The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is proud to call the historic U.S. Cellular Arena its home for men's basketball.
The University and the Wisconsin Center District are involved a multi-year agreement to allow the Panthers to play at the Arena, which has hosted some of the most memorable basketball events in Milwaukee history. The Panthers played all of their exhibition, regular season and postseason games at the Arena over the last four seasons, and will continue to play most of their games downtown through at least 2011-12, thanks to a new five-year agreement signed in the summer of 2007.
Until playing nine of its 12 regular season games downtown in 2003-04, UWM had not called the U.S. Cellular Arena its permanent home since the 1997-98 season. But the return downtown was sparked by a highly-successful 2003 Horizon League Men's Basketball Tournament. After drawing more than 7,000 fans for the semifinal round, UWM drew a then-record 10,115 for the title-game win over Butler.
The Arena continues to become even more of a homecourt advantage for the Panthers. The Arena floor was repainted in 2008, with a large Milwaukee logo now prominent at center court. A number of other improvements are in progress at The Cell, all designed to give the arena a more intimate atmosphere during games. The home-court feel of the arena has grown tremendously over the last five years. In fact, when UWM first moved back downtown in 2003, the floor has been blue with no team-specific markings or logos.
It is all part of the commitment made by the Wisconsin Center District, which runs the U.S. Cellular Arena and the adjacent Midwest Airlines Center and Milwaukee Theater, to having UWM basketball call the Arena home.
"We are proud to host the UWM Panthers at the U.S. Cellular Arena," Dick Geyer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Center District, said. "The team has established itself as a major Division I college basketball program and as such, they need a home court to reflect that prominence."
The Panthers actually have a fairly extensive history at the Arena, which has also been known as the MECCA and the Wisconsin Center District Arena over the years. UWM moved its schedule downtown for the 1992-93 season, two years after returning to the Division I ranks, and proceeded to win all 12 of its home games that season while drawing more than 8,000 fans for a contest with Green Bay. UWM continued to play its games at the Arena through the 1997-98 campaign before moving back to the on-campus Klotsche Center for the next five seasons.
The storied building, originally built in 1950 and also currently the home for indoor soccer's Milwaukee Wave, has been the home to the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks. In fact, the Bucks played their first game at the Arena on Oct. 16, 1968, falling to the Chicago Bulls, 89-84, in front of 8,468 fans. Just four years later, the Bucks were celebrating playing in the NBA Finals at the Arena, claiming the 1971 NBA title. The Bucks called the Arena home until 1988, when they moved across the street to the Bradley Center.
Since those days, the building has undergone extensive renovations in recent seasons and ranks as one of the finest facilities in the Horizon League. The Arena provides a number of amenities for players, media and fans that make it a first-class college basketball venue.
With no obstructed-view seats, the Arena's configuration puts every patron close to the action and the Arena is well-known for being spectator-friendly. $10.5 million in renovations to the U.S. Cellular Arena were completed in 1998. These include a new video scoreboard, totally-refurbished seats, improved access for people with disabilities, wider concourses, improved concession stands, new floors and finishes, new catwalks, better lighting and improved HVAC.
In 2000, ice-making ability was restored, and bold new outdoor lighting, signage and electronic messaging systems were added. More recently, construction of a new, outdoor, public promenade alongside the building - the Wisconsin Athletic Walk of Fame - was completed.
A new media room provides ample workspace for members of the media before, during and after events, and the area rates as the best media-services area in the Horizon League. Plus, the renovated home locker room is truly a home away from home for the Panthers, including large wood lockers, a television, a separate coaches' room and a training room.
UWM has also put its own touches on the basketball setup at the Arena. Courtside seating provides some fans an up-close look at the action, with a second row of courtside seats debuting in 2006-07. Plus, UWM has also set up a VIP pregame and halftime reception area in the south end zone, giving fans a close-by location to purchase beverages and mingle before and during the game.
The Panthers have played a total of 191 games as the home team at the Arena, compiling a 115-76 mark. They have won 57 of their 74 contests downtown since returning for the 2002-03 post-season.
UWM has also played Marquette a handful of times as the road team at the Arena.