Pro Sports Stadium Review: BMO Harris Bradley Center

The Milwaukee Bucks are in the middle of a stadium transition. Plans are coming together which would see the Bucks break ground on a new arena at some point in late 2015 which would see the Bucks able to begin playing in the facility at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. Until that point, however, the Bucks will continue to play in the BMO Bradley Harris Center, a venue which has become obsolete with the building and amenity needs of today’s NBA.

BMO Harris Bradley Center, via Rukkus.com

BMO Harris Bradley Center, via Rukkus.com

The Bradley Center is unique among NBA venues as was given to the Bucks as a gift to the community by philanthropists Jane Bradley Pettit and Lloyd Pettit in 1988 as a memory to Jane’s late father Harry Lynde Bradley. While this arrangement was obviously beneficial to the Bucks at first, it has become a financial problem in the decades that have followed. The venue was actually initially built with hockey in mind, being in Wisconsin and all, but the NHL never came calling and the Bucks have been left with a venue which leaves them unable to compete in the current NBA landscape.
One of the biggest problems with the venue is its small size, and therefore lack of amenities which have become standard across the league. BMO Harris Bradley Center is in the neighborhood of 550,000 square feet. While this was ideal in 1988, it is now being eclipsed by modern arenas which are built in the region of 700,000 square feet. This means limited amounts of club seats, executive lounges and skyboxes. It is this premium seating which brings in the revenue to make teams competitive, and the Bucks simply do not have the bells and whistles to charge enough money for their limited premium seating. There are also issues with line of sight in the lower bowl and the lower bowl is the other area which makes the most revenue.
Naming rights has also been something of a contentious issue with the Bradley Center. The Bucks wanted to sell the naming rights earlier, and for more money, than was eventually brought on board through BMO Harris. The unique position of the facility being a gift, however, meant that the family could, and did, object to the name changing initially. There are also space problems when it comes to sponsorship on the scoreboards and ribbon board areas which are producing high amounts of revenue in other facilities.
Basically, BMO Harris Bradley Center just lacks the wow factor. While it is easy to differentiate football and baseball stadiums from the crowd, it is much harder to do that in enclosed arenas which are used for hockey and basketball. The Bradley Center was built just before the idea of making a stadium part of the experience, as opposed to just being a venue, really came into play. As a result, it falls short on amenities and doesn’t make for a destination venue.
The new Bucks Stadium will rectify these issues. It is not like the Barclay Center is falling apart. It is just not big enough or historic enough to generate the money the Bucks require to chase the big free agents. Players too are put off by the 80’s architectural vibe of the building, as free agents are often looking for the same bells and whistles as the fans. BMO Harris Bradley Center has had a good run, but the players and fans in Milwaukee have been pushing for a new arena for a reason.

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