Just a note before I begin: I’ve been told that our athletic department can sell merchandise to the general public.
Last night, following the latest beat down taken by the basketball team, our group took a little time to walk over to Bucky’s Locker Room, the pro shop inside the Kohl Center. What we saw was, simply put, a great thing that our athletics program is sorely missing.
Hockey apparel. Basketball apparel. Football apparel. Alumni apparel. Can coozies in the shape of a hockey jersey. Mini goalie helmets. A corner for only winter clothing. A section for jerseys (replicas that look like the real thing). A kid’s section, complete with children’s books, bibs, and everything a kid would want. All within a 30 by 70 foot space.
Now, what’s our current situation? The bookstore is the only main supplier of athletics apparel, with stores such as Foot Locker, Champs and Lids carrying minimal to no Panther apparel. Want a trinket like a felt banner with the Milwaukee conference championships on it? You can’t find it anywhere, but Bucky’s Locker Room had one for hockey, basketball and football. Little things like that aren’t carried by the bookstore, but many Panther fans would find a $10 thing like that popular.
Currently, the bookstore has its on campus location and a web site, which is very poorly put together and does not come close to putting their full inventor online.
But here’s my problem. If, as I’m told, the athletic department is allowed to sell merchandise without having to get the license, why aren’t we doing it? What are we supposed to do to eliminate our debt if we’re not taking care of obvious solutions like this one?
I’ve put this idea on the board before, but I think it deserves to be included here. At Miller Park’s home plate entrance, the team installed a new shop right at the wall. There’s no ceiling on top, just a glass wall surrounding the shop itself for game days. At Milwaukee, we’ve got the Klotsche Center – admittedly, we don’t have a lot of events there, like the 81 games at Miller Park each season. But we do have swimming and diving, volleyball, and women’s basketball games in the Klotsche Center, which total around 50 events per year. Add in the three men’s games there this year, and all of a sudden we’ve got a lot of parents, fans and students coming through the arena. Don’t forget the thousands of people that work out in the Pavilion every day, and the only entrance is right by the front of the athletic department doors.
So why don’t we take that home plate idea and bring it to Milwaukee? The glass facade of the Klotsche Center has doors on the right hand side of it, and nothing on the left. What if the doors inside, instead of empty, unused space to the left, a glass wall followed all the way to the stairs, then enclosed off there? Even with a bit smaller area, there’s not much else that’s going on in that space, and the athletic department could fill it up with inventory rather quickly.
What’s stopping us from doing this? Absolutely nothing. I’m sure this is up to fire code, and if it’s not you can minimize the size of it. It’s not staffing, because such a store could be run by the ticket office, which operates 15 feet away. It’s not security, as the entrance to the place could be set in front of the Klotsche Center front desk. So what is it?
Who knows. I just know that merchandise needs to be sold soon because there’s money to be made, and the athletic department can use the space there for a more permanent home. Hell, even a satellite home in the union would be a good place if we end up making good money out of it.
Nike learned long ago that if you want your brand out there, you have to put it on the people. That’s why from the mid-’80s on, you see that swoosh on everything. So let’s get our brand out there and start making money. It’s a damn good thing to do.