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Bucks Front Office Targeting Illinois Residents With WESC

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Can a state-of-the-art arena put Chicago-area tuchuses in the seats?

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

An article in the Chicago Tribune last Friday afternoon, written up by Teddy Greenstein, featured the new arena construction going on in Milwaukee:

In his piece, Greenstein lists out reasons why the Bucks angling for that Illinois cash money, and why it’s not as far-fetched of an idea as it may seem at first glance:

Time: On a recent late afternoon, the trafficologists at Google Maps estimated that it would take 1 hour and 18 minutes to drive the 31.2 miles from Lake Forest to the United Center. The 63.4-mile jaunt to Milwaukee could be covered in 1:06. So if you live in Libertyville or Mundelein or Fox Lake or Waukegan ...

Cost: NBA arenas have numerous price points that vary based on location and season- versus single-game tickets, but suffice to say you'll pay less than you would at the United Center, which has the NBA's fifth-highest average ticket. Senior Vice President of Communications Barry Baum says that half of the Bucks' tickets will be $50 or less.

The 'tank' factor: After dealing Jimmy Butler, Bulls' fans are thinking about Ping-Pong balls. The Bucks are thinking big. They have a second-team All-NBA Greek god in Antetokounmpo, whose long-term, team-friendly deal points the team's arrow up. And Simeon alum Jabari Parker, on the mend after a second ACL tear, gives the Bucks as many native Chicagoans as the Bulls (Dwyane Wade).

"The Bulls have a rich history," Parker said by telephone. "It will take time (to lure their fans). But we finished on a high last season (16-7 before a playoff series loss to the Raptors). And with the new arena …"

The new home: The Bucks' yet-to-be-named $524 million arena, being constructed just north of the Bradley Center, will have a basketball capacity of 17,500 – with a whopping 10,000 seats in the lower bowl.


Let’s dig into the four points that Greenstein makes:

Time

I grew up on the Illinois side of the WI/IL border, and went to a lot of Milwaukee Brewers games out of sheer convenience compared to Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs. Going up to Milwaukee was actually a 15ish minute shorter drive than if I were to head down to Chicago, not to mention the ease and cheap parking compared to Chicago. This argument has the most legitimacy to it — taking the Amtrak either north or south is beyond convenient — but it is easier to drive to Milwaukee than Chicago.

Cost

Cost is something that Milwaukee has always had on Chicago. Even with a planned increased cost to single game tickets at the new arena, Bulls games will always be pricey unless the team completely bottoms out. Will a cheaper ticket outweigh the cost of a round trip drive up north? I don’t really think so. Even if people want to check out the new arena, why wouldn’t they just wait for the Bulls to play in Milwaukee? I don’t know many people from the deep Chicago suburbs that would drive 3 12 hours round trip for a weeknight game against Utah, regardless of the cost.

The Tank Factor

This is an interesting point. I think the immediate effects of the Bulls being bad won’t lead to border huggers going up north for their competitive NBA fix. Chicago-native Jabari Parker, helps bridge that gap a little bit, but not to a significant enough degree to where new Illinois-resident attendees will move the needle. Now if the Bucks were to sign another Chicago-native and former MVP, could that move the needle a little more? Hmmm....

The New Home

This is easily the best point that Greenstein makes. A new arena that is aesthetically pleasing and changes a chunk of downtown Milwaukee will draw people from outside the Bucks’ normal footprint, including Illinois residents. I imagine a lot of them would visit the arena, and city, when the Bulls are in town. Downtown Milwaukee is an awesome place, but the height of NBA season occurs when sub-par weather is sweeping the Midwest, so I don’t know if suburbanites will visit for the heck of it. I will say, as a Cubs fan, I have been to more non-Cubs game at Miller Park than I have ever been to Cubs games at Wrigley Field simply out of the amenities and convenience. The WESC can provide improvements over the United Center in both of those departments.


All in all I think it is an interesting marketing strategy for the Bucks to pursue, but I don’t necessarily agree with the strategy. The Bucks are still the “third fiddle” as far as state-wide sports fandom is concerned. If the Bucks could hold down the state like the Packers or Badgers can, then it could be prudent for the team to spread it’s wings (hooves?) into new, competitive markets. Or maybe the front office is trying to strike while the iron is hot? The Bulls will be bad for the foreseeable future, and the Bucks figure to get better and become legit players in the East. Could the WESC be the beginning to an ever expanding #FearTheDeer footprint?