As part of a 50th-anniversary celebration, the Milwaukee Bucks (NBA) will play a single game this upcoming season at the team’s prior home, UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena — formerly known as the MECCA and Milwaukee Arena.
The Bucks played their first game at the MECCA, spending 20 seasons there before BMO Harris Bradley Center opened in 1988. Arguably, many of the team’s best seasons were spent at the MECCA, encompassing the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Oscar Robertson era. It was also the first Milwaukee NBA arena when the old Milwaukee Hawks played there.
In 20 seasons at the approximately 11,000-seat MECCA (known as Milwaukee Arena until 1974), the Bucks compiled a 582-209 home record, made 16 playoff appearances, won 12 division championships and two conference titles. In just their third season, the Bucks compiled a 34-2 record at the MECCA and went on to win the 1971 NBA Championship. “Return to the MECCA” will be the first time the Bucks have hosted a regular-season home game off-site in Wisconsin since they played three regular season home games in Madison during the 1974-75 season, according to the Bucks.
“What can be more fitting to celebrate 50 seasons of the Milwaukee Bucks than returning to the venue that holds so much of the franchise’s history?” said Bucks President Peter Feigin in a press release. “It’s going to be such a unique and special occasion for our current players to take the court at the MECCA and for our fans to experience the early era of the Bucks.”
Cue the Modern
Today the arena is UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, home to the university’s basketball team as well as Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) hockey. Designed by the local architecture firm of Eschweiler & Eschweiler, the arena’s exterior has been largely unchanged since opening in 1950. And while the interior has seen some updates over the years, the basic bones of the arena are basically unchanged as well.
But the interior has been lovingly updated, as we detailed in a recent feature article. Those upgrades included a new Admirals locker room (curved, no corners) and a new visitors’ locker room, the remaining seat replacements, new LED lights throughout, WiFi in the arena bowl, new dasherboards, new retractable risers, upgraded box offices, a team-store expansion, kitchen and concession upgrades, restroom upgrades (featuring lots of subway tiles, new flooring and new fixtures), renovated ticket lobby, new roof, and more. There is plenty of Bucks history on display: the South Goal Tap Room (shown below) occupies the same space as a bar open during the Bucks’ glory days.
“Return to the Mecca” details will be announced at a later date. No word on whether the Bucks will play on the current UW-Panthers court, move the current Bucks court over for a game, or do something to commemorate the great Robert Indiana MECCA floor shown at the top of this page.
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