CollegeAD recently had the opportunity to connect with MKE AD Amanda Braun, discussing a number of topics. With basketball season quickly approaching, Braun talks about the Panthers’ approach to alcohol sales at games as well as the recently announced Klotsche Center expansion. Additionally, Braun discusses fundraising, industry diversity, as well as what’s next for Milwaukee athletics.
Editors Note: The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
CollegeAD: As basketball season nears, more and more departments have made alcohol available for purchase at events. What has been your experience with selling at basketball events? Have you seen a greater benefit for fan experience? Increased attendance? Greater revenues?
Amanda Braun: We play in a downtown arena, and they normally sell alcohol at that arena, so that is something we’ve allowed. It’s part of the Wisconsin culture and certainly the sports culture in Wisconsin carries the expectation that you’re going to be able to have an adult beverage at a game.
If we did not (sell alcohol), I think it would impact the fan experience. It’s responsible, we haven’t seen any incidents or issues. We’re about to open our new baseball stadium in the Spring that’s owned by a third party who also has a pro team that plays in an independent league, and they sell alcohol, which we’ll allow for that, and maybe some upgrades for premium seating opportunities because of that stadium.
We’ll take advantage of that and hopefully generate some revenue.
CollegeAD: Both the basketball arena and the new baseball stadium are off-campus, any plays for alcohol sales on campus?
Amanda Braun: As far as other sports on campus, we haven’t talked about it much. It would require some additional setup, it would require our campus restaurant entity to come over and handle that. Other than special events, we haven’t talked about game in and game out for sports like soccer and volleyball.
CollegeAD: During your tenure, you’ve been able to increase fundraising (over 250%) what’s allowed you and your team to be so successful?
Amanda Braun: I walked into a pretty advantageous situation. There were a lot of things that hadn’t been tried; a lot of engagement efforts that hadn’t been done. So coming in, I could really make some relationships with people, and it was a huge opportunity.
Our university is the largest university in the city, with Marquette right across the city. We have an opportunity to engage with our campus, and that was just a little underutilized, so we’re getting out there and meeting people hand to hand. Getting out and telling our story has really helped us get people to support what we’re doing.
There have been a lot of grassroots efforts, and you can’t ask people for money if you don’t know who they are or where they are. We’ve had to build that database of people, alumni, community members, and parents, and get good information on how to reach them.
We’ve had to do a lot of that, and it’s certainly paid off. We’ve has some great people step up and make significant gifts. Now we’re looking to grow that pipeline of donors.
CollegeAD: What will upgrades to the Klotsche Center consist of?
Amanda Braun: It will be a moderately sized building, but it will have a good-sized gym and strength and conditioning area and a nice entrance where we can highlight the success of our programs. MKE announced a $2.1 million gift from the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin that will aid the project.
The gift will help fund the construction of a new 15,000-square-foot building that will be connected to the existing Klotsche Center & Pavilion. The addition will create a dedicated basketball practice facility for the school’s men’s and women’s NCAA Division 1 basketball programs
CollegeAD: This year there have been eight women named AD at the DI level alone, how important is it for the industry to continue to evolve when it comes to diversity?
Amanda Braun: It’s critically important to the industry, and I think that in higher education, in our country and in the world, we need to reflect the population that we serve. It’s extremely important, and it doesn’t seem like we can make it happen fast enough in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity.
It’s been a slow crawl.
I’m involved with Women Leaders in College Sports, and I think Patti Phillips has done a phenomenal job moving the needle for us in terms of building a pipeline for us and getting women and minorities – that’s been a real focus also for that organization. It’s really important to what we do and we all need to work together to make it happen.
CollegeAD: How much have you seen the industry change from a diversity standpoint over the last seven years that you’ve been at MKE?
Amanda Braun: I don’t know if there’s been a shift, and you cited the additions, but we’re still 11 or 12% in Division I with AD’s who are women. And I think the number for racial minorities is very similar in Division I athletic directors; it’s somewhere in that 10-15%. It’s not moving, maybe it has a bit, but not what you think it should be.
What’s behind that? Obviously there’s a lot of systemic things in place, then how do we combat that and try to counter some of those things? It’s going to take an effort from a lot of people to be very intentional about it. I would love to see a big change in the next ten years; we just need to figure out how to make that happen.
CollegeAD: What’s next for Milwaukee athletics?
Amanda Braun: Well, we talked about baseball, and we are the only Division I baseball program in our state. We have a great program, a coach that is really well-thought-of and well respected who has made a whole lot with what we have. It’s difficult to recruit when you’re playing in a county – basically just a baseball field that you share with high schools.
So we’re now in this stadium and trying to provide them the resources to compete at a high level. I’m excited about that. What’s next is I think we’re going to see a new era in that program.
I think our men’s basketball program is turning a corner under Pat Baldwin’s leadership. He’s made some very good decisions, some very tough decisions over the last 18 months or so, and we’ve seen a culture shift. I would say that you can actually feel things before you see them; we’ve certainly felt a change for the better, and I think we’re going to start seeing it there.
We’re fortunate at Milwaukee that we compete at the top of our league in nearly every sport on a pretty regular basis, so I think we’ll continue to find ways to support our programs. I just keep clearing the path and let our coaches and student-athletes get after it.