This is, without a doubt, Amy Schumer’s year. Her Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, bubbled over into the mainstream, right alongside her starring role in the comedy Trainwreck and her new HBO special. The problem with all those things is they don’t give you the real, live Amy Schumer — for that, you’ll need to show up at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, to catch her as she passes through town.
At 1001 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee. Tickets are $32, $53 or $105, and are available at bmoharrisbradleycenter.com.
7 p.m. Dec. 4
Taxpayers would pick up half the cost of a $500 million arena for the Milwaukee Bucks under a financial deal approved by Gov. Scott Walker. Curren and former team owners would pick up the rest of the costs, under Walker’s plan.
Walker, who plans to announce his presidential candidacy within the month, has argued for months that it will cost the state more in lost income-tax revenue if the NBA team leaves Milwaukee than it will to pay for a new downtown arena.
Standing behind a podium with a sign that read, “Cheaper to Keep Them,” he announced the long-awaited deal on June 4 surrounded by Republican legislative leaders, along with the Democratic leaders of the city and Milwaukee County.
“The price of doing nothing is not zero. It’s $419 million,” Walker said, one of repeated references to the estimated lost revenue and growth over 20 years if the team moves. “It’s not just a good deal. It’s a really bad deal if we don’t do anything.”
Walker, team officials, state lawmakers, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele have been negotiating behind closed doors for weeks.
The plan Walker spelled out includes $250 million already committed by the Bucks’ current and former owners. The other half will come from taxpayers, a contribution capped at $250 million, with the team bearing any responsibility for cost overruns. The taxpayer cost would grow to an estimated $400 million over 20 years with interest.
But there are numerous hidden costs associated with the arena that could turn the project into a financial boondoggle for taxpayers, just as the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park has become. Some state lawmakers might be reluctant to give $250 million to a small group of wealthy people who would become even wealthier from the deal, at a time when higher education in the state is being cut by $250 million. That could have much worse consequences on the state’s economic future than losing a basketball team.
The Legislature’s top two Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, both said they weren’t certain yet whether the plan would win enough support in their chambers to pass. “What I’d like to focus on are the benefits of having this go forward,” Vos said.
Without a new arena by 2017, the NBA has said it will buy back the team and move it. The Bucks currently play in the 27-year-old BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Bucks issued a statement, calling the plan “a big step forward in our collective effort to build a transformative economic and cultural asset in downtown Milwaukee.” The arena has been pitched as part of a larger $1 billion entertainment district in the Park East district, in downtown Milwaukee near the Milwaukee River.
Under the proposal, the state would issue $55 million in bonds, which paid back over 20 years would cost $80 million. The city would contribute $47 million, including building a new parking structure. The county would also issue $55 million in bonds and the Wisconsin Center District would issue $93 million in bonds.
Republicans who control the Legislature criticized parts of the plan reported during negotiations, raising questions about whether there are enough votes to approve it. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity, founded by billionaires Charles and David Koch, called for rejecting the deal.
“Government shouldn’t be in the business of financing private sports stadiums,” AFP Wisconsin state director David Fladeboe said. “The current deal is based on fuzzy math, complicated accounting and millions of taxpayer dollars.”
A majority of Republican state senators don’t want the arena financing plan to come under the two-year $70 billion state budget. An alternative route could be introducing the plan as a separate bill, where Democrats could join with Republicans to get enough votes in support.
Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca withheld judgment on the plan, saying he wanted to carefully review it and discuss it with others. The Milwaukee Common Council must also approve the deal.
Current Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens bought the team in April 2014 from former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl for $550 million. At the time, Lasry and Edens pledged to contribute $100 million toward arena funding, but have since increased that to $150 million. Kohl also has pledged $100 million.
Amid the fall political campaigns, a dynamic grassroots movement for justice in Milwaukee made headlines, reminding us that change does not necessarily come from politicians but from people working together in their communities.
The organization Common Ground is providing much-needed pushback to the steam-rolling effort by business leaders to get hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. The BMO Harris Bradley Center is just 25 years old but is said to lack the latest technology and luxury boxes necessary to make a sufficient profit and satisfy the NBA.
Wall Street titans Marc Lasry and Wes Edens recently bought the Bucks for $550 million. The NBA laid down an ultimatum for a new arena to be built in Milwaukee by 2017, and Lasry and Edens offered to kick in $100 million. Former Bucks owner Herb Kohl said he’d throw in another $100 million. It’s the remaining $200 or $300 million that taxpayers might be asked to contribute.
In the midst of an aggressive campaign to woo support for this latest corporate welfare scheme, Common Ground made waves with its own proposal, “Fair Play: A Campaign to Foster Greatness in Public Spaces.”
The basis of “Fair Play” is a devastating report about the crumbling, hazardous conditions of parks and recreation facilities in Milwaukee County and a detailed proposal for revitalizing them. That report, “Envisioning Fair Play,” is available at www.fairplaywi.org. Read it and weep. It dramatizes through quantitative data and photographic evidence the disgraceful neglect of Milwaukee’s public spaces.
In the report, architectural and landscaping plans show how improvements can be made at different sites, with startling cost comparisons. The new Bucks arena will have 18,000 seats at a cost of $27,777 per seat. Comprehensive improvements at Vincent High School will cost the equivalent of just 320 Bucks seats. Lincoln Park’s makeover can be done for only 221 Bucks seats.
Common Ground demands that if hundreds of millions of public dollars are spent to subsidize the privately owned Bucks, at least $150 million must be allocated to repair Milwaukee’s parks and recreation facilities. If you agree, tell your alderman or county supervisor ASAP.
It’s infuriating how politicians continually privilege private interests with tax breaks and subsidies while ignoring neighborhoods and public spaces — the places where most of us actually live. When owners can slap down a half billion dollars for a team at the same time that team members are paid millions annually and game tickets are unaffordable for half the people in the city, why should the public be expected to pay up?
But what about the economic impact?!
Most studies of publicly funded sports venues — including those by the libertarian Cato Institute and the conservative Heartland Institute — reveal exaggerated impact projections and little or no economic boosts for local economies.
But Milwaukee’s image!
What kind of blinders must people be wearing to worship the image of a luxury, high-tech playpen while streets, housing, schools and parks decay around them?
I applaud Common Ground, a coalition of groups that is doing focused, effective work on this public funding issue and other fronts like rehabbing foreclosed properties and establishing the Common Ground Health Cooperative, an affordable insurance option.
Common Ground meets the third Monday of each month at 2375 N. 25th St. For more, go to www.commongroundwi.org or call 414-751-0755.
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There’s no stopping The Black Keys. Ever since Brothers flew up the charts in 2010, the band’s become one of the most important names in contemporary blues rock, and it’s a reputation well-deserved. The Keys’ newest LP Turn Blue builds on the momentum of Brothers and its follow-up El Camino, while also stretching into more psychedelic directions. Just look at the mind-bending cover for the most obvious example.
The Keys roll through the BMO Harris Bradley Center this week, with Cage the Elephant opening. At 1001 N. 4th St., Milwaukee. Tickets range from $32 to $70, and can be purchased at 414-227-0400 or bmoharrisbradleycenter.com.
8 p.m. on Tues., Sept. 9
She hasn’t been back to Milwaukee since 2003, but Cher is returning and she’s “Dressed to Kill.” Her appearance is part of her eighth solo tour in support of her new album Closer to the Truth. The tour reportedly features all the bombast that audiences expect from Cher, the original queen of glitz and elaborate stage performances. But word on the street is that the real highlight of the show is the same one that’s distinguished her 50-year career: that voice of hers, still able to execute all the tricks of a repertoire too long and well known to list here. Not many 67-year-olds could pull it off, but Cher’s not just any 67-year-old. Cyndi Lauper will open the show.
Tickets range from $25.50 to $105.50. For more information visit bmoharrisbradleycenter.com.
8 p.m. Fri., June 6
For audiences who attended Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz tour last night hoping to be shocked and titillated, it must have been a long evening. On the other hand, those looking for an irreverent concert fueled by music ranging from country classics to hip hop were likely to have left Milwaukee’s BMO Harris Bradley Center with a smile.
After her ill-conceived, headline-grabbing performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards last fall, it was difficult to know what to expect from Cyrus. For those who’ve seen her televised performances, the Bangerz tour is really not that shocking.
While an abundance of sexuality was on display, from the bedroom antics of “#GETITRIGHT” to riding a gold, low-riding SUV with full crotch on display for “Love Money Party,” the performance presented a carefully designed, engaging set piece for each song. There was enough variety to keep audience members wondering throughout the evening what was coming next.
Prior to the tour, Cyrus announced that “our whole tour is literally based on animals,” and she did not disappoint in the zoologic arena, although her animals were in fact ithe imaginative designs of Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. These ranged from dancing teddy bears to a 50-foot wolf that accompanied Cyrus’ energetic performance of “Can’t Be Tamed.” A red-and-white plaid, two-person horse helped deliver the winking country music parody “4×4.” It’s hard to describe the orange fuzzy creature that stalked the stage for the hip-hop torch ballad “FU.”
Although the strong majority of the audience appeared to be heterosexual 20-something women, from the opening act onward it was clear that everyone was welcome at this show. Swedish pop duo Icona Pop, who last fall delivered a memorable Marc Klasfeld-directed Ball culture music video for the song “All Night,” opened the show, bringing the arena to life with the top-10 pop hit “I Love It.” Cyrus engaged in a few moments of same-gender sexuality onstage as she groped one of her female backup dancers. A benefit of Cyrus’ anything-goes approach is an air of acceptance.
Despite the spectacle, at the heart of any Cyrus performance lies her vocal talent. While it is clear there are recorded backing tracks included in the tour, seven years as a high-profile live performer have honed her vocal skills.
One of the most rewarding segments of the performance was the intimate acoustic session that came approximately two-thirds of the way into the show. Cyrus sang songs that ranged from Bob Dylan’s Blood On the Tracks classic “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” to a country reworking of OutKast’s “Hey Ya” and a signature performance of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene.”
The energy seemed to flag somewhat for the first encore of mega-hits “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball,” but the exuberance returned for a closing confetti cannon and fireworks round of “Party In the USA,” complete with dancing Liberty Bell, Statue Of Liberty and Mt. Rushmore.
Often overlooked in assessments of Cyrus’ recorded and live work is the liberal use of parody to poke fun at everything from discomfort with her subject matter to country music tradition and overused symbols of wealth in the hip-hop community. Witness the spangled leotard decorated with cannabis leaves topped off with an oversized marijuana pendant. Or the song “4×4,” with its line, “Bang on the dashboard, just chipped a nail,” and “Do My Thang’s” line, “I’m a Southern belle crazier than hell.” Both are refreshingly irreverent parodies of the drama in country music songwriting.
There was clearly nothing to do but laugh when Cyrus pulled out all the wealth-obsessed, hip-hop culture stops with a gold-plated, low-riding SUV shooting dollar bills around the stage while the singer rode the hood with her legs spread wide.
Will the Bangerz tour be dismissed as a pop culture artifact in 20 years, or will it be seen as part of the arrival of an enduring artist? Cyrus has already shown some of the hallmarks of endurance. She’s adept at reinventing herself and bringing her core audience along for the ride. Few young artists have better connections within the pop music establishment. She worked with Pharrell Williams, the hottest pop producer of the moment, on her album — and then returned the favor on his. She was able to enlist 20-year veteran music video director Diane Martel as the tour’s creative director.
Also, Cyrus has carefully aligned herself with iconic figures Britney Spears (there was a Britney Spears mask carried on stage in opening number “SMS Bangerz”) and Madonna. And we know something about their staying power.