The Milwaukee Bucks want to use the return of playoff basketball to Milwaukee to ignite interest in the team for this season and next.
“This is essential,” Bucks President Peter Feigin said of the importance of the playoffs to both the team and the front office. “For us, this is a whole new season.”
The playoffs give the Bucks a crucial opportunity to lock in season ticket owners for their new arena. Feigin knows that the time to strike is now – because once the Bucks season ends, it’s a far more difficult sales pitch.
The Bucks begin a best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series on the road against the Boston Celtics Sunday. The series moves to Milwaukee for games on Friday and Sunday, April 22, at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Bucks plan watch parties for the away games and block parties, pop-up stores, giveaways and special events for the home playoff weekend.
They hope to rekindle what the Journal Sentinel’s Charles Gardner last spring called a “loud and rowdy” crowd for the first 2017 playoff game at the Bradley Center. The Bucks blew out the Toronto Raptors in that game but went on to lose the series.
“The whole thing is to create a ‘Fear the Deer’ — an intimidating home court atmosphere,” Feigin said. “We’re going to black out our arena for all of the games.”
Fans attending the games Friday and April 22 will receive free black “Fear the Deer” T-shirts, and the games will include special halftime entertainment and surprises to help boost excitement, Feigin said.
“It’s effective and the players get a huge kick out of it,” he said. “The players notice everything.”
Playoff tickets are nearly sold out, but Feigin has seats available for fans who agree to lock in season tickets for next fall at the new $524 million arena under construction just north of the Bradley Center.
The Bucks have sold about 1,500 new season ticket packages since January and are pleased with the level of fan interest, Feigin said.
“We’re getting to a point where we will sell out the entire lower bowl” at the new arena, he said.
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The new arena will be like the Bradley Center turned upside down, with 10,000 lower bowl seats, including 1,500 club seats, and 6,000 in the upper bowl.
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The Bucks have set a goal of 10,000 full season tickets for their first season at the new arena. The financial stream from season ticket sales is crucial for the Bucks, because under the $250 million public financing deal the Bucks are responsible for arena upkeep once it is open.
“We have two, four, six or eight weeks left” of prime ticket selling opportunities, depending on how the team fares in the playoffs, Feigin said. “How do we continue our commitment to get to that next 1,000 season tickets sold?”
The Bucks playoff games will be their last at the Bradley Center. The only other major event at the arena is an April 29 Bon Jovi concert that would be rescheduled to the following day if it conflicts with a Round 2 playoff game.
“This is our big moment — right now,” said Barry Baum, the Bucks senior vice president for communications. “We’re in a great spot but we want to sell more.”