In their 50-year NBA existence, the Milwaukee Bucks played some of their most memorable basketball on the most unique floor in the league.
Designed by American pop artist Robert Indiana, the famous MECCA court (it stood for Milwaukee Exposition, Convention Center and Arena) debuted in 1977 at the Bucks' original home and served the team until they left for the Bradley Center in 1988.
With its end-to-end abutting "M"s and colorful palette, the court remains the only one in NBA history completely covered in paint—more than two-dozen gallons' worth. To commemorate the Bucks' golden anniversary, and the floor's 40th, the team received Indiana's permission to commission a replica for a special "Return to MECCA" game played at the old arena (now UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena) last October.
A three-week re-creation process for the floor began with a new Connor maple floor sanded, sealed and painted in layers using the same PMS colors and fonts as the original. Some observers were convinced the colors were different, but that was due to the waterborne coatings, explains Phil Sanchez, a representative Bona, which provided the finish. He explains, "The water-based finish that was put on top didn't have the oily amber look that the original floor would have had, so the actual visual is a little bit different,
but the design and the colors were all the same."
Intended to serve just one home-away-from-home game, the floor now resides in Oshkosh, Wis., at a new facility hosting the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks' G League franchise, where it will remain as a practice floor for at least one year.
The original MECCA floor was largely forgotten when the team left for the Bradley Center in 1988, and was discovered on an architectural-salvage website in 2010. After being rediscovered, a movement was launched to save the floor and have it displayed publicly, and it was displayed as a temporary art installation in Milwaukee’s City Hall.
Today the floor is owned by the Koller family of ProStar Surfaces Inc., which is the official Bucks' floor-care provider. The unexpected news of the famous floor’s recreation pleased Hal Koller, ProStar president. "Being a wood guy, it seems odd to be proud of something where you've covered up all the wood," Koller says. "But it's still art."
A version of this article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Design Details: Bucks re-create a work of art for one NBA game."