After nearly a decade of playing its home games off campus, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) Panthers returned to the Klotsche Center for the 2012-2013 season. It’s a move that is rarely made these days, but a wise decision. Any fan of the Panthers, or anyone who just loves to see college hoops in the area should plan to make a visit to a UW-Milwaukee game in the near future, because the arena provides that intimate small college basketball experience that fans would hope for.
The Panthers previously played at U.S. Cellular Arena, a multi-purpose arena in downtown Milwaukee. That venue was adequate, but lacked the energy and intimacy that can be found at the Klotsche Center.
Since 1990, the Panthers have competed in Division I, and they have made three appearances (2003, 2005, and 2006) in the NCAA Tournament in that time. The team competes in the Horizon League and has been a member since the league’s inception in 1999.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The first cardinal rule when attending sporting events in the state of Wisconsin, and especially in Milwaukee, is that you should always opt for sausage and/or cheese whenever presented with that option. I sadly broke that rule and went with the pulled pork sandwich ($3.75). In a word, it was awful. A stale bun with a sauce that tasted like ketchup is what I got. Skip this item and stick with the encased meats. Hot dog ($2.25), bratwurst ($3.25), Cheddarwurst ($3.25), and Italianwurst ($3.25) would all be good options.
Pepsi products are available for just $2 (20-ounce bottle) along with Gatorade ($2.25) and hot chocolate ($1). There are three concession stands located in the corners of the arena, with a merchandise stand in the fourth corner, near the entrance.
It makes such a big difference when college basketball is played at an actual college and not at some off-campus multi-purpose and nondescript arena. Klotsche Center has a capacity of only 3,500 fans, which is about the perfect size for the Panthers basketball games. In most cases, this should be enough to fit the usual crowd and may even make a Panthers game a hot ticket in town, if the team can make a good run in the Horizon League.
The pep band is very good, occupying section J behind the basket next to the students. When the band isn't playing there is usually music pumping through a good speaker system, although it seems as though the coordination between band director and PA system coordinator could use some work.
One major upgrade at Klotsche, specifically installed with the re-addition of the basketball teams to its list of tenants, are scoreboards on each end and also video boards, which are utilized for marketing and messages, but also feature a nice montage before the game played to Diddy's "Coming Home".
Seating comfort is an issue at Klotsche Center. The seating behind the benches (Sections A-F) are flimsy plastic chairbacks with less than average legroom and enough recline to them that you can expect your fellow spectator in front of you to create even less legroom. Much of the rest of the seating areas are black and gold plastic bleachers, which also feel a bit cramped. You can spring for the floor seats with padded folding chairs, but you'll want to secure those well in advance.
The Klotsche Center is buried fairly well in the UW-Milwaukee campus. Although the atmosphere is improved by being here, the neighborhood diminishes significantly compared with the former downtown location. That means, for most people, you'll come to the area to see the game and nothing more. If you're staying in the Milwaukee area for the night, then you are probably best served exploring downtown a bit. Perhaps you can catch the Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee Admirals (AHL), or Marquette Golden Eagles at the Bradley Center downtown.
If you do want to stay near the UWM campus, there are a few options for a pre or post game drink or meal. Harry's Bar & Grill is located less than a mile away, and is certainly walkable if the winter weather is not too bitter. They have a good array of appetizers, burgers, and sandwiches ($8-$16) as well as better than expected entrees ($16-$22). There's also a good selection of local beers and microbrews available, both on tap and by the bottle ($3.75-$8).
It's about a 15 minute drive to get to downtown Milwaukee, where there are plenty of great bars and restaurants.
The fans of UWM basketball seem to really appreciate that the team has come home. Klotsche Center may not feel like the perfect college basketball arena, but the crowd on hand is excited about the team, and the student section seems better engaged than while they played in downtown Milwaukee. They have dubbed themselves the "Klotsche Krazies." You'll see this group turn its back on the floor when the opposition is introduced, and chants of "MIL-WAU-KEE" echo out throughout the contest as well. The students occupy sections G-H, with some spillover into section I, behind the basket nearest the opposing team's bench. The band plays out of section J.
Parking in the nearby parking garage will cost you $6. There is an indoor walkway between the garage and the Klotsche Center, which is especially handy for those cold Milwaukee nights. If you are willing to brave the elements though, you can save some dough by using the ample street parking. Be sure to read the signs carefully as they seem to shift in regulations from street to street, but you should be able to find something. This is especially true for a night game when most meters are free after 6pm. I parked on Edgewood Avenue, near the corner with Downer Avenue, and just had a short walk to the game.
I found the seating to be a little tight. I would recommend sitting in sections M or N where you can see both benches and be at center court. The concourse essentially is just the area between the court and the bleachers, with outlets to any of the concession stands. Out in the hallway you'll find the restroom, which is clean and large enough to handle a capacity crowd.
It's just a short drive to I-43 which will take you north or south, and there really wasn't any significant traffic that I experienced getting to, or leaving the Saturday night game I attended most recently.
It is disappointing the UWM uses Ticketmaster as their ticket vendor, adding $4 of fees on to the purchase of any ticket. Floor seats will cost you $49, reserve seats will cost you $24-$29, and general admission seating will cost you $12-$19. On the whole, I think tickets are a little bit overpriced. That said, if I could sit anywhere without price being a factor, I would still choose the seats that only cost $12, putting you in the upper portion of sections L, M, N, or O.
Parking is also just slightly on the high side for Horizon League basketball, but that indoor walkway can be a huge luxury on a cold Wisconsin night. Concessions are priced very reasonably as well, and are at least average quality.
On the whole, if you choose the $12 ticket, you're looking at less than $25 for the game, parking, a brat, and a Pepsi, which is well worth it for this venue. This is one place that it doesn't make sense to splurge, so keep it simple and have a great time.
One extra point for the administration's decision to move the basketball team back on campus where they belong.
Another extra point to Pounce, the panther mascot, who did a fabulous job of balancing the very difficult job of being a presence on and near the floor, with spending time in the stands interacting. Pounce made several special trips to make sure he visited with kids throughout the arena. One thing I have learned in my travels is that the job of a mascot is very difficult, and it can make a huge difference in the game experience for families when the mascot does his/her job well.
The pep band is also very solid, which adds to the experience. However, there needs to be some better coordination between the music that is played over the speakers and the music that comes from the band.
It is probably abundantly clear by now that the move from US Cellular Arena back to the Klotsche Center has turned out to be a great decision for fans of college basketball and the UWM Panthers. If you live in Milwaukee, or are visiting the area, check out the Panthers schedule, and go to a game. You'll be glad that you did.
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