This review was originally published on Stadium Journey.
Amazingly, the Bradley Center is the fourth oldest arena in the NBA. Opening in 1988, it has the feel of an outdated venue, while still providing excellent sightlines from anywhere in the building. With $23 million in renovations expected in the years to come, hopefully they’ll be able to give the Bradley Center some much needed attention, especially in the seating areas. For now, fans will find somewhat cramped seats, but an affordable opportunity to see some NBA action.
Food & Beverage: 3
You would expect to find sausages and brats in Milwaukee, and you would be right. I decided to venture off the expected path, and try some BBQ. In many ways, it’s a great way to know where you are. In this case, it may have been a mistake. The pulled pork sandwich tasted like it was bathed in a traditional Chinese sweet and sour sauce—not good at all.
Beer prices were reasonable, and Miller products could be found in abundance as well as offerings from Leinenkugel, a large Wisconsin based brewer. One of my greatest pet peeves is the lack of offering of a souvenir cup for your soda, which is always an affordable way to find a memento.
I love the enormity of the retired number banners and the 1971 Championship banner that hang from the ceiling of the Bradley Center. When you imagine Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson suited up for the same squad, you wish that you had been a Bucks fan in the early 70’s. For this generation X’er, the only other names that I recognized were Sidney Moncrief and Bob Lanier, although I frankly didn’t realize he had an impact on the Bucks organization before the trip.
At tip off, music was played well into the first possession, which I thought was overly distracting, but ceased and seemed tame for the remainder of the game. The Bucks mascot, Bango, was truly hard core, especially when he served as a deterrent for a contest between two fans dressed in sumo gear tackling each as they tried to make baskets the way Bruce Lee would have done it if he were an NFL linebacker.
The game I witnessed against the Timberwolves was a blowout so it was hard to get the full effect of how noisy the arena could get, but for the most part the decibel level was fairly tame.
The Bradley Center is situated in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, with plenty of interesting bars and restaurants within easy walking distance. A walk along the river or down Old World Third Street would be great places to start. Also, if it isn’t too cold, spend some time meandering along the Wisconsin Sports Walk of Fame. With 114 members including Hank Aaron, Oscar Robertson, Vince Lombardi, and Al McGuire among others, it’s a great way to spend some time without spending any money.
We began with a stop at Water Street Brewery where they have several homemade brews on tap. The appetizers were average and the service was very friendly with plenty of TV’s to stay up on the sports action. Try the “Brew Ton” (think won tons filled with nacho toppings).
Our second stop claimed to have the best brats in Milwaukee, The Milwaukee Brat House. How that was determined is dubious as they were unspectacular, other than being served on a pretzel roll. They had a good beer list with 12 beers on tap, and 20 more in the bottle and had a cozy feel. Being just over a block away from the Bradley Center makes them a good option for pre or post game hang time.
Finally, we tried the Red Accordian, a new bar still trying to find their identity. The best description I can give is that they are a slightly upscale sports bar and gastro-pub with somewhat goofy sports quotes as the only noticeable wall décor. They are certainly trying, but perhaps they are trying too hard. They do have an impressive beer list and a menu that is trying to be avant-garde, but they need to focus a bit more on their true identity.
There is one particularly impressive band of fans in the upper section across from the Bucks bench that deserves a special mention. Adorned with flags from seemingly every country of the world, and a loud horn, they stood for the entirety of the game cheering fervently for their Bucks, and veraciously against the visiting T-Wolves. I specially loved their rendition of the J. Geils Band, "Love Stinks" whenever Kevin Love went to the free throw line.
The woman next to me pointed out two Wisconsin elected officials, Bucks Owner and Senator Herb Kohl, and another person, and seemed shocked that I didn’t know who they were. I told her it was ok, when I went to political games, I could always recognize the basketball players in the crowd. Apparently, these would be the local celebrities.
Access : 5
Parking was an absolute breeze, with a covered lot a block away that cost $10. It took a little while to get back on the freeway after the game, but certainly nothing unreasonable for a post game exit. Bathrooms were never crowded, even at halftime.
Return on Investment: 3
This was the toughest area to rate. On the one hand, food was priced effectively and parking is an absolute bargain. Tickets prices are also very reasonable starting at $9.
On the other hand, my two major complaints are that the food really wasn’t all that good, and the seats are incredibly cramped even in the better sections of the arena. We sat in about the 15th row, right at center court—absolutely unbelievable seats. I’m taller than most fans (6’3”) and had my legs pressed against the seat in front of me the entire game. What’s more, I really don’t understand stadium seating without cup holders. It affects the fans ability to clap and cheer and is a nuisance (as well as a deterrent to buying additional beverages).
Extra points for the unbelievable fan section I mentioned earlier, the Wisconsin Sports Walk of Fame, and the opportunity to sit below the banners of Abdul-Jabbar and the Big O.
Paul Swaney is the Co-Founder of Stadium Journey.