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Official Review by Matt Trebby, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The BMO Harris Bradley Center opened in 1988, and has since then been the home of the Milwaukee Bucks. It is by no means the newest or most modern arena, but it has taken strides forward in keeping up with other arenas around the NBA in the past few years.
In May of 2012, BMO Harris and the Bucks’ owner, Herb Kohl, announced a partnership which would see the bank have its title included in the name of the arena. There have been talks in Milwaukee about the need for a new, state-of-the-art arena in the city, but they’re doing all they can to rejuvenate the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Back in 2001, the Bucks were one of the NBA’s best teams with Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, and Glenn Robinson. At that point, things were great for the franchise. They were playing in front of a pretty full arena every night, and were 13th in the NBA in attendance with over 16,000 fans per game. In 2002, they averaged 18,178 fans, 12th in the league. Nowadays, though, people just don’t necessarily believe in the Bucks. To begin the 2012-2013 season they are 27th in attendance, averaging 13,960 per home game.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Obviously, in Milwaukee, beer is going to be very prevalent in any arena. Finding any Miller product at the BMO Harris Bradley Center is not going to be difficult. You can find Leinenkugel products, as well, outside section 205.
There are concession stands all around the arena, and also some specialty kiosks in the 200 level. If you're in the mood for Mexican food, good ol' barbecue, or just a burger or hot dog, you don't have to worry. The only problem is there is only one location for all the specialty kiosks (which include Cold Stone Creamery, Qdoba Mexican Grill, and local favorite Saz's BBQ), so depending on where you are seated, walking may be required.
That and the typical overpricing of food and beer are the only issues, as variety is something the arena has gotten more of in the past few years.
With only about 13,000 fans in an arena that holds 18,717 people, it might be tough to create a solid atmosphere. Those in attendance are always willing to get into the game. Milwaukee is a city that is known for creating great sports atmospheres, whether at Miller Park or the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The problem is the lack of people in attendance. Also, when the arena does get above 16,000 or 17,000 many of those fans are rooting for the opposing team. Chicago Bulls fans are notorious for invading the arena, and the usual Heat, Lakers, and Knicks fans find their way in as well. If the attendance was around 16,000 per night and was made up of all Bucks' fans, it could be much better.
What makes the Bucks game day atmosphere is their game presentation. During timeouts, fans' attention is always on the court because of some promotion or funny video involving Bango (the mascot). To get people to come, the game has to be an all-around fun experience. The Bucks are making it just that.
The arena is in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, and because of that it presents fantastic pre and post game opportunities to explore the city. Many sports bars are only a five or ten minute walk from the arena, including some of the cities hottest spots. Old World Third Street and Water Street are Milwaukee's headquarters for late night activity.
Most fans end up going out to a local establishment after a game, as many places run promotions in conjunction with each game with deals for a ticket stub for postgame celebration/commiseration.
While most fans in the lower level might not necessarily be there to watch basketball and tickets are given to programs for kids in the highest parts of the arena, everyone loves a winner.
When the home team is winning, the place gets going. While there may only be 13,000 people in attendance, at times it does feel like more. With a full arena, it is one of the best atmospheres in the country. But, the team has to give them a reason to do get going and to get loud.
It's rare there are any issues in the crowd. Anyone could wear the jersey of the opposing team and have no problems, unlike some places. The people are kind and welcoming, and also enjoy a nice adult beverage. The Bucks just wish there were more of them.
Bathrooms are very present throughout the arena, and rarely get full or have long lines (that may have to do with the lack of attendance).
Parking is fairly easy around the arena, with parking garages and structures all around which range from $10 to $20 for the game. Street parking is free after 6 PM most of the time, but those are taken by the time people arrive for the game. Parking isn't a hassle or a frustration, but it just might not be easy.
If you go to a Bucks game, it isn't to watch one of the league's best teams or to see the best basketball in the world. People go because tickets are cheap and the game (win or lose) is most of the time a fun experience.
Tickets can be found online at sites like Stubhub for not much money. I know people have gotten seats in the lower level for under $15 quite often.
Obviously, it depends on why you're going. If it's to root for the Bucks, then the game experience is likely to be fun because the game presentation is great. If you're going for a night out with friends, it may not be the best. Paying over $5 for every beer and almost $4 for a hot dog isn't ideal.
For basketball lovers, a Bucks game is great. They rarely get blown out and keep the game competitive.
The brand new video board is enormous and very impressive. It enhances the fan experience with HD videos during timeouts and also the best replays. If you can't see something, the best camera angles are also featured, so that sometimes it is better than trying to follow play live.
Otherwise, there really isn't much to the Bradley Center. It is a fun atmosphere, and there are a few bars or restaurants inside the arena itself, which other modern arenas have. If you go to a Bucks game, it's because you're a fan, got free tickets, or saw cheap ones online and thought 'Why not?'
There are few hardcore fans, but most know what they are talking about it if they're in attendance.
As a fan of basketball, I like the game experience at the Bradley Center. The game presentation is great, and the quality of play is usually quite good.
But, there has to be a reason for people to go. Not many want to go to Bucks games, and if they do buy tickets it is to support a winner. The BMO Harris Bradley Center isn't the newest arena, and it certainly isn't the best, but for fans of the game of basketball, it's well worth a trip to watch the Bucks play.
Member Review by paul on Apr 04, 2010
Amazingly, the Bradley Center is the fourth oldest arena in the NBA. Opened in 1988, it has the feel of an outdated venue, while still providing excellent sightlines from anywhere in the building. With $23M in renovations expected in the years to come hopefully they'll be able to give the Bradley Center some much needed attention, especially in the seating areas. For now, fans will find somewhat cramped seats, but an affordable opportunity to see some NBA action.
Member Review by fookayooka on Feb 06, 2012
I was just at the Bradley Center when they played the Bulls. I'm from Chicago, and I was surprised that about 75% of the fans at the game were Bulls fans. So I wouldn't be able to say I could judge the Bucks crowd very well, but the Bulls fans were awfully loud.
There didn’t appear to be too many vendors on the upper level, but I didn’t eat or drink anything while at the stadium. The upper level seats were pretty good seats. Some of the better upper level seats I’ve been in.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Mar 01, 2014
Fans are avoiding the last-place Bucks this season and rumours of a move are heating up. Too bad, as Bradley Center is a good place to watch a game, with tickets starting as low as $10. Food offerings are very good too, and Milwaukee is a fun town to visit. Hope the team can crush the draft and return to prominence.
Member Review by newsome321 on Jul 01, 2014
Fun place to see a game. Fans are really good when there is anything to cheer about and production of the game keeps the fan base involved. Great food options around the stadium both inside and out.
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