Perhaps the weather today in Southeastern Wisconsin is fitting because it has been an absolute whirlwind of a day for the Milwaukee Admirals organization. The team will be moving across the street starting next season after being approved to a ten-year lease to make the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena their new home. That makes these final six home games of the Admirals regular season all the more special because it serves as a countdown to the final games of Admirals hockey at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
This news comes with multiple angles of interest and questions. It is hitting some negatively and others joyously. Some understand the landscape of the move quite well and others are clutching at thin air making remarks that are bitter and false regarding the situation. What I’m sure so many seem to have their finger pointed at is that shiny attention seeking missile of a term: the new Bucks arena. So, let’s address that first.
The Milwaukee Bucks were tasked with creating a new playing arena by the NBA under the threat that the team would be moved out of the city. For many of us in the hockey community some might say, “who cares,” and others might see the major benefits that such a new arena could bring to downtown Milwaukee. The biggest point on this issue in connection to the Admirals though is that the Bucks were the ones under the threat of relocation. They had to look after themselves and, throughout all of these new arena talks and plans, that’s the gist being given off by the Bucks organization and it’s not that hard to understand why. Whether the Bucks did or didn’t get the new arena this fact remained certain. The BMO Harris Bradley Center had a future demolition date attached to it and there was no escaping that. The Admirals needed to follow suit and start looking after themselves. As talks weren’t being had between the two organizations it forced the Admirals hand to plunge into their options and pursue the one that befitted themselves and their fans the absolute best. That option wasn’t that far away. That option was across the street and connected at the hip of where the Admirals front office is located. That option was the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
What the Admirals are getting in the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena is a home. I fear many people are looking at the headlines of today’s news without taking in the news underneath the venue change which is that you’ve just been guaranteed Admirals hockey for the next ten-years. In an age where professional hockey teams in the AHL or ECHL either move away, change leagues, change affiliations with parent clubs, or simply no longer exist – the Admirals appear to be a permanent anchor at the minor professional hockey league level and that is by no means something that should be forgotten or taken lightly. The Peoria Rivermen, gone. The Oklahoma City Barons, gone. So many organizations come and go yet the Admirals stay right here, functioning at a high level, in Milwaukee. The Calgary Flames have switched AHL affiliates three times in the last three years. The Admirals have been partnered with the Nashville Predators ever since the Predators came into existence. There is a model of consistency that is pretty much unheard of at this level of hockey with the Admirals and, thanks to today’s news, that model of consistency will continue.
For those looking at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena as a step backwards I encourage you to have a pause. The Admirals are leaving a pro level building that was made in 1988 and entering a pro level building made in 1950. In that respect you might view things as a step backward. If you were comparing that shiny new Bucks arena versus the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena you might be thinking it as a step backwards. Now, let me explain to you why you are wrong.
The moment the Milwaukee Admirals 2016-17 season begins they will be the premier professional sports organization playing games at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The Admirals front office will no longer have their hands tied in knots waiting to see what the Bucks need to get done first. This is the Admirals building and it will be every part the home they could have wanted moving out of the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Another area that screams improvement will come by way of cost. I can’t imagine most fans of the Admirals are going to want to be paying NHL level premiums at a new Bucks arena versus the beauty that awaits them as far as ticket packages will be concerned at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The Admirals are not making this move entirely just to put a roof over their head. They’re making this move to also be able to provide their fan base with an entertainment experience that leaves you feeling as if you received more than the ticket price stated. The Admirals have long provided a bang for your buck experience and that same feeling of appreciation in fans wallets will be felt in kind starting next season.
One more item that I’m unsure of just how many people are unaware of was the restrictiveness of the Admirals ability to make money on game-days at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Admirals make zero money on concessions. They only just in recent years started making a percentage of merchandise revenue from their own merchandise that gets sold at the building. Where does the rest of your money for Admirals merchandise purchased at the BMO Harris Bradley Center go? For the lack of a better example let me just say it rhymes with the situation: sucks. When the Admirals 2016-17 season arrives it arrives with a team enjoying one of it’s best business years in memory and en route to finally start making revenue through game-day sales made at the arena that they play in. This wasn’t going to happen with further years in the BMO Harris Bradley Center. This certainly wouldn’t be a point that changed at the negotiating table for the new Bucks arena. Financially, the Admirals are about to experience something totally different than these last several years and those rewards will have a trickle down effect to the fans – big time.
The UW-Panther Arena is slated to see $6.4 million worth of upgrades during the duration of the Admirals ten-year lease. These upgrades will go above and beyond the team looking to get a pro level locker room installed. The fan experience will be a major point of focus in the years to come. Improved kitchens, concessions, concourse, and lobbies are all on the start of a list that is sure to grow as time moves forward now that this partnership between the Admirals and the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena is a reality. Suggestions from fans to the front office over time, through personal experiences in these first few years back, may have a direct impact on some of the millions of dollars worth of upgrades due to come. This isn’t just a new home address being made for the Admirals it is a big community involved effort to see a 66-year old historical building become more of a home to our hockey team in Milwaukee ever has before.
The BMO Harris Bradley Center seats up to 17,845 in hockey mode. The current average attendance for the Admirals this season is 5,749 through 32-games. That is down just ever so slightly from where the team ended on last season with 5,809 but, hey, these next few (and final) games at the building are sure to boost that attendance figure. With that sort of an average, for many fans or readers suggesting there aren’t enough seats at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, I suggest you have a rethink about the scale and size of the arena you sit in the next time you attend an Admirals game. The BMO Harris Bradley Center has serve the team so very well but it was build with NHL hockey in mind not AHL hockey. What you’ll be getting at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena is the exact same experience with a lowered ceiling to create a more intimate and loud setting. Say what you want but that sounds an awful lot like something I want to be every bit that part of. This isn’t a step backwards. It is exactly as the Admirals are calling this move: a step forward.
I had the opportunity to attend this afternoon’s press conference in-person to get to take in everything live. For those unable to have done so you can watch that press conference right here:
After the press conference I had the opportunity to speak with Milwaukee Admirals Owner/CEO Harris Turer as well as play-by-play broadcaster Aaron Sims. Then, as a pleasant surprise, the French Fries were all in attendance to join in the big news for the Admirals. Here is what everyone had to say from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
What are your general thoughts to today’s major news? When was the last time you attended any sort of an event at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and will this news cause you to attend an event prior to the Milwaukee Admirals arrival later this fall?
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