At Fiserv Forum, Technology Propels The Mission

A robust and intelligent technology infrastructure was a critical piece of the puzzle for this new arena in Milwaukee, WI.

By Anne Cosgrove, Facility Executive Editor-in-Chief

On October 26, when the Milwaukee Bucks play their first home game of the 2019-20 NBA season at Fiserv Forum, fans in attendance will be privy to numerous amenities for a heightened experience. Upon entering the arena’s soaring atrium, visitors feel part of the action from the start. The physical design of the facility coupled with a robust technology infrastructure creates a space in which visitors — sports fans or otherwise — are immersed in the event they are there to enjoy.

The Bucks begin their 2019-20 season tonight in Houston, TX, playing against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center.

Milwaukee Bucks
The atrium at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, WI (Photo: Fiserv Forum)

In October 2018, Facility Executive featured a news item about Fiserv Forum having achieved the distinction as the world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment arena. Built in the heart of Milwaukee (a Bird City Wisconsin community), the arena was designed to achieve LEED Silver certification, which included a focus on the rating system’s Bird Collision Deterrence credit (SSpc55), which was created in partnership with the American Bird Conservancy. The facility, which was certified LEED Silver in April 2019, replaced an arena that had opened in 1988.

Milwaukee Bucks
Home of the Milwaukee Bucks (Photo: Fiserv Forum)

A Visit To Fiserv Forum

In September 2019, I had the opportunity to visit Fiserv Forum with a focus on the inside of the facility — specifically the technology infrastructure designed throughout the 714,000 square foot building. Executives from the Milwaukee Bucks and Johnson Controls (the official smart building partner of Fiserv Forum) welcomed a group from the media and provided a behind the scenes tour.

When the idea began to build Fiserv Forum, the Bucks President, Peter Feigin, stated: “We want to build the best sports and entertainment complex in the world.” To move toward that vision and to make it reality required a robust technology infrastructure for both front of house and back of house. The fan experience includes 800+ high-definition televisions throughout the facility (so they don’t miss a minute of the action) and high-speed Wi-Fi (to enable sharing of memorable moments). There’s even a “Beer Button” that utilizes an app to order a drink and have it delivered to your seat. And for the facility management, security, and other building teams, the facility’s “future-proof” technology design has delivered a unified, intelligent infrastructure that includes control of HVAC, building automation, security, lighting, fire protection, and information technology.

Including Bucks games, this venue hosts up to 200 events a year — major concerts, family shows, Marquette University men’s basketball, hockey, boxing, MMA, and special sports and entertainment events.

Outside, there is a plaza space designed for year-round community use (during my visit, the “Fear District” was being set up for the Halloween season). The 30-acre plot on which the facility is located has been termed the “Deer District.”

Milwaukee Bucks
Photo: Fiserv Forum


Milwaukee Bucks
Scoreboard above the Fiserv Forum arena (Photo: Facility Executive magazine)

Engaged at the earliest stage of the process as technology contractor, Johnson Controls worked closely with the Bucks, Mortenson Construction, ICON Venue Group, and numerous subcontractors to furnish, install, and integrate state-of-the-art smart building solutions throughout the facility. Johnson Controls was assigned as the single point of responsibility to bring an enterprise-wide perspective to managing the planning, design assist, installation, integration, commissioning, and service of technology systems, business applications, and supporting infrastructure.

By simplifying and optimizing how the building functions, Johnson Controls ultimately enabled more control for the Bucks to operate the arena, while at the same time delivering a superior fan experience. Read more about the project here.

The video control room in Fiserv Forum (Photo: Facility Executive magazine)

Hearing From The Operations Team

After my visit to Milwaukee, I contacted Dennis Williams, senior vice president of operations and assistant general manager at Fiserv Forum, with a few questions about the arena and the technology that I had seen during the visit. I mentioned to Williams (who has been with the Bucks since 2017) that throughout my tour of the facility, the scope of the arena’s technology infrastructure was highlighted for its impact on visitors, athletes, performers, and employees. When I asked about which aspect of this infrastructure has impacted his work and that of his staff, he pointed to the building automation system.

Dennis Williams
Senior vice president of operations and assistant general manager
Fiserv Forum
Milwaukee, WI

Building automation has singlehandedly made the biggest impact in my day-to-day responsibilities,” said Williams. “Whether it’s to measure performance efficiencies of our facilities, or being able to make simple adjustments to settings with the click of a few buttons, the BAS System stands out to me as one of the [aspects] that would cause us a great deal of struggle if we didn’t have it. Through our building automation system we have also been able to set up alarming on a number of pieces of mechanical equipment that have provided us a safeguard for the unexpected situations. There are thousands of points in the entire Deer District that are being monitored for abnormalities, and a notification alerts staff 24/7 when something is wrong.”

Year-round, there are events happening inside Fiserv Forum, but in this week leading up to the new Milwaukee Bucks season, I asked Williams about what he and his staff are focused on for a successful start. His response: “We are fortunate to be working for an organization that strives to be the best in class. With the successful Bucks season last year and busy summer schedule of concerts and other ticketed events, we had a very short period of time to complete upgrade projects that we wanted to do in our off season. We refinished our Upper Concourse floor, installed more than 3,000 new cup holders, built a new hospitality suite, and installed a new POS System, among many other smaller projects. This week we’re focusing on making sure the building is buttoned up, and we’re ready for another busy and successful season from a Bucks and Fiserv Forum standpoint.”