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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
As a rule, attending a live sporting event in the city of Milwaukee is a surefire way to get some good food, and experience wonderful fans around you. As I planned my trip to the Bradley Center to see the Milwaukee Mustangs of the Arena Football League, I knew what the building would provide, but I wasn't sure if the fans of this sport could live up to the high expectations I have come to expect from Wisconsin's largest city.
The Milwaukee Mustangs have occupied the Bradley Center during the Arena Football League's spring/summer schedule only since 2009, when they were known as the Milwaukee Iron. It was clear to me fairly quickly that the Mustang experience would come nowhere close to the electricity experienced during a Marquette basketball game, Milwaukee Bucks game, or even a Milwaukee Admirals game (the arena's other tenants).
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".
When in doubt in the city of Milwaukee, choose a sausage. I'm not sure if that's a well-known saying, but it should be. You can grab a hot dog, Polish sausage, or bratwurst ($4.50) and will be happy regardless of the choice. If you really want to harness your inner-carnivore, then try the Bradley Burger, a cheeseburger topped with a split brat ($8).
Another unique choice is the Milwaukee fish fry ($8.50), and you also can't go wrong here with a pretzel ($3.50).
Local beers like Miller or Leinenkugel would be apt choices ($5.50 for a small and $7 for a large), but you can also go for a Blue Moon, Guinness, Smithwick's, or Harp. The Bradley Center utilizes Pepsi as the soda provider with a small or large size available to you ($3.50 & $5 respectively).
I attended a rare weeknight Arena League game, and the attendance was just over 3,000. In a large arena like the Bradley Center that number feels a lot lighter. What amazed me most about the size of the crowd was the aggressiveness of the ushers when it came to seating, and checking tickets. With so many open seats, you would think they would be more lax, but really this was just a minor annoyance.
The overall atmosphere had sort of a heavy metal feel, with loud guitar-focused riffs blaring over the speakers at every possible break in the action. It's easy to see the logic between the rock and roll music and the fast pace of the Arena League game, but in practice it felt almost comical against the backdrop of flat fans and an empty building.
Overall though, Arena Football is a very enjoyable spectator sport. Fans get to keep balls that come into the stands, and the action is constant. Players substitute in a manner more similar to a hockey game, with players sliding over the wall, or entering through a gate. If you love your football, and need a summer fix, then the Mustangs may be well worth a visit.
I really love the options in downtown Milwaukee, specifically the row of bars and restaurants along Old World 3rd Street. For an upscale dining experience, which remains true to the German heritage of Milwaukee, I highly recommend Mader's. Their food is flawlessly executed and the historic surroundings leave plenty to keep your eyes occupied as well.
My stand by continues to be the Old German Beer Hall. They only serve German beers, and have a very simple, yet tasty menu. Most importantly though, every time I've been there, I am surrounded by happy patrons and staff who genuinely seem to enjoy working there.
On this particular visit, I spent some time at the Milwaukee Brat House. They serve delicious beers from the nearby Lakefront Brewery. Additionally, they have a great selection of (you guessed it) brats. They also have a nice selection of sausages and other sandwiches, but when "brat" is in the name of the establishment, then that's the safe bet.
It was hard to see any real devotion from the audience members. I have trouble referring to them as "fans," as I didn't get the sense that anyone in the building cared too much about the outcome. The seats were more empty than they were filled, and that emptiness really had a negative effect on the overall experience.
Parking options are a little better for a Mustangs game than they are for any of the other tenants of the Bradley Center. The lots that surround the arena will cost you anywhere between $5-$10. I was lucky enough to find street parking at the corner of 6th and State. Here you'll find metered parking, which is free after 6pm.
Bathrooms are clean and spacious, as are the concourses, although this is at least in part because of the negative of the absence of crowd presence.
Purchasing tickets from the team's website starts with the annoying fees associated with using TicketMaster, adding anywhere between 7 1/2 % and more than 50% to your ticket price. When you're looking at a so-so experience to begin with, this insult would be enough for me to pass on the experience of attending a Milwaukee Mustangs game. If you do decide to attend, then I would either choose the cheapest ticket available, or try to find something at mid-field in the first row, where you can literally be a part of the action. Overall though, this event is vastly overpriced for the level of play on the field.
Try not to judge me too harshly, but I did find myself noticing the cheerleaders, who may be the most scantily clad ensemble that I have witnessed. They are certainly an active group, moving to different ends of the arena, and participating in every on-field or in-the-stands promotion throughout the game.
I can't quite bring myself to recommend against the experience of attending a Milwaukee Mustangs game. Worst case, you're still in Milwaukee, and the neighborhood and arena itself will help to make up for the fact that the game you see is overpriced and under-inspired. If you're in town, and the Brewers, Bucks, Admirals, Golden Eagles, and even the UWM Panthers are not an option, then a Mustangs game may be worth your while.
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1037 North Old World 3rd Street
Milwaukee, WI 53203
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