Milwaukee awash in Badger red as tourney fever takes over the city

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- You didn't have to look far to find a red and white 'W' or a Bucky Badger sweatshirt throughout downtown Milwaukee.

Badgers fans showed up en masse to cheer on the third-seeded Badgers as they took on fourteenth-seeded Colgate Friday night, March 18. It was the last of four first round games held at Fiserv Forum Friday.

"We couldn't be more excited to host the NCAA tournament for the first time here at Fiserv Forum, said Michael Belot, Senior Vice President of Bucks Ventures and Development. "The NCAA tournament is one of the best days in all of sports; one of the best weekends in all of sports. Here in the Deer District, we want to embrace that and make this the place to be."

Technically eight teams played their opening round games in Milwaukee Friday, but you had to look hard for signs of the other schools as a sea of Wisconsin red washed over the Deer District.

Andrew Reimesch, a Badgers fan from Milwaukee, said when he learned the Badgers would be playing Milwaukee, he thought, "I have to buy a ticket, I have to go to this game."

The weather felt more suited for a football Saturday at Camp Randall. Fan Julie Peterson was soaked from standing in the rain all day, and said, "I'm freezing! We've been here for a while."

But it didn't stop the thousands of fans that came out early for good food and cold beer.

Reimesch said, "I was working earlier today, ducked out a little early. Don't tell anybody. We've been here since the beginning of this game. It's a little rainy but we're enjoying ourselves so far."

They came from Milwaukee, from Madison, and from across the state, like Dawn Judd from Dodgeville, who said, "Vacation day submitted and I was here. Red hat packed, and we're going."

And they transformed the nominally-neutral Fiserv Forum into a Badgers home game. Reimesch said, "It feels like a home game. Feels like we're playing at the Kohl Center."

But the Colgate University fanbase did have an admirable presence. Jack Kaplan's father is a Colgate alum, and the pair made the trip from Chicago. Jack said, "I love the atmosphere and stuff, it's just fun to be here. First March Madness game for me, so happy to be supporting a team that I like so it's all good."

With round down and the second still to come, Milwaukee was getting rave reviews as a host city. Judd said, "I love Milwaukee. Love it. It's so fun. My first trip here to Fiserv, it's a beautiful facility. Great place for a tournament."

Brothers Michael and Jacob Haase bought tickets for the tournament months ago. It was a pleasant surprise when the two UW fans found out they'd be able to cheer on their favorite team in person.

"We got tickets today and Sunday," Jacob said. "Hopefully, they move on and we get to see them again on Sunday."

The Haase brothers weren't alone, with many people throughout the state now rallying around the only Wisconsin team left in the tournament after Marquette's first-round loss Thursday.

"To have the Badgers here along with other great, storied programs like Texas, LSU, Iowa State; we're extremely excited to be here," Belot said. "We expect Badger fans to arrive early, stay late and have a great day."

It's an exciting, busy time for the arena and for area businesses. "We expect a full house; today, this evening," said Fiserv Forum general manager Dennis Williams. "Hopefully, with success of some of the teams, we have a full house Sunday as well."

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