POSTED: Dec 16, 2013 2:28 PM ET
UPDATED: Dec 16, 2013 7:07 PM ET
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Bucks owner Herb Kohl wants to add to the team's ownership group in hopes of building a new arena that he said would cement the team's long-term future in Milwaukee.
Kohl said Monday he hired a firm to help in the search for new partners, and that any new partners who are added will have to be equally committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee.
"I like to believe that bringing in new ownership ... if it's done in the right way, will reinvigorate the franchise and make our future in Milwaukee stronger and more secure," he said.
Keeping the team in Wisconsin's largest city would require a new arena to replace the 25-year-old BMO Harris Bradley Center, also home to Marquette basketball and the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL, he said.
"Without new investors and without a new facility, would we at some point lose the Bucks? Yes," he said.
Kohl, who recently retired after four terms as a U.S. senator, bought the Bucks in 1985. The team is frequently mentioned as a candidate for a move because of the age of its arena, but Commissioner David Stern said Kohl's decision shows he is dedicated to preventing that.
"With this announcement, Sen. Kohl continues his mission: to assure continuity of Bucks ownership by broadening its ownership base, and assuring that the fans of Wisconsin will enjoy NBA basketball and other events in a new state-of-the-art facility," Stern said.
Kohl and Stern both said Kohl bought the team with the goal of keeping it in Milwaukee, and that remains a priority now.
Kohl said he hadn't identified possible partners yet, and that the process was only in its infancy. When asked whether he'd consider taking on a partner who demanded a majority stake, Kohl said it was too early to commit to specifics.
Kohl, 78, said he's in good health, but he knew he needed to plan for the organization's long-term future.
He also said he was willing to contribute some of his own wealth toward the cost of a new stadium, and he hoped to secure private funding as well.
If that happens, the team would have a firm private-sector commitment that could provide a convincing case for the public to finance the rest, he said.
Kohl noted that Miller Park, where the Milwaukee Brewers play, is a fine facility but one that serves as little more than a baseball-only venue. And Lambeau Field, home to the Green Bay Packers, is also a one-use facility.
But the BMO Harris Bradley Center hosts 200 events per year, including concerts and family events, so a new stadium would benefit the entire community, not only the Bucks, he said.
Reporters asked whether potential partners would even want to invest in a team that couldn't consider a new area outside of Milwaukee, or in a team that's struggled to be competitive in recent seasons.
Kohl replied that his team is profitable and its value has risen along with the values of every other NBA team. He declined to say exactly how much his team is worth.
At 5-19, the Bucks are the worst team in the NBA. But Kohl said they're a part of the community - a part of his community - and he wouldn't let them leave, even though he knew the franchise could be worth far more in a larger city.
"It would be a big loss for this community if we lost our NBA franchise," he said. "That would be a huge step backward, for not only Milwaukee but the surrounding communities.
"I don't want to see that happen. And so this asset is not for sale outside of Milwaukee."
Full David Stern's statement: "Senator Kohl bought the Bucks in 1985 in order to ensure the team would remain in Milwaukee. During his extraordinary stewardship his goal remained the same -- to bring the fans of Wisconsin high-quality basketball from a team they would be proud to call their 'home' team. With this announcement, Senator Kohl continues his mission: to assure continuity of ownership by broadening its ownership base, and assuring that the fans of Wisconsin will enjoy NBA basketball and other events in a new state-of-the-art facility."