MILWAUKEE — The Wisconsin Senate passed a massive Brewers ballpark funding package on Tuesday that includes a ticket tax on non-Brewers events held at American Family Field.
The bills now go back to the Wisconsin Assembly, which would need to approve of the changes.
Lawmakers say the idea behind the ticket tax is to make people who actually use the stadium pay for some of the renovations while reducing the state’s contribution.
Some casual fans like Jessica Jines and Peter Marmaras wonder why the user fee wouldn’t apply to Brewers games.
“I don’t think that makes sense,” Jines said. “At the end of the day, the event is still in the same arena no matter what event it is.”
“Whether you’re a sports fan or an arts fan or both, games, events, they’re entertainment and I think they should be treated similarly,” Marmaras said.
Milwaukee Business Journal Editor Mark Kass says the reason is simple. The Brewers organization was adamantly against user fees for Brewers games because it would ultimately raise ticket prices.
“They have seats in the upper level that can range from $8 to $12 on a Wednesday night and they wanted to really allow those seats to be sold to anybody in the community of any income level and the fear was that would hurt their efforts,” he said.
Instead, the Senate amendment would add a $2 ticket tax on non-Brewers games such as concerts and events. The total funding package includes $25 million to winterize the ballpark, meaning many more concerts and events would be expected in the coming years.
The ticket tax would gradually increase. It would jump to $3 in a decade and then it would go up to $4 in 2042. The surcharges for luxury boxes and suits would be even more costly. They would start at $8 and gradually increase to $10 in 2042.
“I think the theory is on other events, a lot of the fans who come to the other events such as concerts are from out of state,” Kass said. “Upwards of almost half the fans who attend concerts at the stadium are from other states, so kind of why not spread this cost.”
Wisconsin’s Legislative Reference Bureau conducted a study on the potential revenue a similar ticket tax formula would generate. It said a conservative estimate would be around $550,000 per year.
Kass says these user fees are becoming far more common for publicly-funded professional sports stadiums and arenas to garner public support. He says look no further than Fiserv Forum which also has a $2 ticket tax for every event, including Bucks games.
“It was a key thing for the Bucks,” Kass said. “I don’t think that gets done without that fee and you really haven’t heard about it, have you? I mean, it’s been in place since it opened, nobody really talks about it.”