When Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin led a group of arena officials to London in October, his mission was beyond basketball.
Feigin, who has energetically presided over the NBA franchise for just over three years, expects the new $524 million Bucks arena in downtown Milwaukee to become a major entertainment destination when it opens in September 2018.
If the new arena’s first 120 days are any indication, Feigin and his team are going to be successful.
The Bucks have 80 events on hold or scheduled from September through December of 2018. By comparison, there are about 115 events a year at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
“We’re not joking around, and we haven’t been for about 12 months,” Feigin said. “We have been going around the world selling this arena.”
So far only two shows have been officially announced at the new arena, which is temporarily being called the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center.
Maroon 5 will perform on Sept. 16 and comedian Jim Gaffigan will perform on Sept. 22.
But Feigin said new shows, some of which have never been to Milwaukee, will be announced soon and the arena will open in an unbelievable fashion. The first four to six acts will vary in genre over a six- to seven-day period.
“We are going to blow people away,” Feigin said. “You really have to set the pace and set the expectation that this is not a second class city. We are going to pound our chest. We are going to be massive in getting first-class talent.”
Raj Saha has been working alongside with Feigin to book the shows. Saha was hired by the Bucks in October as the general manager of the new arena. He was manager of guest relations at Madison Square Garden in New York, when he first met Feigin, who was vice president of marketing for the New York Knicks at the time.
Saha oversaw the development and opening of 10 venues on three continents while working for sports and entertainment management company AEG. He was also on the management team at the O2 Arena in London.
“People always talk about the basketball, but we’ve spent more time and money designing the dressing rooms, loading docks, backstage kitchen so the performers can have a custom chef,” Feigin said. “The money is the money, but the key is to have an artist who really loves it here and wants to come back. You’ve got to woo the manager and woo their artist.”
Traveling to London and across the globe to “woo” has been part of the fun for Feigin and his team, who come from marketing backgrounds.
“People are shocked when they see this group coming from Milwaukee to compete with Madison Square Garden, the Staples Center and the O2 and we’re like, ‘We know all of them and we’re better,’” Feigin said. “When we go out we’re really pumped up because we realize what the potential is. If you don’t succumb to thinking you’re too small, you can do anything.”