'The lifeblood of our game': Milwaukee Bucks welcome some fans back to Fiserv Forum
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --- For the first time in nearly a year, the Milwaukee Bucks will allow a limited number of fans into their home games at Fiserv Forum beginning Tuesday, Feb. 16, as the team takes on the Toronto Raptors.
"As you can imagine, this is a very big day for us. The fans are the lifeblood of our game. They give our players the extra boost, they give our employees a reason to serve," said Bucks and Fiserv Forum President Peter Feigin during a news conference Tuesday morning.
The Milwaukee Health Department has approved Fiserv Forum to host fans at 10 percent capacity. That means approximately 1,800 fans, according to a news release.
On Tuesday night, 250 fans will be allowed. That includes players' families, essential workers and other invited guests.
Five-hundred fans will be allowed on Thursday against the Raptors and 750 on Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. A return of the general public will take place on Sunday, Feb. 21 with 1,800 fans against the Sacramento Kings.
"A packed house at Fiserv, the crowd, the roar of the crowd mean a ton to our players, and we've missed that," said Bucks General Manager Jon Horst.
The team hopes to increase to 25 percent capacity for the second half of the season. Feigin said the health department will reassess in about a month.
The Bucks came to us and they said, 'We want to reopen. We want to do it safely. And we want to work with you. We will cooperate. We will listen to your expertise, and we'll be solution-oriented, which for the health department has just been a breath of fresh air," said Milwaukee Interim Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson.
One of the largest changes fans will notice is the way concessions are run at Fiserv Forum. Fans can order food and drink from their seats using the Bucks app. Then, they will pick their items up from the concessions counter right outside their section.
"Fiserv and the Milwaukee 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," said Justin Green, vice president of hospitality for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Fans sitting within 30 feet of the court cannot eat or drink in their seats, and they will be required to get a rapid COVID-19 test before entering the arena. Tests are being supplied through a partnership with Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin. The team said around 70 people will get rapid tests Tuesday.
Here’s how spread out fans are here at Fiserv Forum. If tonight is a success— 500 fans will be allowed for Thursday’s game and that number will continue to grow as the week goes on ? @CBS58 pic.twitter.com/lgaRjNKAOv— Cearron Bagenda (@CearronBagenda) February 17, 2021
Fans must wear masks and stay sitting down at all times, except during the National Anthem, according to the team.
"What I want to see now is: I want to see the Bucks win a whole lot of games during this home period and then go on the road and win even more games, so that we can get back to where we want to be as a community," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
"I thought we were gonna be watching them on TV for this entire season, so this was a very big, positive surprise," said season ticket holder, Jay Schwister.
Season ticket holders say they were given the option to attend Tuesday's game late last week.
"We live in Madison, so we haven't been to any sporting events in a long time, and this is awesome, it's unbelievable," said season ticket holder John Rupcich.
Some say they're most excited to see the Greek Freak, while others just want to soak it all in.
"Giannis and all the stuff he does is a must watch," said fan Will Schwister.
"Just seeing everyone there and being able to hear the crowd -- not so silent," added Michael Sutherland.
Limited single-game tickets will be available to the public for Sunday's game against Sacramento and for the remaining four games of the Bucks' first half schedule. Tickets will go on sale Thursday, Feb. 18 at 12 p.m. and can be purchased here.