Published on JSOnline by Don Walker

We haven't even played a regular-season Milwaukee Bucks game this season, but there is a lot of news coming out of the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

And the National Basketball Association has noticed.

On Thursday, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the BMO Harris Bradley Center announced that the naming rights to the arena's four major entrances had been sold. The four companies are Miller Lite; Kohl's Department Stores; Northwestern Mutual; and Potawatomi Bingo and Casino.

That comes on top of $18 million worth of sponsorship commitments from a host of major companies in the region.

At the same time, BMO Harris Bradley Center officials secured a $5 million grant from the state for ongoing maintenance and upkeep for the building, first opened in 1988.

Finally, any day now, the Bucks and the BMO Harris Bradley Center are expected to announce that the two sides have reached agreement on what is believed to be a six-year lease.

So in just a few short months, arena officials have produced new revenue, gotten financial support from the state and achieved stability in the form of a six-year lease with its most important tenant.

I sought out NBA Commissioner David Stern for comment on the developments. I asked whether the actions, particularly efforts on a long-term lease, gave the commissioner an assurance that Milwaukee was serious about keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee now and into the future.

The short answer I got via a spokesman was yes.

The NBA knows full well there are cities across the country that would love to have an NBA franchise. Seattle, which lost the Sonics, is planning to build a new arena with the expectation that they will land an NBA franchise. Las Vegas is always in the conversation, too.

With that in mind, Stern pays attention to what some of the smaller franchises are doing to stay successful. Milwaukee is still a vulnerable franchise, no matter what U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), the team's owner, says about his desire to keep the team in Milwaukee.

The next big step, of course, is to determine whether a new arena is warranted. There are prominent business people in the city who want a new arena. Some of them think the community needs to come up with a financing and construction plan within the next year.

Kohl, who has promised to make a personal financial commitment toward a new arena, has not said much in recent months. It's likely he is waiting to retire from public service and then he can devote his full energies to sit down with civic leaders and figure out how to build a new arena.

But for now, the NBA appears to like what Milwaukee's business community and the BMO Harris Bradley are doing.
October 24, 2012