For the first time since last March, fans will be on hand this week at Fiserv Forum to cheer on the Milwaukee Bucks.
About 250 spectators will be allowed into the arena on Tuesday night as the Bucks take on the Toronto Raptors.
The number is expected to grow to 500 for Thursday night’s rematch against the Raptors and 750 for Friday night’s contest versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.
As many as 1,800 fans, or about 10 percent of Fiserv Forum’s capacity, are likely to be in the stands on Sunday night as the Bucks do battle against the Sacramento Kings.
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“This is a day we’ve been looking forward to for almost a year,” Bucks and Fiserv Forum President Peter Feigin said. “The fans are the lifeblood of our game. They give our players the extra boost, they give our employees a reason to serve.”
The 250 fans expected for Tuesday night’s game will be a mix of players’ families, essential workers and other guests, Feigin said.
After completing an eight-game homestand that begins with Tuesday night’s contest, the Bucks are expected to seek permission from the Milwaukee Health Department to increase fan capacity at Fiserv Forum to 25 percent. This would amount to allowing a little more than 4,300 spectators into the Downtown arena, provided that no problems arise with the phased returned of fans and that the city’s COVID-19 numbers continue a downward trend, Feigin said.
“We made a lot of important upgrades to ensure the health and safety of our fans, players, coaches and staff,” Feigin added.
Safety measures include:
- Implementing a timed entry system to Fiserv Forum to reduce the size of groups congregating at entrances.
- Requiring fans to wear face coverings at all times except when actively eating or drinking.
- Prohibiting any bags from being brought into the arena.
- Requiring a rapid COVID-19 test for all fans whose seats are within 30 feet of the court.
In addition, fans will be required to remain seated during game action. No matter how heated things get on the court, spectators will be prohibited from “jumping up and screaming,” Feigin said.
Through a partnership with Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, rapid COVID-19 testing will be provided beginning about three hours before tipoff, with results expected within 30 minutes, Feigin said.
The Bucks haven’t played a game in front of fans at Fiserv since March 4 of last season when they downed the Indiana Pacers 119-100. After a three-game road trip, the coronavirus pandemic then forced a shutdown of the NBA schedule that would last four months.
When the season resumed, the NBA shifted all games to a “bubble” environment at the Walt Disney World resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
“It was almost a year ago when I saw that an NBA basketball game had been cancelled just minutes before the tipoff,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. “I immediately called Peter and said this could be serious. When I made that call, I never dreamed that 11 months later we would still be fighting to get our lives back to normal.”
Marlaina Jackson, the city’s interim health commissioner, said Bucks management approached the city and expressed a strong interest to reopen Fiserv Forum to fans while pledging full cooperation.
“For the Health Department, it’s been a breath of fresh air to have a team say ‘We really want to work with you. Tell us what is safe. Tell us what makes sense,’” Jackson said. “This is our first step in a crawl as we move to walking and hopefully eventually running, understanding that the pandemic is not yet over.”
Bucks General Manager Jon Horst said players have been anxiously awaiting the return of fans to Fiserv Forum.
“The roar of the crowd means a ton to our players,” Horst said. “Although it will be in a limited capacity initially, our players are really excited to have fans cheering them on and supporting them game in and game out. We’ve been able to experience fans a bit on the road and it makes a difference.”
Current full-season ticketholders and those who purchase full plans for the 2021-22 season will have access to an exclusive pre-sale for single game tickets that starts at noon Wednesday. Half-season and partial-plan holders will have access to purchase tickets later Wednesday afternoon.
Bucks email subscribers will have access to an exclusive pre-sale starting Thursday at 10 a.m.
All remaining single-game inventory will be available to the general public beginning at noon on Thursday and can be purchased through the Bucks app or at Bucks.com
Fans looking to guarantee seats for the second part of the season can purchase quarter-season plans. The Bucks remaining schedule will be released after the All-Star break. Plans are on sale at Bucks.com.
Tickets will be sold in “pods” of two and four and will be socially distanced.
Safety protocols will be strictly enforced.
“There is no wiggle room,” Feigin said.
Fans will experience significantly revamped food and beverage service at Fiserv Forum aimed at protecting public health.
A new point-of-sale system has been installed that will allow for full contactless food and beverage sales throughout the arena, Bucks Vice President of Hospitality Justin Green said.
“Fiserv and the Bucks have created a one-of-a-kind system that is going to allow mobile ordering like it’s never been done in pro sports or any live space ever,” Green said. “You will be able to sit at your seat and order any menu item, have it tracked through your Bucks app, be alerted when it’s ready and within feet of your section be able to walk up and pick that item up safely and return to your seat.”
Green described the system as a “game-changer.”
“We are already getting phone calls from other teams and arenas and stadiums on how to implement this,” Green said.