Milwaukee Brewers stadium tax sunsets this month

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With its debt paid off early and state legislation in place, the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District board took the final steps to end the 0.1% sales tax imposed on five counties created more than two decades ago to fund a new ballpark for Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers.

The board voted Tuesday to cancel the tax that is collected on sales in the counties — Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington and Racine. It followed a state vote last year laying the ground work to end the tax and then state approval to rescind it.

A recent study commissioned by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce concluded the stadium has generated $2.5 billion of economic activity in the area over the last two decades. The stadium opened in 2001.

The tax repaid new-money bonds for $147 million sold in 1996, $13 million sold in 1997, and $42 million sold in 1999 to finance construction, and $45 million of certificates of participation for equipment purchases were sold in 1997. Several refunding issues have taken place over the years.

The stadium hosts Brewers’ home games as well as various concerts and other entertainment events. The stadium features a retractable roof. The final maturity was 2029. The team’s lease runs until 2030 with extensions possible through 2040.

The district had forecast retiring the tax several years ago but the 2008 financial crisis and recession set back collections. More than $600 million has been collected and in addition to retiring the debt the district has set aside sufficient dollars in a stabilization fund to meet contractual obligations.

The final bonds were defeased last year. Moody’s Investors Service in 2018 upgraded its rating to Aa3 from A2 noting the “large and diversified economy” that supported the tax, growing collections since 2012, and the lockbox on collections that are sent directly to the bond trustee.

The district was established to manage the project and operate the stadium. The team, city and Milwaukee County also contributed to the stadium’s price tag and to fund infrastructure improvements.

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