Brewers Stadium Deal Sign On Letter

Citizen Action of Wisconsin
4716 West Vliet Street
Milwaukee, WI 53208

October 19, 2023

Governor Tony Evers
115 East State Street
Madison, WI 53707

Wisconsin State Senate
P.O. Box 7882
Madison WI 53707

Dear Governor Evers, and Members of the State Senate:

A massive and one-sided public subsidy to the Milwaukee Brewers, a highly profitable enterprise, is moving through the Legislative process at breakneck speed with little genuine public input.  We, the undersigned organizations, urge the State Legislature to slow down the process to negotiate a fair deal for the people of Wisconsin. 

We are deeply concerned that Major League Baseball, a legalized monopoly of hundred-millionaire and billionaire owners, is using a full-court lobbying press to force a bad decision by creating a false sense of urgency among state lawmakers. There is plenty of time to slow down the process, receive full public input, and make full use of the State of Wisconsin’s leverage to negotiate the best possible deal. 

The undersigned believe that scarce public dollars, especially when so many critical needs are underfunded, should only be granted to private enterprises when there is substantial and proportionate public benefit in return. Responsible state and local governments provide economic development grants to private actors when there are sufficient, tangible, and verifiable public benefits in return for the investment, such as additional family supporting construction jobs and permanent end use jobs that result from the project. The current stadium subsidy plan fails to meet this standard.

Top officials from Major League Baseball and the Milwaukee Brewers are falsely claiming that this massive public subsidy is economically beneficial to Wisconsin and Milwaukee. In fact, there is overwhelming research to the contrary. A peer reviewed academic analysis of 130 studies over 30 years of public subsidies for sports stadiums found: “little to no tangible impacts of sports teams and facilities on local economic activity, and the level of venue subsidies typically provided far exceeds any observed economic benefits. In total, the deep agreement in research findings demonstrates that sports venues are not an appropriate channel for local economic development policy.”

The only way to legitimately justify a more than half billion dollar public subsidy for the maintenance and improvement of a sports stadium would be specific and enforceable agreement as part of the legislation that commits the Brewers to providing tangible community benefits. These benefits could include improved compensation for stadium workers, project labor agreements, ancillary economic development in the area of the stadium, allowing the stadium district to capture the proceeds of other events hosted by the stadium it owns, and direct benefits for low income people of color communities who cannot afford to attend games. 

Some of the undersigned organizations believe that given the immense value of the asset, a public equity share in the team is justified in return for such a large public investment, a small step towards the highly successful Green Bay Packers model.

Given the immense needs in Milwaukee, a large New American Majority city with among the worst racial disparities in the country, it is especially troubling that the proposed subsidy asks financially strapped local governments to pay a substantial portion. This is being rationalized on the false premise that Milwaukee benefits from the deal. On the contrary, the academic review of 130 independent studies of public subsidies for sports stadiums concludes that “no evidence supporting broad metropolitan-level effects exists.”  

The Brewers and Major League Baseball argue that Wisconsin must fork over hundreds of millions in scarce public dollars because Milwaukee is the smallest metro area with a team. This claim is misleading and cynically exploits an inferiority complex among some Wisconsin elected officials. The Brewers are a uniquely statewide team with a fan base so loyal that attendance is among the top ten of all major league teams. As a result, the value of the team is not the lowest in Major League Baseball, it is in the middle of the pack. Major League Baseball has much to lose if it leaves Wisconsin. The state elected officials trying to rush through this plan have substantial negotiating leverage they are leaving on the table, surrendering the public interest to a wealthy private interest.

It goes without saying that the Brewers and Major League Baseball don’t need the money. The franchise was purchased for $230 million, and is now worth $1.6 billion, on average a 12% annual increase in value. The value of the team increases by an average of $192 million per year, more than enough to easily afford (or privately finance) maintaining and improving the stadium. 

Given the drastic underfunding of core public services such as public education, child care, mass transit, mental health treatment, and crime prevention it is shocking to see many state elected officials give a massive public subsidy to a hundred-millionaire without appropriate public return for the investment. In the midst of a serious crisis in affordable housing this proposal in-effect provides subsidized public housing to a profitable sports franchise and not to people most in need.

No immediate crisis exists, as the current Brewers lease with the stadium district runs 6 more years, and there is no other city offering a sweetheart deal. The alternative location for the team that is being held over Wisconsin, Nashville, is on a 5 year trajectory, and has no stadium subsidy in place. It is being used by Major League Baseball as a cudgel in an attempt to force stadium subsidies in multiple cities, including Chicago. Not all of these teams can move to Nashville. If our elected officials have the courage to lead, there is plenty of time to slow the deal down and negotiate a proposal in the broad public interest.


Citizen Action of Wisconsin

Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC)

Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA)

Voces de la Frontera/Voces de la Frontera Action

Kids Forward


[More co-signers pending]

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