The Four Keys to a Better NBA Fan Experience: Lessons from Fiserv Forum

October 16, 2018 / Gabe Braselton

The iconic roof of Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum sends chills down fans’ spines as they arrive from miles away. Officially opened to the public in late August 2018, the new arena wows fans as they walk through its doors and experience an NBA facility like never before. Although the arena is actually shorter than the Bradley Center, it feels much larger at the threshold — but don’t let the arena’s exterior volume deceive you. Every seat in the arena places fans right on top of the action. The interior intimacy is due in part to the slightly reduced seating capacity, which gives fans the up-close and personal experience they deserve.

In reality, it is impossible to create a “small” 17,500 seat arena, so as designers, our objective is to make these large buildings authentic, warm and inviting. One way that the design team chose to evoke the warm and welcoming personality of Milwaukee was by selecting a patinated zinc that is both warm in color and glowing in aesthetic. Using exterior materials that evoke emotion invites guests into the building by both catching their eye and creating a sense of excitement. Hand-crafted aspects are rare in a project this size, which makes them that much more special. Attention to detail is something I have seen first-hand all over the city of Milwaukee, in the old buildings and in the new buildings. We worked hard to preserve this unique piece of culture in the Bucks’ new home.

Milwaukee Bucks ownership not only dreamed of the same home-like experience when walking through the arena doors, but they also inspired the multipurpose nature of the building — making it a place that looks toward the future in its capabilities. When considering the amount of money modern NBA arenas command, ownership groups and cities need the assurance that they will stand the test of time and maximize the return on investment. For us, this means creating a flexible place that offers everything the city and the Bucks could need and more. The new Fiserv Forum stands the test of time because it is functional and market-reflective. It provides Milwaukee with a large canvas for community engagement. It is smart, efficient and geared toward its city. To understand what flexibility means in the context of the Fiserv Forum, let’s take a look at how Milwaukee’s home for basketball and events makes the most of its space:

Designed for the Community

nba fan experience

While the arena’s significant size may lead onlookers to believe Fiserv Forum’s interior is vast and impersonal, this could not be further from reality. In fact, the intimate design has helped the Milwaukee Bucks settle in and feel comfortable calling it “home.” Through its focus on sightlines, comfortability and social gathering spaces, the arena represents the future of venue design. Future-thinking arenas focus more on comfort than seat count in the pursuit of consistent attendance.

As for the future of the Milwaukee Bucks’ new Fiserv Forum — it is bright. There is something for everyone in the Milwaukee community through the facility’s planned diversity in events and entertainment. If my travels to Milwaukee taught me one thing, it’s that this is a community that loves to socialize. The full schedule of festivals and cultural celebrations are world-class. The local food and beer scene is second-to-none. The arena provides a prime destination for community gatherings and will endure thousands of memories due to its year-round functionality and its true connection to the city. The equation is simple — more ticket sales draw the attention of more shows, and more shows mean a greater economic benefit for Milwaukee.

“The Fiserv Forum will be a magnet – a centerpiece of activity, of density. It will be a place of pride for the city of Milwaukee.” –Peter Feigin, President, Milwaukee Bucks

The First Impression

nba fan experience

The moment fans pass through Fiserv Forum’s main entrance, they are greeted by an expansive 100-foot tall atrium. The grand lobby’s purpose is two-fold: to provide ample space for fans to mingle, roam and make their way through the building and to offer both a physical and visual connection to downtown Milwaukee. Visible from the atrium are wide concourses that offer more room for easier circulation and keep fans connected to the action while spending time away from their seats. Concessions are positioned on the perimeter of the concourse so fans can take in the action while in line for a beer or on their way to one of the many social spaces the building offers.

Compatibility and Convenience

nba fan experience

As for the seats themselves, there is not a single one in this arena that does not offer ample legroom. Even with the wider seating rows, fans will find themselves completely plugged into the action with a clear view, as nearly two-thirds of the total seats are located in the lower bowl — making the experience up-close and personal for everyone. Fans can even arrive at their seats with ease by entering the seating bowls from the top row, eliminating the frustration of walking out of the tunnel into the seating bowl and turning back around to climb 15 rows to get to their seats. Now, fans can enjoy the Fiserv Forum experience much more conveniently and comfortably.

Premium Experiences for All

nba fan experience

Believe it or not, accessible seats with great views are not the end-all solution for drawing fans to a venue. Today’s fans require more than a seat and a soda to become regular visitors and want to create their own experiences. For this very reason, a general admission ticket to Fiserv Forum doesn’t just give you a place to sit, it gives you access to the Beer Garden and Panorama Club, two gathering spaces unlike any other in Milwaukee.

“It’s very well thought out, there’s nothing lacking here.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA Hall of Famer and former Milwaukee Bucks basketball player

Where the main concourse’s Beer Garden offers more than 10,000 square feet of space for fans to indulge in local food and drink selections, the Panorama Club is a penthouse for all. Situated at the highest point in the building, The Panorama Club is the largest club in the arena and provides visitors with clear views of the event on one side, and breathtaking views of the Milwaukee skyline on the other.

As the Fiserv Forum project ends and the fans begin to pour in, we are excited to watch the new arena make itself at home in Milwaukee. Our design team created each feature with fans in mind, hoping the new arena would become one of the city’s most beloved gathering spaces — and we can already see that happening.

Meet the author

Gabe Braselton

Principal, Senior Architect / Kansas City


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