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Brewers may be ‘dragging’ taxpayers back in

UPDATED at 5:54 p.m. 

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Wednesday night was a real drag at American Family Field.

To celebrate “Pride Night”, the Milwaukee Brewers hosted a pre-game drag queen show with DJ Drip Sweat. The very adult woke show opened just as the Major League Baseball franchise is entertaining proposals involving taxpayer money to subsidize a potentially expensive development.

The dude looks like a lady lineup was to include Dora Diamond, Beth Anne Bodyworks and RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Jaida Essence Hall. Showgoers could receive a Brewers Pride backpack with purchase of a special ticket package.

So another corporation pretending to be woke is hosting a drag queen show at a family venue. So what? A private entity can do what it wants, right?

Sure, but there’s a lot of public money in this private entity, and there could be a lot more down the road.

The Brewers stadium was paid for through the generous and involuntary support of taxpayers. Shoppers in a five-county sales tax district —  Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington and Racine counties — spent 23 years picking up the 0.1% tax for Major League Baseball in Milwaukee.

Now, the Brewers are considering a possible mixed-use commercial development idea on part of American Family Field’s parking lots that could call on taxpayers again — at least through tax incremental financing.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this week on the conceptual idea — part of a new Milwaukee County Board proposal.

“Could the real estate here be part of a solution? Sure,” said Rick Schlesinger, Brewers president of baseball operations.

“Do I know what it will look like? I do not,” he added.

Schlesinger spoke at a board meeting of the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District.

His remarks came one day after the publication reported a proposed County Board resolution that calls for Milwaukee and West Milwaukee officials to work with the stadium district on a study.

As the newspaper reported in a story published on Drag Queen day at the ballpark:

That study would look at creating a mixed-use entertainment district targeting stadium parking lots and other sites south of I-94 and east of the Stadium Freeway.

It also would consider how tax incremental financing could be used to help pay for the parking lot redevelopment as well as future ballpark renovations.

The stadium district has set aside $87 million in a reserve fund for future projects, which the district is required to pay for under the lease’s terms.

That money was among $605 million raised by the five-county stadium sales tax that ended in 2020.

The team’s lease runs through at least 2030, with options to 2040.

A Brewers-commissioned report, coming this summer, will list projects beyond what a stadium district report considered, with those cost estimates likely exceeding the reserve fund.

So that raises the possibility of a public financing request — which could total hundreds of millions of dollars.

That could prove another big drag on the taxpayer.

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