After the Milwaukee Bucks officially opened the Fiserv Forum over the weekend, the Marquette basketball program – which is also moving into the new arena – welcomed fans on Wednesday, Aug. 29, for an open house to see the fresh digs for the blue and gold.
The Bucks have quickly established the Fiserv Forum as one of the city’s gems before a game has even been played on site, allowing for more high-profile concerts and events – including a bid for the 2020 Democratic National Convention – to come to Milwaukee than ever before.
As a tenant who will only use the building 20-25 times per year, the Golden Eagles will not make or break the success of the Forum. However, the venue may still catapult the program to new heights on and off the court.
Here are four areas where the Fiserv Forum will make a difference for Marquette.
Head coach Steve Wojciechowski and his staff do not need any help on the recruiting trail; after all, in Wojo’s four and a half years since taking the job, he has recruited well in Wisconsin and the surrounding states, picked up a few diamonds in the rough across the country and landed several impact transfers from the collegiate ranks. The Golden Eagles have signed one five-star recruit and seven four-star prospects during Wojciechowski’s tenure, and are currently one of the final four schools fighting for the Class of 2019’s Nico Mannion, a top-15 five-star point guard from Arizona.
Toss in the sparkling Fiserv Forum, and Wojo now has another weapon in his recruiting arsenal. The Forum is the nicest basketball arena in the nation, full stop. (Well, it will be the nicest venue for at least for the 2018-19 campaign; Golden State’s new arena opens prior to 2019-20.) When prospective high schoolers take their official visits to MU during the season, they will be treated to a fantastic in-game experience with what should be a raucous crowd.
Basketball arenas are pretty far down the totem pole for recruits making their college decision, especially when compared to the coaching staff, potential teammates, roster construction, university reputation and location, among other factors. But when Marquette is going up against the big-time, blue blood programs of college basketball, as they are in the Mannion recruiting race (Arizona, Duke, and Villanova are also bidding for his services), any extra edge can make the difference. Don’t be surprised if MU’s recruiting ranks spike in the coming seasons.
Marquette always drew big crowds to the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Golden Eagles averaged nearly 13,900 fans per night in 2017-18, extending their streak of top 25 attendance finishes to 17 years. MU is actually the only non-football school to appear in the top 25 in attendance every year since 2001-02, particularly impressive considering Marquette still missed the tournament in six of those seasons.
And while the Fiserv Forum’s seat count doesn’t quite match the cavernous Bradley Center (17,500 to 18,717), the buzz around this team, and basketball in general in Milwaukee, should drive up the attendance figures. The prices for Marquette basketball games have largely held steady, but the viewing quality has vastly improved. The Forum seats 10,000 in the lower bowl, a significant increase from the Bradley Center’s 4,000.
The opportunity to watch a fast-paced, high-scoring team with likable stars for an affordable price in a beautiful venue is an opportunity too good to pass up. Marquette also has several high-profile teams coming to town this year, including the defending champs Villanova, Elite Eight team Kansas State, rival Wisconsin, America’s favorite underdog UMBC and several budding Big East foes, such as Georgetown, Providence and Xavier.
With the ability to pack over 18,000 fans into the arena, the Bradley Center crowd often put together some ear-splitting roars, especially for MU’s biggest games of the year. But with the improved lower bowl set-up at the Fiserv Forum, the fans will all be much closer to the action and will feel right on top of the court.
Another big change for Marquette fans will be the divided student section. Rather than the wall of students extending from the floor to the roof behind one basket at the Bradley Center, the students will fill the lower bowl sections behind both baskets at the Fiserv Forum. This will put the students in the face of the opponent’s offense during both halves, and could create the opportunity for the students to whip some back-and-forth chants around the arena.
It’s hard to tell exactly how the atmosphere will play out in a pressure-cooker situation before seeing a game there, but the new arena layout and the quality of the team should keep fans engaged all season long.
Marquette has introduced plenty of technological assets into the program over the years, mostly at the on-campus Al McGuire Center practice facility. Now the Golden Eagles’ coaches and players have a first-class locker room at their home arena to match. (Here are the differences between the Bradley Center locker room and the Fiserv Forum edition.)
MU also has its own wing inside the new arena, complete with office spaces, meeting rooms and training tables, as well as homages to every NBA player the program has produced. A fancy locker room with offices doesn’t equal wins on the court, but it does put the program on par with some of the elite basketball schools across the nation.
Marquette has always invested in its basketball program, and this new arena only furthers that ideal. The 2018-19 season is setting up to be one to remember for the MU faithful.