UWM basketball may return home

The U.S. Cellular Arena has been home to UWM men's basketball since 2003, but university officials are now considering a move back to campus.

For some Marquette students, going to men’s home basketball games means a short walk to the Bradley Center, at times waiting in line for hours to get first-come, first-served seats. Students paid $100 for Fanatics tickets this school year.

But it’s a different story across the street at the U.S. Cellular Arena, which has hosted the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s men’s home basketball games since 2003. Students, who are admitted free to games, take shuttle buses from the school’s East Side campus and sometimes wait up to an hour after the game to get back.

But UWM is considering moving home games for men’s basketball back to campus to increase attendance and school spirit, said Tom Luljak, UWM’s vice chancellor of university relations and communications.

The school is currently exploring possible renovation of its on-campus stadium, the Klotsche Center, to increase seating capacity. UWM’s athletic conference, the Horizon League, requires games to be held at venues larger than the 5,000-seat Klotsche Center.

Another option is to build a new stadium on UWM’s already crowded campus.

There are 12,700 seats at U.S. Cellular Arena, but the stadium is often far from capacity. For instance, attendance was 2,178 at Tuesday’s game against the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames.

Luljak said the push to move basketball back to campus came almost exclusively from students.

According to Luljak, UWM’s Student Association voted last December to include a $25 segregated fee on all tuition payments that would help fund Athletic Department revenues and support a relocation to the East Side.

“The goal of the SA is to provide an easier way to increase school spirit for an already fantastic sports program,” Luljak said.

Some UWM students are skeptical that men’s basketball games will ever move back to campus.

Tom Pausma, a sophomore at UWM, said he doesn’t go to basketball games at U.S. Cellular Arena because of the distance from campus. But he said he would consider going to games if the stadium were closer to UWM.

He said he doesn’t think games will move anytime soon.

Alex Moehn, also a sophomore at UWM, does attend games downtown and said he enjoys going despite low student attendance.

“The fans are always in the game with loud cheering and support,” Moehn said. “Even though the stadium is never sold out, it’s still a hostile crowd for the opponent.”

Moehn said he thinks students would become more invested in the basketball program if the school had a stadium on campus.

“What we want is a close, viable option for a basketball stadium that we can call home,” Moehn said.