They built it and they sure came.
In 1988, the Bradley Center became the new home of the Milwaukee Bucks. It was a magnificent, state-of-the-art facility that was envisioned to provide the Bucks with a hefty and much-needed boost at the gate.
The Bucks had previously called the Milwaukee Arena their home and, while the Arena was charming, it was also small. Built in 1950, the Arena had a seating capacity of only 12,200. The BC, on the other hand, had a seating capacity of 18,717 for basketball games.
The Bucks wound up drawing 700,984 fans for 41 regular-season games — an average of 17,097 per game — during their first season in the BC. That was substantially more than the 10,771 average from the previous season in the Arena.
After three decades of playing in the BC, the Bucks relocated down the block once again, this time into Fiserv Forum, a chic facility with a seating capacity of 17,500.
As expected, the Bucks saw a bump in attendance from the previous season in the BC. But it wasn’t nearly as enormous as the one they received after moving to the BC from the Arena. After averaging 16,714 fans in their BC farewell season, the Bucks averaged 17,602 in Fiserv last season.
What’s more, in the Bucks’ first season in the BC, their attendance total of 700,984 ranked seventh among the then 25 NBA teams. In comparison, the Bucks’ total attendance last season in Fiserv was 721,672. Yet, that ranked just 17th in the now 30-team league.
So, how are the Bucks faring against the other 29 NBA teams so far this season?
After 15 regular-season home games, the Bucks rank 18th in the league in average attendance at 17,509 – just a smidgen down from last season.
That decline is reminiscent of the Bucks’ decrease in attendance in their second season in the Bradley Center.
After ranking seventh in the league with an average attendance of 17,097 in their first season in the BC, the Bucks dropped to 10th at 16,087 during the 1988-1989 season.
The Bucks’ average attendance this season is also more than 3,000 fewer the Philadelphia 76ers’, the top drawing home team in the NBA. The 76ers’ average home attendance is 20,517.
Dallas has the second-best home attendance at 19,844, while Portland is third at 19,776. Rounding out the top five are Toronto at 19,775 and Miami at 19,644.
At the bottom of the home attendance heap are seven teams that are struggling at the gate, each averaging under 16,000 fans a game. They are Atlanta (15,759), Detroit (15,715), Washington (15,680), Phoenix (15,618), Memphis (15,304), Charlotte (14,933) and Minnesota (14,880).
— One might assume the Bucks would be a “must-see’’ team for fans in other NBA cities, especially since they boast a marquee player in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But that assumption isn’t true. The Bucks rank a mere 19th in average road attendance at 17,380.
Not surprisingly, the LeBron James-led Lakers are packing arenas around the league. The Lakers are averaging a league-best 18,876 on the road.
Interestingly, three of the NBA’s worst teams –Cleveland (18,666), New York (18,430) and New Orleans (18,407) – are ranked second through fourth in average road attendances.