Potawatomi Hotel & Casino will sponsor the Milwaukee streetcar, now to be called “The Hop," as part of a $10 million, 12-year deal.
Mayor Tom Barrett said as part of the deal, Potawatomi will pay for free rides on the streetcar for its first year of operation.
Construction on the first phase is ongoing, and the streetcar is scheduled to begin running in late 2018. The first phase is a nearly 4-mile loop from the Milwaukee Intermodal Station through downtown to Ogden Avenue.
Potawatomi will pay $10 million to cover operating costs of the streetcar for the first three years.
"It will fund all the local share for operations that was previously anticipated to be covered by the parking fund. So, for the 2018 budget, there will be exactly zero money going to the streetcar for operations," said Alderman Bob Bauman.
But some residents worry about what happens after the first three years. According to the mayor they anticipate the operating costs will go up, but they hope to get more sponsors by then.
According to the mayor, the streetcar will make Milwaukee more competitive for landing businesses and jobs.
"The largest communities in the country that don't have a fixed transit system are Wichita, Kansas and Fresno, California. We see our competition as Atlanta as Pittsburg as Minneapolis. Those are the cities we are competing with for talent," Barrett said.
Though residents appreciate the idea of economic development, free rides for the first year on The Hop makes them even happier.
"I think that's fantastic," Robert Jones said.