Bucks Get Holiday Scheduling Treat

The Milwaukee Bucks are heading through the first part of the season with an early Christmas present from the NBA. Schedulers have seemed to look favorably on the team, giving them eight Saturday home games to start the season.

It has been a regular occurrence for the Bucks, who have started their season on the road again this year, as they have for the past 20-plus seasons. But this year they’ve got some marquee teams coming into the BMO Harris Bradley Center compared to past years. The first eight Saturdays brings in the Boston Celtics twice, the Miami Heat, the LA Clippers and, perennial home draw, the Chicago Bulls.

Boston brings hometown hero Doc Rivers and its cast of aging hall of famers. Miami brings two other strong Milwaukee draws in Dwayne Wade and former Buck hero Ray Allen. The Clippers have giant dunker Blaine Griffith and defensive whiz Chris Paul.

Those kinds of draws should put butts in the seats, the team, and the league, are hoping. The Bucks haven’t been exactly setting the world on fire in drawing the hometown faithful to their round ball palace. Last year the team was 26th out of 30 NBA teams in attendance, sporting an average game head count of 14,718--ahead of only the Kings, Pistons, Pacers and Nets.

It’s also no secret the Bucks are a fragile franchise. Their arena doesn’t have enough revenue generators compared with others, such as premium seats, better private clubs and more luxurious amenities to attract the big spenders. Dad and the two kids can’t pay the freight for professional basketball any more. So is this a bone being thrown to the team by the NBA? The league nor the Bucks did not respond to that question when we asked.

The schedule announcement certainly buoyed the hopes for better bottom lines from bars and restaurants around the BC. Major Goolsby’s is always a hot spot for events at the Bradley Center, as is Game Time across the street, so they wouldn’t see any abnormal boon in revenue. But a lesser known place, like Upper 90 Sports Pub down the block on State Street could. That place has had difficulties staying open in past incarnations, perhaps due to its hidden proximity from the arena, which is really only a half-block away.

An institution that used to send loads of Bucks fans to the games, O’Lydia’s, formerly Slim’s, 338 S. 1st. St., isn’t doing that anymore. Owner Linda Sackett said the lock-out shortened season last year forced her to cancel BC bus rides and this year her customers weren’t interested.

“I do run to all home Marquette and UWM games,” she added.

The Bucks have to do their job now in putting people in the seats. So far, the jury is out on that. Despite a 2-0 start, the team still waits for its first sell-out. The team drew 17,086 for the home opener on Nov. 3 against Cleveland. Boston drew only 14,589 in its first Saturday night appearance, Nov. 10. In a mid-week game against Memphis Nov. 7, 11,465 showed up.

Milwaukee has seven home games in November, including a Saturday night matchup Thanksgiving weekend against the Bulls. The Bucks play seven on the road in November and have eight at home and seven away in December, including Miami at home over the Christmas holiday break.

The schedule stacks up with similar home numbers as years past, but the talent is better this year. Last year the team had 11 Saturday games the whole season. In 2010, the Bucks had seven Saturdays to start the season, but the opponent’s talent pool had decidedly fewer draws. New Orleans, Orlando, Utah, Oklahoma City and two versus Charlotte were the featured attractions. In 2010-11, the season started with seven Saturday night games in November and December. In 2009-10 the team had seven Saturday games to start the season, with draws like the Knicks, Spurs, Kings, Magic and Trail Blazers. In 2008-09 the team started with eight Saturday homes featuring the Pistons, Pacers, Clippers, Suns, Celtics and Bobcats.

The league’s scheduling gift to the Bucks comes at a time when the team is trying to get every penny of revenue out of the Bradley barn. The team just signed a six-year lease to play there, which is includes a break on several million dollars the BMOHBC owes the team. With the encouragement of the local chamber of commerce, other businesses have stepped up to sponsor gate entrances and new club seats. About $18 million came from that effort. Naming rights were sold earlier this year as well. The Bucks will continue to receive 27.5% of concession sales and 13.75% of food and beverage sales in the suites, as well as 30% of merchandise sales at Bucks games.