The Milwaukee Ripple: An Interview with Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry
Drive through downtown Milwaukee and it is hard to ignore: the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center is re-energizing a long-dormant section once known as the Park East corridor. The future home of the Milwaukee Bucks is on schedule to open in time for the 2019 NBA season. Although its most noticeable progress to date consists of a vast vertical expansion of concrete and steel, the effects of this development will soon begin to spread throughout the entire city of Milwaukee and beyond — a ripple of sorts.
A little over two years ago, the Bucks released a video titled, “Milwaukee Ripple Effect” in an effort to persuade Wisconsin taxpayers to support a brand new sports and entertainment facility. The animated video featured a basketball bouncing at mid-court in the proposed new arena, triggering an illuminating green wave that spread across the arena to the downtown area, over the entire city, and eventually extending across the state. The video’s narrator explains, “This is Wisconsin’s home. From the court to concerts, the year-round destination pulses with the spirit of a revitalized city.” It continues, “Transforming a community with development, jobs, growth, and opportunity, the ripple effect of a new era begins today.”
Two years later, with the physical progress of the new $500 million dollar arena apparent, Visit Milwaukee checked in with the Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry to get an update on the Bucks team and the “Milwaukee Ripple Effect.”
VM: What were the new ownership’s intentions for the team when they decided to purchase the Milwaukee Bucks franchise?
AL: “Redevelopment of downtown Milwaukee. Owning a team, building an arena in an area that was hit hard with the loss of manufacturing. Being able to build on 30 acres of undeveloped land all played a role in our decision. I also think the opportunity to see through a vision and be apart of the Milwaukee downtown boom that is happening is special and is why I personally have named this place my home.”
VM: Have you begun to notice any signs of a downtown boom or an energy shift throughout the city?
AL: “Oh, without a doubt. There is a renewed fire and fervor that has to do with the new arena and all of the development that is happening. I mean, just the other day I was at a bar going to the restroom while wearing my Milwaukee Bucks hoodie, and all of the sudden everyone in there is chanting Bucks in six. Weird place to start a chant, but I will absolutely take the sentiment and the enthusiasm. You’re seeing it at Summerfest and concerts, people are always chanting for and excited about the Bucks.”
Along with all of the ongoing development, much of the excitement surrounding this endeavor has to do with the recent success of the Milwaukee Bucks. After coming off of their second playoff appearance in the 3 years under new ownership, Lasry and the Bucks know the importance of a competitive product. He contends that 22 year old superstar and the NBA’s most improved player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, has plenty to do with providing Milwaukee the competitive team that it was longing for.
VM: What has Giannis meant to this franchise? Moreover, what has he meant to this city?
AL: “This is a players driven league and having a superstar like Giannis is really helpful. I was recently in Spokane for a basketball tournament and I was wearing my Bucks sweatshirt and all of the sudden people were telling me about how much they love Giannis. That is something where it’s not just putting the Bucks on the map, but it is also putting Milwaukee on the map. Now people are recognizing the city. People know where Milwaukee is. They know it as an NBA city with an NBA superstar.”
With Antetokounmpo at the helm, the pieces seem to be in place for the Bucks to succeed on the court. The aforementioned “Ripple Effect” video, however, outlines success on a much larger scale.
VM: What type of effect can this new arena and development realistically have on this city?
AL: “The development and new arena will create a much greater focus on downtown and bring new companies to Wisconsin and downtown Milwaukee. I think you’re already starting to see that and you will continue to see that as this gets closer to being completed.”
VM: What have you learned about Milwaukeeans and Milwaukee sports fans in your 3 years of being here?
AL: “On the court, they really do have a greater understanding of the game. I see that they get genuinely excited about all of the little things. Players notice and appreciate that. They also allow the players to be really comfortable living here. That level of respect is special and makes Milwaukee a place that players want to come play for.”
VM: And what about Milwaukee the city? What have you learned about this place as a whole?
AL: “The restaurant scene is great, the bar scene is fantastic, and the art scene is actually really good here. Between the Packers, Brewers, and Bucks, there are three professional sports teams to root for. Milwaukee is not the quote unquote small market that many perceive it to be. People will soon begin to see Milwaukee for all of the great things it has to offer rather than just the smaller city outside of Chicago.”
VM: Can you give me a pitch as to why people should VISITMilwaukee and come see a Bucks game?
AL: “Besides the best overall fan experience in the Midwest, one word: Giannis. He is going to be the LeBron James or Steph Curry of the league. We have already seen it this past year when away games are being sold out in other stadiums because Giannis is in town. The biggest thing, however, is going to be the entire experience from start to finish. Whether that is going to the beer garden before the game or going to the concert and then being able to hang out after, I think you’re going to end up seeing people not just driving in and driving out, but deciding to get a hotel and stay the night. I think that will translate into people deciding to go experience Milwaukee and maybe, get brunch and visit the Milwaukee Art Museum or Public Museum before going home.”
The next time you VISITMilwaukee, be sure to keep an eye out for any changes that the Milwuakee Ripple has brought about. During your visit, be sure to learn from Lasry and fully EXPERIENCEMilwaukee while you’re at it.