Governor Evers Wants to Give Brewers Nearly $300 Million to Repair Stadium

The governor’s office announced Tuesday that his executive budget will include $290 million from the surplus for stadium repairs. In exchange for the money, the Brewers have agreed to extend their lease at the stadium by 13 years through 2043, the administration and the team said.

The money for the stadium repairs would be a one-time cash payment from the state surplus, which currently stands at around $7 billion. But the proposal is sure to rekindle old arguments over whether privately owned sports teams deserve public handouts to continue operating — especially the Brewers, who have benefited immensely from a sales tax that helped build the stadium.

The stadium opened in 2001 as Miller Park, replacing the Milwaukee’s aging County Stadium. The construction price tag was about $392 million, funded largely through a 0.1% sales tax imposed in Milwaukee County and the four other counties surrounding the stadium.

The tax was ultimately enacted that year and generated about $605 million before it expired in 2020. The stadium name changed to American Family Field in 2021 after the Brewers struck a 15-year naming rights deal with the insurance company.

The Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District essentially serves as the Brewers’ landlord at the stadium. The Brewers’ lease calls for the district to cover repairs, but Evers’ office said the end of the sales tax has left the district short of funds, according to the governor’s office and the Brewers.

“We oppose the return of the five-county tax, and we are prepared to commit to a lease extension for the Brewers to remain at American Family Field through at least 2042,” the Brewers’ Schlesinger said.

Evers’ office said the $290 million payment will go to the district, which will invest the money and collect interest on it as it disburses funds to cover repairs.

Former Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, signed a bill in August 2015 to contribute $250 million in taxpayer dollars to help pay for the Fiserv Forum, the Milwaukee Bucks’ arena. Brown County residents approved a half-cent sales tax in 2000 to help pay for renovations at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. That tax expired in 2015 after generating about $310 million.