A vision and a tough battle brought Fiserv Forum to Milwaukee -- now, it's hosting the NBA Finals
MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- When negotiations first began on the deal for the new Bucks arena, there was a hope that one day Milwaukee would be hosting the NBA Finals.
And now that the day has finally come, CBS 58 is reflecting on the hard work it took to make it happen, despite critics who thought it never would.
The Bucks have built a community with a community. Peter Feigin, president of the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum, said it's become a "melting pot of fans" during the playoffs.
"We really kind of had this vision of the district being the living room for the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. And you don't have to imagine it. It actually happened," Feigin said.
Feigin watched his team dominate Game 3 with pride in their own city.
"Other than winning a championship game, probably the second most important game in Bucks history," Feigin said.
Also key to Bucks history: the team's arena. Three years after it opened, Fiserv Forum is on display in living rooms across America.
"Make no mistake: We built Fiserv to be a showplace, to be a destination. This is the example of best of class in the world," he said. "So, what better thing to have the NBA Finals in?"
Former Gov. Scott Walker signed the deal in 2015. Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley was a legislative staffer at the time.
"It was a tough battle to get this piece of legislation through when you think about getting so many people on board because nobody understood what this meant," Crowley said.
Jim Barry, president of the Barry Company, was on a task force trying to attract development to the Park East Corridor a decade ago, which eventually led to the arena being built.
"It was just dormant, vacant land in the middle of our downtown for a very long time, and before that, it was an underused freeway," Barry said.
The NBA said the Bradley Center was unfit, so former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl proposed building a new arena. He's a former Bucks owner and also responsible for helping keep the team in Milwaukee.
"The owners of the Bucks -- again, I think very foresightedly -- looked at not just having a stadium as the Bradley Center was, but in developing the old area into a district," Barry said.
The Deer District is now flourishing, drawing fans far and wide.
"Just getting to see the stadium up close and personal has been invigorating," said Bucks fan Brenda Olson.
The Bucks biggest supporters said that energy, sense of community and Bucks finals run are now proving naysayers wrong.
"Even those who didn't believe and didn't want this to happen, I think they're starting to see the economic impact of what this means for us, but also the morale of this community," Crowley said.
There is still work being done to develop the area surrounding the Deer District. The Bucks and the city recently announced a boutique hotel is on the way.