Wisconsin governor OKs $500M plan to upgrade Brewers stadium

MILWAUKEE -- After months of backroom wrangling, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill Tuesday that spends half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the next three decades to help the Milwaukee Brewers repair their baseball stadium.

The governor signed the bipartisan package at American Family Field, calling the legislation a compromise agreement between the team and the public.

"All in all, this plan ensures the Milwaukee Brewers will continue to call this city home for nearly 30 more years," Evers said before signing the legislation on a stage set up at home plate.

The Brewers say the 22-year-old stadium needs extensive renovation. The stadium's glass outfield doors, seats and concourses need replacing; the stadium's luxury suites and video scoreboard need upgrades; and the stadium's signature retractable roof, fire suppression systems, parking lots, elevators and escalators need work, according to the team.

Brewers officials warned lawmakers the team might leave Milwaukee without public assistance. Spurred by the threat of losing tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, legislators began working on a subsidy package in September.

Debates over handing public dollars to professional sports teams are always divisive. The Brewers' principal owner, Mark Attanasio, is worth an estimated $700 million, according to Yahoo Finance, and the team itself is valued at around $1.6 billion, according to Forbes.

Critics, including a number of Milwaukee-area legislators, insisted the Brewers deserved nothing and the state should spend its tax dollars on programs designed to help people.

The package went through multiple revisions as lawmakers worked to find ways to reduce the public subsidy. The bill Evers finally signed calls for a state contribution of $365.8 million doled out in annual payments through 2050. The city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County will contribute a combined $135 million.

The legislation also imposes surcharges on tickets to non-baseball events at the stadium such as rock concerts or monster truck rallies. The surcharges are expected to generate $20.7 million.

The Brewers, for their part, will spend $110 million and extend their lease at the stadium through 2050, keeping Major League Baseball in its smallest market for another 27 years.

The bill easily passed the Legislature last month, with the Assembly approving it on a 72-26 vote and the Senate following suit 19-14.