In February we took a family trip to Oregon to explore Portland and do some skiing at Mt. Hood. On the Sunday night before our Monday departure we considered two family activities: A.) See our first MLS soccer game (The Portland Timbers were playing) or walk over from our hotel to see an NBA matchup between the Portland Trailblazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Our son chose the Blazers game. So with our beloved Bucks continuing their embarrassing downward spiral, we are down on the NBA right now, but we reluctantly agreed to take him.
The first indicator that maybe the NBA was different in other cities than Milwaukee came when I attempted to buy seats. I originally thought: Sunday night game? They will be giving the seats away! Wrong.
The best seats the box office had were duckets that ran $90.00 apiece. Really? My wife and began considering other activity ideas and how exactly we were going to let our son know that the game wasn’t an option. Because paying $90.00 per seat for a Sunday night regular season NBA game between two teams we have no real vested interest in is not something that sounded appealing.
Enter my Stub Hub mobile app: 3 seats and $28.00 later we were jammed in the nose-bleeds at the Moda Center. (Quick parental hint here: Most kids don’t care where they sit at sports events, they’re just happy to be inside the building.)
But let’s back up a second. There was actually a line to get in the building.
Let me make sure you read that correctly for the Milwaukee Bucks fans out there:
For a Sunday night regular season game in Portland, Oregon there was a line of fans waiting to get into the arena.
Happy son in tow, we ventured to our seats and it was difficult for me to watch the game because my mind drifted back to when Milwaukee was similar to Portland. My memories drifted back to the MECCA Arena floor, the classic match ups between the Bucks, Sixers and the Celtics – Nellie and his fish tie, his farm fund, his winning! Winning! Winning!
To Moncrief, Pressey, Commings, Hodges, Sikma … Heck even Mike Glenn, Jay Humphries and Alvin Robertson..
The NBA at one time actually meant something in Milwaukee. I wondered again where it all went wrong for our Bucks and thus I loosely formulated 3 things Milwaukee could learn from Portland.
1. Forget the New Arena
I think a new Bucks arena in Milwaukee would do wonders. It probably would have the same impact that the construction of Miller Park did, but it might not exactly be what’s needed.
The Moda Center is nothing special from a design and amenity standpoint. It is very basic. The architecture is very basic and uninspiring. The interior design is similar to the Bradley Center and I would argue that Milwaukee has done a much better job of trying to spruce things up. The BC has more spacious common areas. The entry ways are much more dynamic and impressive. The concessions stands at the BC offer a much better selection (Have you been to the gourmet dog stand at the BC?) I didn’t see any of that at the Moda Center. TV monitors at the Moda Center were hard to come by. They have few located at the concessions stands, but none that I could see around the dining areas. Furthermore they didn’t really have much in the way of dining areas; just a few picnic tables which looked cheap.
I must keep in mind that I had nosebleed seats at Moda Center so I am sure the amenities might be better in the lower bowl.
Did I mention I had nose-bleed seats because the good seats weren’t available? On a Sunday night?)
2. Get a Superstar
There is no reason to write a novel on this topic. In Milwaukee we don’t have a superstar. How do you know you don’t have a superstar? Well besides not having a representative in the All-Star Game, you can’t find a player on the Bucks that a kid from Portland has to run to Moda Center to see.
This conversation will never happen: “Dad! Can we go to the Blazers game tonight? I have to see O.J. Mayo live!! Please!”
“Can you get me a Brandon Knight Jersey? I would like that a lot more than the Michael Redd bobblehead you bought me last season!”
In Portland everyone and their mother had a Damian Lilllard “O” Jersey on. And I mean everyone! And if it wasn’t a Lillard, it was a #2 Wesley Mathews. Sound familiar? Yup, that Wes Mathews from your Marquette Golden Eagles. And if that isn’t enough for you, there were a handful of #32 Bill Walton throwbacks scattered about.
In Milwaukee we had Bob Lanier, Kareem and the “Big O”. Say what you want about the current Bucks roster lacking stars, but no one is even rocking a jersey from the true legends of team history. Are the phones on in the Marketing Department at the Milwaukee Bucks offices? The other day I stopped at Sports Authority store in the Milwaukee area and it was difficult to even find any Bucks garb — besides the leftover #3 Jennings jerseys. Can a real fan buy a #4 jersey to honor Sir Sid?
3. It’s Not the Bucks. It’s the Business.
Finally, a big factor in this attendance issue: Dear Milwaukee, Please attract some actual companies to move to our city. Get a tech company that attracts smart, young people. Quit relying on Miller-Coors, Harley-Davidson and Kohl’s to hold the torch for Milwaukee business. Be a desirable city that young people want to move to. People move to Chicago everyday and last time I checked its cold there too.
You might want to also take a look at property taxes. Cut taxes a hair and a fan might be able to actually afford Milwaukee Bucks season tickets.
Like they say in business: “Sales kill all ills”
If a team is winning, most arguments for any issue go away. Some will say that Milwaukee is a bandwagon town. I disagree. Milwaukee is just like every city in the world. People want to connect themselves with success. If you win, they show up. If you don’t they won’t.
Winning is a solution that cures many ills, not just the Milwaukee Bucks fan base. My worry is, the team might be gone before this can be proven.
One final point
For those that say the Portland Trailblazers are Portland’s only major sports team: Yes, this is true, but did I neglect to mention that world-class skiing, fly-fishing, camping and hiking is less than an hour away? Did I mention that the ocean is almost stumbling distance? Two locals I rode with on chairlift at Timberline Lodge were discussing “winter surfing…”
Sounds like the folks of Portland have options when it comes to their entertainment dollars; it’s just that they have made sure to find room for the NBA also.