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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Issue of the Week: Make Kids the Priority

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We’re in the midst of much hand wringing over the future of the Bradley Center, which the Milwaukee Bucks call home. Some civic leaders want the taxpayers to underwrite at least part of the center’s upgrades, even though the return on investment typically doesn’t live up to what taxpayers are promised. According to a nonpartisan city Legislative Reference Bureau report released earlier this year, the benefits of sports complexes are typically oversold and rarely accrue to the residents that are footing the bill. Why? The athletes and executives reside in affluent suburbs, not in the team’s host community, while workers at the sports complex earn low wages in part-time jobs and can’t afford the price of a ticket, not to mention a private box.

That’s why we welcome “Fair Play,” the new campaign launched by Common Ground, which is urging civic leaders to show the same type of investment and concern about school playgrounds and athletic facilities. Kids who participate in sports or other outdoor activities are creating a brighter future. They learn the importance of teamwork, skill and discipline while improving their health and wellbeing.

This spring, Common Ground volunteers inspected 268 athletic/recreational spaces at public schools throughout Milwaukee County and found that a whopping 65% of them were rated terrible, poor or fair. These substandard and barely standard facilities were found not only in Milwaukee, but in the Brown Deer, Cudahy, Greendale, Greenfield, Nicolet, Oak Creek-Franklin, St. Francis, South Milwaukee, Wauwatosa and West Allis-West Milwaukee school districts as well. Common Ground estimated that it would take a $143 to $218 million investment to upgrade these failing facilities.

We agree with Common Ground that investing in kids is just as important as investing in professional athletes—more important, in fact, because kids are counting on us to do the right thing. If public money is used to upgrade the Bradley Center, some of that should be directed toward the school playgrounds and athletic facilities that serve our students.