Monday, August 12, 2019

Wisconsin Herd: We're ready to operate Menominee arena as builder seeks control of southside facility

Photo by Miles Maguire

The Wisconsin Herd, the Milwaukee Bucks' minor league affiliate, warms up at the Menominee Nation Arena.

By Miles Maguire
The Wisconsin Herd said it is ready to operate the Menominee Nation Arena in the wake of two lawsuits filed last week against the facility's developer, which has been described as essentially bankrupt.

"We remain committed today, and in the foreseeable future, to working with Bayland Buildings to operate Menominee Nation Arena and will continue to make it the best venue in the G League,” said Wisconsin Herd President Steve Brandes in an email statement. 

Bayland is the Green Bay company that served as general contractor on the project and that last week sued the developer, Fox Valley Pro Basketball Inc., for an unpaid bill of more than $13 million.

In its filing Bayland asked the court to appoint Paul Swanson, an Oshkosh attorney who is highly regarded for his work on restructurings and bankruptcies, to serve as receiver and take control of the arena.

"We care deeply about the city of Oshkosh, the entire Fox Valley and our incredibly supportive Herd fans, and are excited to build on the roots we established in this area as operator of the Menominee Nation Arena," Brandes added. "We are proud to be part of the community, excited for the upcoming season and dedicated to continuing the success of G League basketball in Oshkosh."

"I am encouraged that the Herd remain committed to staying in Oshkosh and appreciate their willingness to work with Bayland and whoever ultimately assumes ownership responsibilities for the arena," said City Manager Mark Rohloff.

A hearing has been scheduled Sept. 6 before Judge John A. Jorgensen in the Bayland case.

Swanson declined comment until after the receivership request is decided.

In addition to the Bayland action, a second lawsuit was filed by local businessman Eric Hoopman, who says the developer is $100,000 behind in its payments to him. He argued that Fox Valley should be forced to settle this debt and return $1 million in principal. Hoopman lent Fox Valley this amount at a rate of 18 percent in January 2018, court papers show.

The city has agreed to pay up to $5.5 million in tax incentives to the developer. But none of this money has been paid out yet. The developer is not eligible for the first installment of these payments until Nov. 1 and would have to settle outstanding bills from the city first.

“All property taxes were paid for the property, however the city does have outstanding bills for police and fire services ($12,658.64), utilities ($4,419.87) and other general invoices ($172.71),” City Attorney Lynn Lorenson wrote in a memo to the Common Council last week. “The city expects these outstanding costs to be paid.”

Bayland’s lawsuit paints a bleak picture of the situation at 1212 S. Main St., where the new arena has replaced a derelict factory and has been seen as the catalyst for the revitalization of the surrounding area, now called the Sawdust District. The facility has drawn thousands to minor league basketball games, concerts and other events since its opening in late 2017.

But the developer owes Bayland $13 million and is in default “of the development agreement with the city of Oshkosh, its obligations to the Milwaukee Bucks LLC and its obligations to other creditors,” the Bayland lawsuit says. 

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