MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Bucks announcing they’ll welcome more fans into Fiserv Forum for games, beginning Saturday, March 20.
They received approval from the Milwaukee Health Department to increase capacity to 18 percent. That means about 3,300 fans will be allowed inside. That’s still a long way from the more than 17,000 the arena was built to hold.
Additionally, some suites and loft spaces inside Fiserv Forum will also be reopening in a limited capacity on March 20.
This announcement comes exactly one year since the NBA shut down all games because of COVID-19. On March 11, 2020, the league sidelined every team and turned the lights off at every arena. A move that had far-reaching implications.
“We had a meeting this morning and reminisced about what a gut punch this day was one year ago,” said David Dupee, co-founder of Good City Brewing. “It marked saying goodbye to a lot of people, and having no idea what the world was going to look like. As soon as the Bucks announced it, we shut down our Deer District location too. Our business directly correlates with activity at the arena. We’re still not out of the woods, but any arena capacity is better than zero at this point.”
Good City Brewing had to lay off about 85 employees at the beginning of the pandemic. Its Deer District location is now only open on weekends, and whenever there is a Bucks home game. Dupee hopes to bring more employees back.
A few doors down from Good City Brewing is Punch Bowl Social, which closed for good. Just a block away, Buck Bradley’s is boarded-up, closed at least temporarily.
The Bucks also had to lay off and furlough employees.
“In many ways, we were in shock on March 11, 2020,” said Bucks President Peter Feigin. “We called the league office, we called the team, we called our head of Human Resources, and literally in a couple of hours had to empty out offices, and asked everyone to standby until we know what was going to happen.”
The NBA season didn’t resume for nearly five months, with all teams finishing out the season in the “Orlando Bubble.” Losing out on all home revenue.
VISIT Milwaukee estimates a single playoff game at Fiserv Forum in normal times generates more than $3 million in downtown economic impact, including 2,500 room nights, 700 jobs, and $73,000 in taxes.
“What you do not want is a pause in the action,” Feigin said. “You want to continue the action as much as possible. It's very challenging to exist any reduced capacity, but it's impossible to try and flourish at zero percent.”
That’s why gradual capacity increases at Fiserv Forum are serving as a glimmer of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Feigin is now anticipating Fiserv Forum to be operating at, or near, full capacity by September.
Last month, the Health Department approved a plan for the Bucks to host fans at 10 percent of Fiserv Forum's capacity, about 1,800 fans.
Suites and loft spaces inside Fiserv Forum will also be reopened in a limited capacity as part of the changes, the team said.
Single-game tickets for the final five Bucks home games in March will go on sale to the public Friday, March 12 at 1`0 a.m. Tickets can be purchased at bucks.com/tickets or through the Bucks app.
Here are some of the safety precautions the Bucks are taking to protect fans, according to a news release from the team:
- Fans will be required to wear face coverings at all times when inside Fiserv Forum, except when actively eating or drinking
- Tickets will continue to be sold in pods of two or four seats to ensure proper social distancing throughout the seating bowl
- Fans entering Fiserv Forum will use a timed-entry system to reduce the size of groups congregating at entrances
- Fans are not permitted to bring in bags. Items larger than 4”x6”x1” will not be permitted
- Fans must remain seated at all times while they are in their seats (other than standing for the national anthem) and all food and drink must be consumed in their ticketed seat