Fiserv Forum designed to draw big entertainment acts to Milwaukee

Several major shows booked already

Justin Timberlake Credit:

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:11 pm

In the months leading up to the Fiserv Forum’s opening, Milwaukee Bucks officials have built up expectations related to the caliber of entertainment acts the new arena will attract.

The list of performers announced so far suggests the arena’s first year will bring a full and diverse lineup.

The Forum has booked pop stars Justin Timberlake and P!nk, iconic artists like Elton John and Fleetwood Mac, heavy metal band Metallica, country star Carrie Underwood and a host of non-musical acts, including comedians Jim Gaffigan and Kevin Hart. Recently, the Bucks announced the Forum’s opening act: Las Vegas-based rock band The Killers with special guests and Milwaukee natives Violent Femmes.

“We wanted to do something that was different for a building opening and we knew there is a massive fan base for both bands here in town,” said Raj Saha, general manager of Fiserv Forum.

Before concrete for the 714,000-square-foot facility had even been poured, Bucks president Peter Feigin and Saha were traveling internationally to woo concert industry representatives to the arena. Beyond just selling the venue as a major entertainment destination, they had to sell Milwaukee as a city that’s hungry for major arena tours.

Saha, who spent his early career as guest relations manager at Madison Square Garden and went on to oversee the opening of 10 venues on three continents while working for sports and entertainment management company AEG, said he knew coming into his role with the Bucks that Milwaukee has a strong music culture, but historically has missed out on some major shows.

“Everyone knows Summerfest,” Saha said. “It’s a well-known, recognized brand. Milwaukee is a really good live music market. But the one thing was missing was a number of shows that were not playing Milwaukee, that were touring and hitting Chicago and Columbus and Lincoln and Omaha and Des Moines. But I knew there was an appetite here.”

To host major acts, the arena was outfitted to make it a desirable destination for performers and backstage crews. The arena includes six enclosed loading docks to expedite the loading and unloading of equipment, state-of-the-art performer dressing rooms and a ceiling capable of holding 200,000 pounds of rigging.

While promoting the arena in the early days of construction, Saha said, Bucks officials solicited feedback from events promoters regarding what they would want to see in the venue and designed the building accordingly.

“We literally knocked down walls and resized doors to make it easier for production to get their equipment in and out of the building,” he said. “…We want this to be as plug-and-play as possible.”

Audience members will notice a difference in sound and sightline quality. The arena, which has a capacity of 18,000 for concerts, includes 10,000 seats in the lower bowl. That’s compared to 6,000 lower bowl seats at the Bradley Center. It is also outfitted with acoustical wall treatments to enhance the sound experience, Saha said.

Officials have set a goal of hosting 150 ticketed events per operating year at the arena. The Bucks and Marquette University men’s basketball teams play a combined 65 games annually.

While the arena’s concert lineup has generated the most excitement, Saha said, the Bucks also plan to pack the arena’s 75,000-square-foot plaza with programming, with German holiday festival Christkindlmarket and Milwaukee Oktoberfest already scheduled for this year.

“We’re looking at lifestyle programming, so that could be yoga, farmer’s markets, movies in the plaza,” Saha said. “And we’ll have a bunch of family entertainment in fall 2019.”

Saha said he doesn’t expect the arena will poach acts from other Milwaukee venues. Instead, he envisions capturing artists who are new to the city.

“We wouldn’t build this just to move pieces of the pie around Milwaukee, we built this to attract events that wouldn’t have come to Milwaukee,” he said.

Matt Beringer, chief operating officer of Pabst Theater Group, expects the new arena will draw more attention to Milwaukee’s music scene.

“We view it as a welcome addition to the entertainment community here,” Beringer said. “In general, the more Milwaukee can be considered an option from the touring perspective, the better off all the entertainment community is in the city.”

Beringer said his team has worked collaboratively with the BMO Harris Bradley Center in the past and expects that relationship to continue with Fiserv Forum.

For example, the organizations worked together to book Jim Gaffigan for a show at the arena in September, which will increase the capacity for his usual sold-out New Year’s Eve gigs at the Pabst.

Acts booked at Fiserv Forum

  • The Killers with Violent Femmes, Sept. 4
  • Kevin Hart, Sept. 13
  • Maroon 5, Sept. 16
  • Justin Timberlake, Sept. 21
  • Jim Gaffigan, Sept. 22
  • Professional Bull Riders, Oct. 6-7
  • J Balvin, Oct. 11
  • Metallica, Oct. 16
  • Foo Fighters, Oct. 17
  • The Eagles, Oct. 18
  • Twenty One Pilots, Oct. 20
  • Chris Young, Oct. 26
  • Fleetwood Mac, Oct. 28
  • Josh Groban, Nov. 3
  • truTV’s Impractical Jokers, Nov. 18
  • Ultimate Fighting Championship, Dec. 15
  • Harlem Globetrotters, Dec. 31
  • Panic! At The Disco, Jan. 27, 2019
  • Elton John, Feb. 19, 2019
  • P!nk, May 2, 2019
  • Carrie Underwood, June 20, 2019

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