Much has been made of a September 2013 statement made by current NBA commissioner Adam Silver about the inappropriateness of the BMO Harris Bradley Center for NBA basketball. The Bradley Center is the home of the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA, but is also home to the Marquette Golden Eagles of the revamped Big East Conference in the NCAA.
Opened in 1988, the Bradley Center was built without public money with a $70 million gift from Jane Bradley Pettit in honour of her father Harry. The Bradley Center has been home to various other minor sports in addition to the Bucks including indoor soccer and a few incarnations of the Milwaukee Mustangs of the Arena Football League.
It is also currently the home of the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. Marquette has called the Bradley Center home since its opening, and is one of a handful of NCAA programs that make their basketball home off-campus. The court at Marquette was renamed the Al McGuire Court after the legendary Marquette coach who coached his final game in the 1977 title game, which gave Marquette their only National Championship.
Marquette was one of the "Catholic 7" that left the old Big East Conference to go to the new Big East Conference, taking their name with them. The new/old conference left the football dominated conferences and schools and have returned a big conference to the NCAA where basketball is king. It seems that NCAA basketball is also king at the Bradley Center. The Golden Eagles provide the premier experience of the building and seem to be what is really happening in Milwaukee. Regardless of what Adam Silver says, BMO Harris Bradley Center is a great experience for basketball ... College basketball!
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In many cases it is a disadvantage to share a building with major pro franchises. The one major advantage that Marquette enjoys is in the food department. The Bradley Center features a huge selection of stadium fare. All of the expected items are here at admittedly NBA prices (popcorn $5.50, hot dogs $4.75, pizza $6, soda $5.75).
In addition to the regular items at the regular concession stands, Wisconsin staples like pretzels and brats are also available. The concourses are also littered with specialty stands, including, Qdoba Mexican; Dippin Dots; Cold Stone Creamery; Wisconsin Cheesesteak; Gluten Free; The Carvery; and Extreme Loaded Dogs.
In most NCAA venues, the sale of alcohol is not permitted. The Bradley Center goes well beyond alcohol sales to offering a beer selection that rivals any venue. They offer the staple Miller High Life and Miller Lite, along with Coors Light as their main domestic brands, but also offer a full line of Leinenkugels brews in various locations. In the concourse, The Tap House offers a selection of suds that will boggle the mind.
Much has been made about the Bradley Center being inadequate for NBA basketball, but the Bradley Center and Marquette basketball seem to fit together like a hand in a custom made glove.
The Bradley Center is more of an octagon rather than the more rounded, ovular design that is the base for many venues. The glass atrium that serves as the main entrance on 4th Street gives the appearance of a more modern building. Upon entering, you are immediately directed upstairs and discover that inside the atrium there is nothing all that special. The game day staff and ushers are extremely friendly and helpful in sending you in the right direction.
The Bradley Center does show her age upon entering the concourses. There is a lot of exposed concrete and many sets of stairs that seem to be staples of 1980s and 90s vintage buildings. The concourses do feature numerous spots to sit and enjoy your pregame food or drink.
Entering the arena bowl immediately makes you take notice of the octagonal shape that seems to work really well in the basketball configuration. Sightlines are good for basketball in almost all spots. The scoreboard above the center court is large and clear and features a solid offering of in-game info. There are also smaller video boards on the north and south ends of the arena at the top.
Although the Bradley Center is shared with the Milwaukee Bucks, and they clearly are the main tenant, Marquette is well represented with markings and banners. The north end features Marquette banners. The northwest side features banners for NCAA tourney appearances and conference championships including the final championship from the old Big East in 2013. The northeast side features banners for honored players, including Don Kojis, George Thompson, Bo Ellis, Butch Lee, Earl Tatum, Dean Meminger, Maurice Lucas, Doc Rivers, and Dwyane Wade. Finally, the 1977 National Champions banner is prominently featured in the northeast corner.
The game day presentation is typical for college as it is more simplified with fewer ads and promotions than the pros. The Marquette band is a highlight as they play during the breaks in the action and really give the production that college feeling. There is a peppering of the typical stadium anthems throughout the stoppages as well.
Being in downtown Milwaukee offers some decent spots for pre and post game meals. It may not be as dynamic and over the top as nearby Chicago, but Milwaukee has more of a local flavor to it and the Bavarian heritage of the area can be felt downtown.
The BMO Harris Bradley Center is right downtown and right across the street from a couple of great spots, including the Old German Beer Hall, the Milwaukee Brat House and Mader's. You will not go wrong looking for food. Across State Street is U.S. Cellular Arena (formerly The MECCA) which is home to the Milwaukee Panthers and Milwaukee Wave. The Wisconsin Center and Milwaukee Theatre are also nearby for some alternate culture.
Marquette basketball may not be the main tenant at the Bradley Center, but it is definitely the biggest draw. Marquette, which has a student enrollment of only around 8,000, typically averages between 15,000 and 18,000 fans per game. They have been in the top 10 in the NCAA for attendance, which is a major feat for a small school in a market that is not huge. The fans may show up late, but they are into the game. The PA announcer announces the student section as "the greatest student section" and the northwest corner is their home. The section sprawls to the less rambunctious upper deck, and the students give energy and excitement to the crowd.
Getting to the Bradley Center is not terribly difficult. Located northeast of the meeting points of I-794, I-43 and I-94, maneuvering through downtown to get to the game is easy. There is fairly ample parking around the arena, although it is a bit on the pricey side, usually between $20 and $30. You may want to try to find some street parking.
Inside the Bradley Center, the concourses are not overly huge and the washrooms are definitely tight. The numerous staircases would pose a problem for those travelling with folks who need more elevators or escalators, which are present, but not prevalent.
College basketball provides a supreme environment for the sporting dollar. Tickets can be found for between $16 and $42, even for conference rival games. The only downfall that you will find on your investment will be the higher than normal concession prices and parking. However, balance that with a good facility and supreme concession selection, and the final answer is that Marquette is a pretty good deal.
An extra mark for National Marquette Day, which seems to be the equivalent of Homecoming. The date of this review was the annual day of festivities which also features Marquette viewing parties all over the globe. Plastic cups and towels were given for free upon entry.
An extra mark for the honoring of Father Kelly, who worked at Marquette for years and was recognized on his 90th birthday.
An extra mark for a small school (8,000 students) with a big-time following.
An extra mark for head coach Buzz Williams, who is a bit of a celebrity with his gold blazer and humorous features in pregame videos.
The new Big East is a comfy spot for the Marquette Golden Eagles. A small school, with no football is in the perfect Basketball-centric conference. Despite what Adam Silver may think of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, it seems to work just fine, thank you very much, and the Marquette faithful intend to keep it that way.
Follow all of Dave's sports travels on twitter @profan9.
Milwaukee is one of the great sports towns in the United States. There's almost always a game in town, especially in the winter when you can choose to see the Marquette Golden Eagles, Milwaukee Bucks, or Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) at the Bradley Center, or the UW-Milwaukee Panthers, Milwaukee Iron (AFL), or Milwaukee Wave (MISL) at U.S. Cellular Arena. All that, plus an outstanding MLB stadium in Miller Park, and a complete devotion to the Green Bay Packers.
Of all of those winter options, the Marquette basketball experience is definitely the best. When the students begin to cheer, "We are (clap, clap) Mar-Quette (clap, clap)" at the end of a close game, you'll feel the experience at its best.
The BMO Harris Bradley Center became the home of the Marquette Golden Eagles in 1988 when they moved from what is now known as the US Cellular Arena. It is the 15th largest arena in the country that hosts college basketball on a regular basis with a capacity of 18,850.
For Marquette games, the Bradley Center usually draws at least 15,000 and it is consistently close to a sellout for important Big East games and also when in-state rivals Wisconsin visit. The record attendance for a Marquette game there is 19,085, which was set in 2008 for Senior Day against Georgetown.
Also home to the Milwaukee Bucks and Admirals, the Harris Bradley Center sees its largest consistent crowds for sporting events when the Golden Eagles are on the court. While the Bucks draw an average of just less than 14,000 per game and the Admirals get a crowd of about half of that, Marquette easily has the most passionate following.
When the arena is full for a big game, the Bradley Center’s volume is among the loudest in the country. It may have been built as an NBA arena, but it has become a nice college home for the Golden Eagles.
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