Our greatest fears are being realized: The Milwaukee Bucks could be ripped from Wisconsin.
Bucks owner Herb Kohl addressed speculation that he intended to sell his team by announcing plans to create an ownership group committed to keeping the organization in Milwaukee, according to The Business Journal's Rich Kirchen.
"The process will start this week and will take as long as it needs to take," Kohl said. "We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that anyone that joins the ownership is as committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee as I am."
Visions of Seattle fans plotting a hostile takeover should now be dancing through your heads.
This is the danger small- and mid-markets face. They aren't blessed with big-city appeal. Stars won't flock to their franchise and superteams cannot simply be bought. Other means of revenue—like state-of-the-art arenas—must be tapped for them to remain afloat.
Pro Basketball Talk's Aaron Bruski had this to say on Milwaukee's situation:
For small and mid-markets, having a state-of-the-art arena to maximize revenues is a requirement and any city that isn’t willing to make that type of commitment to the NBA will be threatened by 5-10 other cities that are dying to get into the game. It’s simple supply and demand.
First and foremost he needs to deliver on an arena, and having more investors will help that along in many ways. But just as important to Milwaukee will be the overall value proposition this ownership group will have to the NBA, whether Kohl wants to continue as owner of the Bucks or not. That’s because if there ever comes a time when their arena plans are in doubt, it will be this group that gets measured against Seattle and any other city that wants to get into the game.
Kohl has no intention of moving the team or partaking in the dangerous game Sacramento Kings fans braved recently. He's made it perfectly clear he wants to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee.
That starts with a new arena and with broadening the influence his middling Bucks hold. That can be difficult. We saw how difficult it was for the Kings to remain in Sacramento. Similar obstacles, most notably financial ones, will stand in Milwaukee's way.
But Kohl remains confident this can all work out. He even called this process a good thing.
"It could have been a year ago or even a year from now," he said, via Kirchen. "This time just seems to make sense. I am not going anywhere. This is a good thing for the franchise and for myself."
If he succeeds in finding a willing group of financial backers and a new arena, then yes, it is good thing.
That, however, is a massive "if."
Kohl's optimism suggests finding potential investors won't be impossible, though. Per Kirchen, current Bucks player and Wisconsin native Caron Butler recently said he would like to become part of a potential ownership group.
While it appears Kohl is confident and has options, he is on a deadline. The NBA has given him until 2017 to give Milwaukee an arena that meets the league standards.
That doesn't give Kohl and the Bucks much time.
For now, Kohl has the support of commissioner David Stern, who, Bruski notes, is against NBA teams switching locations because it hurts the league's brand.
"With this announcement, Senator Kohl continues his mission: to assure continuity of ownership by broadening its ownership base, and assuring that the fans of Wisconsin will enjoy NBA basketball and other events in a new state-of-the-art facility,” Stern said, according to the Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus.
But his and commissioner-in-waiting Adam Silver's support is conditional. The Bucks' future in Milwaukee is conditional.
They need a new arena, and Kohl must find investors able to make that happen. Otherwise, this story won't have the happy ending Sacramento's did.