Manfred: American Family Field funding ‘needs to be done in timely manner’

The major news coming out of Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s trip to Milwaukee was that a vote on the proposed move of the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas could happen next month. At the same time, though, many of the questions Manfred faced from local reporters were about the future of the Brewers and the fight over funding for stadium maintenance at American Family Field.

Earlier this year, Governor Tony Evers submitted a budget proposal that included nearly $290 million for the 22-year-old ballpark. The money would come from a budget surplus of roughly $7 billion, but Republicans in the Legislature balked at the proposal. They have yet to officially offer a different alternative, but the Associated Press reported that they want a longer commitment from the team, whose lease at the stadium runs through 2030, in addition to relying on money outside of a one-time budget surplus for future needs.

“The choices that are made between the various ways that public funds can be spent are choices that legislators have to make,” Manfred said. “What I can say is that this ballpark is an asset. The Brewers are interested in a long-term relationship, an extension of the lease that keeps them here.”

The standoff has prompted some fans to worry what happens if a deal can not be reached. The Oakland situation is fresh in everyone’s mind, as that city is set to lose its baseball team just a few years after losing its football team. It also watched as the Golden State Warriors moved from Oracle Arena in Oakland to the Chase Center across the bay in San Francisco. At issue for the A’s is a stadium, the Oakland Coliseum, that has housed the club since 1968. The team tried to build a new venue but plans stalled and led to the organization looking into relocation.

“Oakland, unfortunately, it’s a facility that was never as good as this one when it started,” Manfred said inside American Family Field. “They made some unfortunate decisions not to maintain the ballpark in the way that it needed to be maintained. It resulted in a decline in the attendance, which had an impact on the quality of product the team could afford to put on the field.”

That has not been the case in Milwaukee, where the team ranked 9th in total attendance from 2010-2019 and has gone to the playoffs six times, including four times since 2018.

“This is a gem of a ballpark,” Manfred said. “It’s really important that the existing obligation under the lease be funded so that this great ballpark is maintained on a regular basis. It needs to be done in a timely way.”