Wisconsin Governor signs off on Brewers stadium bills

Featured image credit: American Family Field

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has signed two bills to keep the Milwaukee Brewers Major League Baseball team in the state until 2050, with American Family Field set to undergo major renovation work as a result.

Evers announced last month that he planned to sign into law a funding deal aimed at keeping the Brewers in Wisconsin through an extended lease contract and improvements for American Family Field.

The Brewers’ lease deal at American Family Field, which is majority owned by the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, had been due to run until 2030. Without an investment from the state, the District does not have the resources to meet existing contractual and legal obligations to maintain and update American Family Field.

To avoid the threat of the Brewers leaving Milwaukee following the 2030 season, Evers in February announced an initial proposal as part of his 2023-25 biennial budget proposal. Two bills have now been passed: Assembly Bill 438 (now 2023 Wisconsin Act 40), and Assembly Bill 439 (now Wisconsin Act 41).

The bills will provide $500.8m (£398m/€464m) in public funding over the terms of the extended lease, including $365.8m in state funds and $67.5m in local contributions from both Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee. These contributions would go into a newly created stadium improvement fund established by the District.

The first bill specifies that before any state funding is awarded, the District and the team must have signed a non-relocation agreement and a lease agreement that expires no earlier than December 31, 2050 and requires the team to make $3.36m in annual contributions running from 2024 until 2045.

Contributions would increase to $5.36m from 2046 until 2050. The Brewers would also be required to contribute a further $50m for stadium renovations and maintenance over the term of the lease, of which $25m must be assigned by January 1, 2037.

Starting in 2024, Milwaukee County will be required to contribute $2.5m annually into the stadium improvement fund until 2050, or until aggregate contributions reach $67.5m. A ticket surcharge will also be placed on non-baseball events held at the stadium.

The second bill establishes the appropriations needed to enact the state and local funding plan for improvements to American Family Field as primarily enabled by the first bill.

The Brewers have previously claimed that as American Family Field’s sole tenant, the team represents the only reason for the facility’s existence. Located in the smallest market as defined by MLB, the Brewers have said they require a premier ballpark to drive ticket sales and continue to field competitive teams, adding that this makes maintenance of the stadium “all the more critical”.