilding Bucks, backs new arena


Kohl bullish on rebuilding Bucks, backs new arena


Kohl bullish on rebuilding Bucks, backs new arena By DON WALKER

Herb Kohl, about to begin his 25th season as the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, is a realist about the state of the franchise, its place in the National Basketball Association and the future of the Bradley Center.

As with most teams in the NBA and in sports, the recession has taken a toll on the team's bottom line. Kohl expects revenue will drop this season.

"Our summer selling season was down from last year," Wisconsin's senior Democratic U.S. senator said. "But it's also accurate to say we're not singular in the NBA in that respect."

The Bucks, he said, remain committed to Milwaukee and are in the midst of rebuilding a team that hasn't been in the playoffs since 2006.

Personally, Kohl, who is 74, says he is in no hurry to sell the team. "I don't have a calendar on it," he said. "I recognize the realities. But I'm not thinking that needs to be addressed immediately."

The future of the franchise, he said, depends on a new collective bargaining agreement with the players' union, a meaty revenue-sharing program and, perhaps some day, a new arena.

Locally, he said, the Bradley Center will have to be replaced, but not just because the Bucks need a more competitive venue.

"At some point, Milwaukee needs a venue for the next 25 years," he said. "Not just because of the Bucks, but because we compete for events with cities all over the country. Everybody understands you have to be competitive in the marketplace."

Kohl is keenly aware that some fans and taxpayers have suggested that he should build or put a down payment on a new arena with his personal wealth. But Kohl, who gives to a wide range of charities and donated $25 million to help build the Kohl Center on the University of Wisconsin campus, disagrees.

"I really don't think about it in that way," he said. "Maybe they think about the Kohl Center in Madison. I made a major contribution. It seems to me that this should be a community decision, and it should be dealt with in that way. It shouldn't be a single individual who is expected or hoped, whether it's me or somebody else, to provide the funding for it."

'People are hurting'

The senator also knows taxpayers are in no mood to talk about a new arena now.

"This is not the time to try to get down to the actuality of how it will get done," he said. "We are living in a weak economy right now, both public and private. People are hurting and governments are hurting. To raise the issue and try to get to a conclusion right now would not be productive. It's unfortunate, but it's reality."

Kohl, like his friend baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, would prefer to talk about hope with the NBA season a week away. The Bucks open the season in Philadelphia next Friday.

No one is predicting the Bucks will be world beaters this year. Like in baseball, the NBA has become a league of have and have-nots in which big markets are able and willing, in many cases, to spend what it takes to win championships.

This season, the Bucks' front office made it clear the team would not increase its payroll beyond $69 million. In the NBA , any team's payroll that exceeds that amount is subject to a luxury tax. The Bucks are trying to live within their means, and they are hoping the fans will pay to see a competitive team.

"Very seldom have we paid the tax," Kohl said. "For teams that are not looking to make a big push to win a championship or for teams that are not the biggest markets, paying the tax is not where they go."

The Bucks' payroll, he said, is right up at the tax level. "Competing and winning are the only way to run a sports franchise. When we ask our fans to buy season tickets or partial season tickets, even if they come for one night, they want to see a team that plays hard and wins. That's the purpose of what we try do to. That's our product," he said.

At the league level, the NBA's contract with the players expires following the 2010-'11 season, although the league has the option to extend it through the 2011-'12 season. Next summer, a number of top players, including LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, will be free agents.

Kohl also is hopeful that a new revenue-sharing plan will be put into place that will help the Bucks stay competitive. For the past few seasons, small-market owners such as Kohl have lobbied for change.

There is a modest revenue sharing program in place now, Kohl said, but it's not enough. That could change in the years ahead.

"I believe there is a strong feeling, and I think the league office also believes that we need to be discussing a revenue-sharing program that meets the needs of a 30-team league," Kohl said.

"We're not alone. There are a number of teams that you would classify as small or medium-small, and it's important to every one of us to have a revenue-sharing program that recognizes our needs."

Kohl says he still gets energized by the start of a new season.

"It has been a big thing in my life, and so I continue to enjoy all the ups and downs and all of the challenges of the NBA ," he said. "I'm excited when you get a week from opening night and the juices start flowing and you start hoping the team will be competitive and successful. That's where my mind set is now."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 23, 2009

 

 
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