When will Milwaukee get the NBA All-Star Game?
While the game itself can be forgettable, hosting an All-Star Game is a big deal for a professional sports city. If you were around Milwaukee in 2002, you might remember the hubbub around the Major League Baseball All-Star Game (I was there!) Soon the city will have the chance to “redeem” itself since modern stadiums MLB players are starting to see their second All-Star Game (Denver, Cleveland, Seattle), but there’s a new building in town that needs to see one first.
The Bradley Center aged pretty quickly and never hosted an NBA All-Star game, but the old Mecca hosted the 1977 game. Things were a lot different from before the stadium boom of the 1990s until today. days: Now the league seems to favor a franchise location for its star-studded show over its sparkling new facility, which is how MLB rewards theirs. Rather than granting the event to cities that have built new arenas – many with public funding – the NBA has returned to recent hosts time and time again, resulting in confusing rehearsals in recent years. Staples Center has hosted three games, two of which are just six years apart, although I’m guessing this building represents two teams. Warm-weather markets like Houston and Atlanta have hosted twice in their current arenas, the first opening in 2003 and the last in 1999 (but with a recent major renovation).
When I say location, however, it is not hot sunny weather in February. Current arenas in Salt Lake City and Cleveland will both see their second All-Star Games this season and the next, while Toronto finally got theirs in 2016 after two decades in the league. It’s not necessarily glitter either; Miami has not hosted one in its current 22-year-old building, nor has the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. New Orleans may not be a glamorous NBA city – and is indeed a smaller market than even Milwaukee – but it has welcomed Three All-Star games since the Pelicans-née-Hornets moved to town. One of them was transferred from Charlotte as part of the league’s protest against the discriminatory North Carolina toilet bill, so these are more of two actual selections, but props for the NBA for doing what it could to help the city recover from Hurricane Katrina.
For many years, this breeding model deprived other markets with modern arenas of the opportunity to generate more income. The local economies of Memphis and Oklahoma City will benefit far more from these festivities than Los Angeles or New York, and their teams built venues in the 2000s. These cities are more recent additions to the NBA, but Sacramento has opened. Golden 1 Center in 2016 and although the Moda Center in Portland was built in 1995, it has aged well: I certainly couldn’t tell when I saw a game there. These four cities have never hosted the event. Meanwhile, even non-NBA and non-basketball venues Cowboys Stadium in Dallas and UNLV Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas have clinched games.
Thus, location is less dependent on a city’s climate, sophistication, or market size. Remember that even the smallest markets in the league are only designated as such in relation to the rest of the league; they are still big cities with infrastructures for big events. The Big Easy has long been a popular convention and conference destination due to its abundance of hotel accommodations, plus upscale accommodations. He’s also a frequent Super Bowl host. In order to host the Super Bowl and several NCAA Final Fours, downtown Indianapolis has built up a lot of capacity for major sporting events, and the sensational (I highly recommend a game there) Bankers Life Fieldhouse will see and finally the NBA All-Star Game in 2024 Although many of its facilities have been remodeled or demolished, Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics.
It’s more than just infrastructure, however. For the NBA, location is about amenities; equipment the NBA says it needs for All-Star Weekend. Although Adam Silver declared in 2018 that there was a “commitment” to bringing the game to Milwaukee, the main reason given by the NBA when the Fiserv Forum opened – and in the years that followed – as to why it was not granted an All-Star Game in the near future is a lack of four- and five-star hotel rooms. The market needs 6,000 in total, many of which must be at least “four star quality. “Why do they need it so much? It’s not for the players. Every town in the NBA has at least one fancy hotel where visiting teams stay; Milwaukee’s is usually the haunted Pfister (#HeatCulture!) Or more recently the Third Room Companion.
Are celebrity venues and other big spenders coming to the game? If I remember correctly I saw a lot of A-listers (Sheryl Crow doesn’t count) at NBA FINAL SIX GAME. There were the same number of butts in those seats as there would be for that meaningless match in February. Where did they stay if there weren’t enough rooms for a fucking All-Star Game? Were Dave Chappelle and Kendall Jenner at Four Points by Sheraton Airport? Gucci Mane crashed at Ersan’s in Mequon? Kanye was apparently on the guest list; Did he get out on bail because St. Kate’s bridal suite was booked?
All kidding aside, the reasoning for hotel capacity doesn’t quite follow. The United Center in Chicago, for all of its history since opening in 1994, has finally hosted the game in 2020. The Windy City certainly isn’t lacking in the boutique hotel rooms the NBA craves, so why the long wait? Miami is as chic a tourist spot as anywhere and the NBA has one of its flagship teams there, so why haven’t they taken their talents to South Beach since 1990? These franchises were bidding and their fans had been clamoring for the All-Star Game for much longer than the Bucks, but they each had the arena to justify it.
I’m not buying it, Adam. We’ll play your game, however. The NBA All-Star Game is not the Super Bowl and welcomes half the fans as MLB, but apparently what was enough for baseball in 2002 is not enough for the current NBA. Milwaukee admittedly doesn’t have as many downtown luxury hotels as some other smaller markets, but the revitalized Deer District has driven development as the team hoped. As late as last week, the Bucks and the Devs innovated in a new nine-story Marriott Autograph Collection hotel just across Juneau Street from Fiserv Forum to accompany the nearby Hyatt Place up the hill to the west and the Aloft two blocks to the east. A tempo by Hilton has been proposed for Old World Third and Kilbourn, near Mecca. These are all within walking distance of the arena, and there’s a whole empty lot where the Bradley Center was located.
More and more high-end infrastructure is coming in, but the ability to host bigger events than the NBA could ever host already exists. Thanks in large part to the efforts of the Bucks owner group, Milwaukee landed the 2020 Democratic National Convention, centered on the Fiserv Forum. Of course, a global pandemic meant the event went live and the city missed tens (hundreds?) Of millions of deals. A political convention in an election year is about as big an event as a city can host: rooms are booked a year later, many residents rent their homes as Airbnbs, and even cities a short drive away as Madison saw a high demand for hotels. Visitors to the DNC may not be as selective in their accommodations as the NBA, but the influx of media and political visitors to the convention eclipses the NBA All-Star Game. If the DNC had gone as planned, it would only have helped with an All-Star offer.
The league has scheduled All-Star venues until 2024 and tends to announce the coming years close to the start of regular seasons. While we can hope this year, there’s a good chance the NBA won’t choose Fiserv Forum for a while. There are venues built between 1995 and 2002 in Boston, Miami, Dallas, and San Antonio that have yet to host: all obviously have long strong basketball towns. Additionally, Detroit and Golden State have moved into new facilities since 2017, the latter being the NBA’s newest arena in a very high-income market. The Clippers will complete their recently named ultra-modern Intuit Dome in 2024.
Maybe Milwaukee is better placed to host than Memphis and OKC, but I don’t count on a selection anytime soon. This is pure speculation, but I’m guessing the Chase Center in San Francisco probably has the indoor track of a game in the near future and is selected for 2025 or 2026. I think it’s more likely that the league put one or two in places like Miami and Dallas or return to the LA well before the Bucks get theirs. The same could be said for Sacramento and San Antonio, so Milwaukee is also competing with them.
For their part, the Bucks try pretty much every year and put money for what the NBA wants. After a championship, there is no franchise that deserves it more.
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