Fiserv Forum reopens at limited capacity, with COVID protocols

See photos of indoor safety measures

Last updated on February 18th, 2021 at 12:31 pm

When the Milwaukee Bucks take on the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night at Fiserv Forum, fans will be sitting in the seats for the first time since last March.

The city’s Health Department recently gave the green light to reopen the 17,500-seat downtown arena at 10% capacity (1,800 fans and 500 staff), with a comprehensive set of safety protocols, which requires fans to wear face masks and remain in their seats at all times, and uses new technology for contactless concessions. 

The Bucks will start with 250 fans at tonight’s game, including player family members, some essential workers and other invited guests, said Bucks president Peter Feigin during a press conference Tuesday. That number ramps up to 500 for Thursday’s game, also against the Raptors, and 750 on Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Admission will open to general public for Sunday’s game against the Sacramento Kings, when approximately 1,800 fans will be allowed in the stands. 

Limited single-game tickets will be available to the public for Sunday’s game and for the remaining four games of the Bucks’ first half schedule. Tickets will go on sale to the public on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 12 p.m. and can be purchased through the Bucks website or app. Current season ticket holders will have access to an exclusive pre-sale, starting Wednesday. 

“We are beyond excited to welcome back our great fans to Bucks games, even in a limited capacity,” Feigin said. “Our fans have been deeply missed by the players, coaches and Bucks and arena staffs, and we are thrilled to open our doors once again. While we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and our lives are not back to normal, this is a positive step for the Bucks and the City.”

According to the city, the 10% cap will be in place for four weeks, which is equal to two COVID-19 incubation periods. After the first half of regular NBA season ends in early March, the Health Department will reassess the Bucks’ plan to increase capacity to 25% for the second half of the season, which runs March 11 to May 16.

The Bucks submitted that plan in early February.

The Health Department said it’s “being conservative with its approval and allowance of guests acknowledging the new COVID strains and limited knowledge of exactly how they will affect our community.”  

As part of the Bucks safety plan, fans will enter Fiserv Forum on a timed schedule in order to reduce the size of groups congregating at the entrance. Once inside, fans sit in groups of two or four, with at least six feet of distance between groups. Seats that are not included in the allotted reopening capacity are zip-tied closed. 

Fans seated within 30 feet of the court are required to take a rapid COVID-19 test, free of charge, prior to entering Fiserv Forum, thanks to the Bucks’ partnership with Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Workforce Health. Tests are available in the Deer District three hours prior to tip-off, and results come back within 30 minutes. Ahead of Tuesday’s game, tests will be administered in the event space above Good City Brewing.

The Bucks intend to crack down on mask wearing. Those who do not comply will be given one warning. If a second warning is needed, they will be asked to leave the building.   

The only time fans can lower their face masks is when they are actively eating and drinking. As an extra precaution, the NBA prohibits food within 30 feet of the court. Fans seated within that courtside area will dine in the BMO Club, which serves individually packaged meals and has socially distanced table seating.

For everyone else, food and beverage must be consumed at their seats. To that end, the Bucks have rolled out a mobile ordering system that Justin Green, vice president of hospitality, says is first of its kind.

It allows fans to order any menu item from their seat, complete the purchase through the Bucks’ app or Clover self-serve kiosks, and pick up their food at designated cubbies outside of the seating section. After an order is created and completed, staff will scan a QR code that instantly notifies the customer via text message that their order is ready for pick-up.  

“We know this will be a game-changer in the world of food and beverage at events, and we are already taking phone calls from other teams, arenas and stadiums on how to implement this,” said Green.

Thanks to a partnership with Johnson Controls and its OpenBlue Healthy Buildings service, Fiserv Forum has also upgraded its air filtration and ventilation system and added touchless temperature screening technology for staff.

During the press conference, interim health commissioner Marlaina Jackson said the Bucks approached the city with a desire to reopen safely, and a willingness to cooperate and listen to Health Department expertise. She said it’s been a “breath of fresh air” to work with a group that allowed the city to take the lead.

“All of this work has been very, very thought provoking in giving us an opportunity to make sure that we’re doing things in a very safe way,” said Jackson. “While we do this, I want to be clear in stating that this is a step… this is our first step in a crawl as we move toward walking and hopefully, eventually running — understanding that the pandemic is not yet over.”

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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