A new era of Milwaukee basketball began last week.
After some fall concerts and preseason action, the Milwaukee Bucks officially opened up their new home, Fiserv Forum, Friday night. And they did so in style, dispatching the Indiana Pacers, 118-101 behind 26 points, 15 rebounds and five assists from the face of the franchise, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Not only was it the full debut of the new arena, but the Bucks also have a brand new head coach, Mike Budenholzer, who brought along a new space-based offensive system that he hopes will propel the team into the top tier of the Eastern Conference.
Ahead of opening night, CBS Sports sat down with Bucks president Peter Feigin to discuss the new arena, Giannis and their goals and expectations for this season. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
CBS: Was there any aspect of (opening the new arena) that you thought, "Wow, this is even better than I thought it would be?"
PF: I think there was a lot of surprise and delight with the audience. People were out of their seats, walking around the arena. Kind of like that new home feel, let me explore everything. The concourses were packed like we never expected, people sat in their seats, like after the game was done in a preseason game, which doesn't happen. So people are really soaking it in, which I think will be the first few months of the experience.
CBS: Playing in an older building like the Bradley Center, did that shape your approach in any way towards building this building, both in terms of things you wanted to stay the same, and things you wanted to do better?
PF: I think our owners had one clear vision: We wanted to build the best arena in the world and have best in class in every aspect. Down to the bandwidth of the WiFi, to how the food was served, to parking and really create the best in class sports arena, and that's what we went out to build.
CBS: What is your favorite aspect of the building, or is there anything that fans might not be aware of that they should really check out?
PF: There are two great things that are open to the public, whether you sit on the floor or up near the catwalk. One is the panorama club, which is standing room only, but the coolest club you've ever seen. It has an outdoor terrace that looks over the skyline of Milwaukee. The other is a little more general in the open concourses. No matter where you are, whether you're getting food or going to the bathroom, you're still in the game. There are sight lines, you can hear it, you can smell it, you can feel it, it's not a closed off arena.
CBS: You talked this summer about how you wanted to make this arena a central meeting point for the city. We're very early in the process, but how do you feel things are going in that aspect?
PF: Well I think it's getting there. One of the advantages we have is the geography of Milwaukee is there is no central meeting place. So we've created a plaza, we've created a meeting place, we've created a destination to come. A Bucks game is an unbelievable melting pot to bring 17,500 people together.
CBS: This is a state of the art facility, it's a brand new arena, what does this say about the Bucks' place in the league now?
PF: I think it gives -- down to the players, the coaches, the employees -- a real sense of ownership. You want to be part of something that is best of class, and what it says to the world is that there's no better place. It's really our value proposition to the world that Milwaukee should be a destination -- whether you're an NBA player or a fan. I think our players have been blown away, because they've kind of been part of this process. We've had a core that's been with us for three or four years, so they've walked the construction site from the first steel girder to the finish.
CBS: Was there any sort of input from the players? Maybe in terms of the locker room or training room, or even just asking them, "hey, do you guys think this is alright?"
PF: Oh, yeah, we included the coaches and players in every critical path that touched them, from the family room to the parking to what made best sense. Coach Bud in the past three months has been integrally involved in everything from the way the locker room is a classroom and really positioned. And obviously we wanted the players to be engaged, so everything from the height of the sinks, to the taping tables, all of those things. The more customized things the better.
CBS: You've debuted this new slogan of "Built to Stay." The one player that everyone is most interested in whether or not they'll stay is Giannis. What does all of this -- a new building, new facilities, new coaching staff, new system, everything -- say to Giannis to convince him that this is the place for him to be?
PF: Well I think it helps. I think there are tons of elements that help make people's decisions. Giannis doesn't doubt the fact that we are completely and thoroughly committed to winning. That's what we're about. It's not gonna be about capital investment, it's not gonna be about investments, the key is we take this opportunity to win.
CBS: You want to win, you have these new facilities, new coach, what sort of pressure does that bring then? There's no excuses any more. These guys aren't super young, you have the coach you want, you have the building you want.
PF: Our ownership makes it really clear. From the business side to the basketball side, this is a performance culture. There should be pressure all the time. This is pro sports, this is about winning. Anything other than being very successful on the court and off the court we all think is unacceptable. So we're all motivated to win.
CBS: You mentioned Coach Bud, he's only been here a few months now, but what sort of impact has he had on the organization?
PF: Tremendous. He's one of the organization's leaders. He's process-oriented, he's a proven winner. He's an unbelievable teacher, cultivator of talent. I think he's built an unbelievable rapport around the organization. He's been another accelerant towards what we think will be success.
CBS: Lastly, you talk about success, what does that look like for you this season in particular?
PF: Well I think we all think we need to compete for an Eastern Conference championship is where we need to be. We all look at ourselves and think we fell a little bit short on the court last year. You gotta win playoff series, and we've got a team that's capable of it. So you've gotta start getting to that elite status of NBA teams when you've got a good mature team with a great coach.