Last updated on April 18th, 2023 at 11:24 pm
With large crowds expected to gather once again in downtown Milwaukee during the NBA playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks and city leaders are ramping up security in and around the Deer District.
The measures come largely in response to incidents that occurred near Fiserv Forum after the Bucks’ final home playoff game last year, when 21 people were injured in three separate shootings.
Ahead of Game 1 of the first round series at Fiserv Forum on Sunday, Bucks and city officials on Friday announced several new public safety initiatives, including a messaging campaign encouraging fans to leave valuables at home instead of in vehicles and plans to deploy 60 youth “ambassadors” who will work with arena security to monitor crowd activity in and around Deer District.
During the first round series, the only outdoor screen broadcasting games will be the one at The Beer Garden, which has been transformed into the Tanduay Tiki Hut for the playoffs. Additional screens and activities will be added to the plaza in front of Fiserv Forum if the Bucks advance, “knowing that we scale up as we go round by round with what our audience and attendance is,” said Bucks president Peter Feigin at a news conference Friday.
He said there are no plans at this point to limit capacity at the Deer District, and first round playoff game viewing parties typically attract 3,000 to 6,000 people.
“We’re going to take this moment by moment based on how it scales over time, said Feigin. “It’s going to be very controlled, very distributed, we will control the crowd hour by hour to make sure it’s proportionate to where our safety and security is.”
The trained ambassadors will be temporarily employed by Employ Milwaukee and will don jackets identifying them as security personnel.
“They can assist people coming to Fiserv Forum and will be spread around the neighborhood adjacent to the Deer District,” said Feigin. “These ambassadors will offer another layer of people on-site to ensure fans are coming to cheer on the Bucks and having a fun, safe experience.”
The ambassador program, which was first proposed by Ashanti Hamilton, director of the city’s office of violence prevention, is designed not only to increase security, but also to create jobs for Milwaukee’s youth.
“The Bucks have really stepped up in a big way with the commitment of making this playoff season a celebration throughout the city of Milwaukee and connecting to the youth across this city and giving them an opportunity to take responsibility of keeping this downtown area safe during the playoff season,” said Hamilton.
The goal of the “Leave it at Home” campaign, a collaboration with the Milwaukee Police Department, is to reduce vehicle break-ins.
“If you can’t bring it in, don’t bring it at all,” said Feigin.
“Although (illegal) entry into vehicles is down 59% in our downtown district compared to last year, MPD strongly encourages patrons to not leave their valuables in their vehicles, especially firearms,” said MPD assistant chief Paul Formolo.
In addition, MPD will increase its presence in and around Deer District during games.