No. 11 Best City to Be a Sports Fan: Milwaukee
How much does where you live matter as a sports fan? The short answer is: It depends.
If you're an Alabama football fan, there's no better place to live than Tuscaloosa. If you're a Red Sox fan, there's no worse place to live than New York City.
But what if you were a free agent, so to speak? What if you loved sports, but didn't have a specific affiliation to any team? You're moving to a new city. What city would have the most to offer you as a sports fan? What city would give you the best overall experience?
That is what we're here to find out. We took 25 of the best writers from Bleacher Report and beyond to objectively look at their cities and come up with a ranking. To get a better understanding of the categories and grading criteria, click here.
Milwaukee comes in at No. 11. Let's find out why.
Number of Teams/Events: 16/20
Technically, there are two big league teams (Brewers and Bucks) and two Division I basketball schools (Marquette and UW-Milwaukee) within the city limits, but for all practical purposes, the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers are part of the Milwaukee scene.
While there is no football stadium within an hour’s drive, Milwaukee is a football-first city that adopts, supports and claims the NFL and Big Ten powers.
Nearby Whistling Straits, rated as one of the best golf courses in the world, will play host to the 2015 PGA Championship and the 2020 Ryder Cup.
The Milwaukee Mile, the oldest operating speedway in the world, is on the IndyCar schedule. Road America is one of the great road courses in the world and features a full schedule of NASCAR, AMA, SCCA, Grand-Am and American Le Mans races.
The Milwaukee Wave of the Major Arena Soccer League (formerly the Major Indoor Soccer League) have won six championships and are the longest-running pro soccer team in North America.
The Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League have been around for more than 40 years.
The city is an Olympic speedskating hotbed.
UW-Whitewater is a Division III football monster.
All of that, plus MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s office is in downtown Milwaukee. All in all, the region has plentiful year-round variety, especially for a city and state of its size.
Success of Teams: 15/20
Despite the fact that the Bucks have stunk up the joint for almost 15 years, Milwaukee and Wisconsin pack an underrated punch.
The Packers were Super Bowl winners for the 2010 NFL season.
The Brewers have defied small-market economics lately, winning the NL Central in 2011 while making it all the way to the National League Championship Series.
UW basketball was in the 2014 Final Four and has been to a pair of Sweet 16s.
The Badgers football team has been to three Rose Bowls, the Champs Sports Bowl and the Capital One Bowl since 2009 but is 1-4 in those games.
Marquette has been to a pair of Sweet 16s and the Elite Eight.
UW-Whitewater has won four national football championships since 2009 and was the Division III baseball national champ this year.
UW-Milwaukee received a surprise NCAA basketball tournament berth this past season.
Given its status as one of a handful of must-see venues in all of sports, Lambeau Field has to be on the bucket list for any fan. To paraphrase Tony Soprano, it might be 2014 outside the Frozen Tundra, but it’s always 1962 on the inside.
Camp Randall Stadium is truly one of the great college game-day experiences for its sheer opponent-intimidation factor.
Although Miller Park was built a few miles outside of downtown, it is state-of-the-art and consistently rated as providing one of MLB’s best fan experiences. It gets extra points for a retractable roof that guarantees comfortable baseball in Milwaukee’s harsh springs.
Even UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena has legendary status as the former MECCA, where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson once played.
The Kohl Center may be somewhat characterless and utilitarian, but almost no one beats the Badgers at home. The delightful landscape, however, is docked by the obsolete BMO Harris Bradley Center, the oldest non-renovated arena in the NBA. It was built for the NHL franchise that never arrived and is plagued by a ton of bad seats.
Fan Passion: 10/10
Yeah, there might not be a whole lot of competing entertainment options when the weather sucks, but two points make Milwaukee’s case: Despite operating in MLB’s smallest market, the Brewers consistently are among the top 10 in attendance leaders. And if you put your newborn on the Packers’ waiting list today, he or she would be eligible for season tickets in 2054.
The Milwaukee Braves were the first National League team to draw 2 million fans, and the city went into a funk that still has not completely lifted when Atlanta stole the franchise.
The Packers and Bucky football average more than 80,000 per game. No fanbase travels like a Wisconsin football crowd. Packers fans sometimes outnumber home fans at opposing stadiums.
UW and Marquette basketball have rabid followers and shake each other’s buildings during the annual rivalry. In 2003, when Marquette and Wisconsin were both in the Sweet 16 at the Metrodome, the fans from both schools took over the place in their thunderous support for each other.
The Bucks have to paper the house, but that’s their own fault. Yet on the rare occasion when they’re good, they draw surprisingly well. Per capita, there may be no more loyal or passionate fanbase in North America.
General Fan Experience: 13/15
Cheeseheads know how to roll out the barrel, because no one does tailgating better. It is truly an art form at Miller Park and Lambeau Field, where the smell of grilled bratwurst on a brisk day makes sports in Wisconsin a true slice of heaven. Both franchises market and sell the fan experience as much as they do the on-field product, elevating pedestrian games to event status. Spacious parking lots at both venues create pre- and postgame celebrations that are as much fun as whatever is going on inside the stadiums. And the colder, the better.
At Camp Randall, the fourth-quarter “Jump Around” actually shakes the stadium to the point that water in the press-box toilets splashes in the bowls.
Miller Park and Lambeau Field are consistently at the top of fan-experience polls. Bernie Brewer may no longer slide into a giant beer mug, but no one leaves their seats in the sixth inning during the world-famous Sausage Race. Michael Andretti was so impressed by the vibe that he created IndyFest at the Mile.
No matter who is on the roster, no Brewer will ever be more famous than Bob Uecker. The Miller Lite pitch guy, actor, one-time Tonight Show staple and local hero has been the Brewers' radio play-by-play announcer since the team moved from Seattle in 1970. And the thing of it is, he hasn’t lost any of his wit, humor or appeal.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn literally wrote the book on the Super Bowl (The Ultimate Super Bowl Book) and has been covering the Packers for almost four decades. He might just be the most esteemed NFL writer in the country.
While it's almost impossible to score Packers tickets, the games are never blacked out.
Brewers TV coverage has been upgraded lately.
Marquette suffers because the still-obscure Fox Sports 1 carries Big East games.
Star Power: 3/10
After Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, it’s hard to identify anyone without a program.
Ryan Braun had the city in the palm of his hand before he alienated almost everyone, including former close pal Rodgers, with his performance-enhancing drugs scandal and self-righteous defense speech that made him one of the most obnoxious players in professional sports.
The Bucks really blew it in 2003 by trading future Hall of Famer Ray Allen, and now they have to use the draft to find a star. They’re hopeful with Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
They don’t call it Titletown for nothing.
The Packers, in business since 1919, are the most successful team in NFL history. They have a total of 13 titles—nine NFL championships and four Super Bowls. The Milwaukee Braves won the 1957 World Series and should have repeated against the Yankees. Marquette and Wisconsin have both won NCAA basketball titles.
The Brewers have been to the World Series once but lost in 1982 to the Cardinals after Rollie Fingers got hurt. The Bucks have one NBA title, but that was 43 years ago. Wisconsin has been to six Rose Bowls since 1993.
Vince Lombardi, Al McGuire and Don Nelson coached here.
Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Paul Hornung, Reggie White, Brett Favre, Don Hutson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Pettit, Oscar Robertson and Dwyane Wade played here.
UW-Milwaukee made the Sweet 16 with Bruce Pearl. And never to be forgotten, the late, great Alan Kulwicki of Milwaukee won the 1992 NASCAR championship. Maybe no place else of comparable size can claim such heritage.
Final Tally: 76/100
Without the NHL or Major League Soccer, Milwaukee does not have all the amenities associated with larger cities. But per capita, it just might lead the country in accessibility, variety and overall fan experience.