Milwaukee attendance from 2002 to 2024


To understand the Milwaukee program you need to understand this chart

For the very brief background, since 2000- Milwaukee played home games at the Klotsche Center for all regular season home games until '04-'05 at which point they moved downtown for good. The team returned to campus for the '12-'13 season under the (mis)direction of then-AD Andy Geiger. In 2014, AD Amanda Braun announced the move back downtown and the purchasing of naming rights to the Arena ("UWMilwaukee Panther Arena"). A decade later, fans can't help but wonder, "will we ever get back to the kind of crowds and energy we had from 2003-2006?")

Attendance has long been a bug-a-boo with the Milwaukee Panther fan base. The fan base itself is almost unimaginably fickle. So fickle and prone to sweeping fluctuations that in a given (bad) season, the student section may top out at 200 or 300 students for a game against Green Bay with free pizza and free soda and free tee shirts (and is on a national ESPN or ESPN2 broadcast)-

...only to, in another given (Madness) season, top out well over 2,000+ and have fans pay extra for tickets and arrive early to Major Goolsby's before the game to socialize and enjoy the irreplaceable pre-game atmosphere of a winning college hoops team.

People show up for winners, and they get amped. Most of the attendance spikes in the chart above are fairly predictable: Horizon League Semis, Horizon League Championships, games against Wisconsin. But there are also interesting insights into the past. Take for instance the fact that we used to routinely draw over 4,000 for the home games versus our I-43N neighbor Green Bay. In fact we drew 5,192 in the '15-'16 campaign! However since that game, nada. Only two games over 3,000 and one was for the debut home game of 5 star Panther recruit, Patrick Baldwin Jr.

So many of us forget that we played in several regular season contests against Butler, Loyola, Valpo, UIC(!) and Green Bay with crowds of 4, 5, and 6,000! Yes, we did have some slower nights, but a slow night in the '04-'05 season was 2,300 fans (now it is ~600 fans).

Attendance has been trending downward for all of NCAA men's basketball for a while which obviously hasn't helped

Where did all the people go? In addition to the (so dated lol I know but you have to visualize) packed-to-the-gills smoking lounge 🚬🚭🤣 of Banner Boys game nights in the early and mid-aughts that routinely drew 3,500+, there were also the same huge Arena bathrooms we have now- but with lines!, and vendors with lines!, lines, lines out the doors. Bustling energy was everywhere and get this- you were actually expected to sit in your seat number(!) 😼 

Where did all the winning go is the question to ask. Last year could have been a flash in the pan, but I am of the mind (like most Panther fans, I think) that it is the beginning of a long-term turnaround of the program. There is a lot that deteriorated in the 6 years between Jeter and Lundy. Lundy and his staff have been addressing that and molding this program in their image. For better- we trust.

I think the attendance will go back up over time. But if it doesn't go up to numbers that justify not playing at the K (ie. > the 3,000 basketball fans the K can reasonably handle), our days downtown may not extend into the 2030s. It takes a consistent 2-3 years to get the kind of big game atmosphere that some of us remember and really pine to see again down there at the venerable old Arena. I'd like to think if we get on a roll that 3,000+ fans for at least a couple of the mid and late February home games is possible.

Even 1/2 this (10k+ UW game from ~2014) crowd would be mighty exciting

We are 8-8 (3-2) and we've got a chance to finish a lot better than we started the season. I feel like at this point things could go either way. But I'm still optimistic with Lundy at the helm. If we win the Horizon League Tournament all questions about attendance recede into the background. Only to return when we have another cold night of a subdued, sub-1,000 ticketholder crowd.

Success can happen fast, so who knows? A Mid-Major Top 25 ranked and then nationally ranked Milwaukee program could capture- and hold the city's attention to the effect of an average ~4,000 fans per home game attendance. If and when we get there, we must remember that basketball success- like anything valuable in life- must be maintained and never taken for granted. Because before you know it, like that-

*snap*, it's gone.

go panthers.