MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Bucks' road to the NBA finals starts Saturday, May 21.
The 1 p.m. tipoff marks the first Bucks playoff game at Fiserv Forum in two years.
The goal is for the Deer District to look more like 2019 than 2020, but with safety protocols still in place.
The team has set up a large screen for thousands of fans to watch the game outside. Inside, Fiserv Forum will be at 50% capacity.
All the people descending on downtown Saturday is a good thing for businesses. At Buck Bradley's, after months waiting for fans to return, servers are back at work.
"Without events down here, the fixed costs of this place are just immense. It wasn’t feasible. We were losing nearly $20,000 a month when we were trying to stay open," owner Wally Paget said.
Paget decided to keep the doors closed until Fiserv Forum started letting people inside. He reopened earlier in May to prepare for the playoffs.
"People are coming back to the neighborhood. Even if they can’t get into the game, they want to be around the vibe. I think that’s going to increase exponentially when it gets to 50% because 8,000-9,000 people, that’s really a critical mass," said Paget.
Paget is hoping for a long playoff run like the team had in 2019; the economic boost is critical.
"Incredibly important, especially after the year we just had," Paget said. "Being here for 26 years, not including the bubble year, which we saw nothing from, the Bucks have only made it out of the first round two times in 26 years I’ve been here."
Bucks fan Jordyn Grand remembers what it was like in 2019 – glad to be back in a restaurant before graduation, hoping the Bucks can bring even more reason to celebrate.
"I mean it was hopping," Grand said. "I really hope they do well. I mean, coming back it’d be huge."
Milwaukee's COVID-19 public health order is still in effect until June 1. Fans headed to the Deer District will need to bring their masks and be aware that restaurants are still operating under certain restrictions.