The 300s Reviews ballpark tour is back for 2018 and kicks off in the Upper Midwest at the home of the Milwaukee Brewers, Miller Park.
Miller Park opened in 2001 and replaced Milwaukee County Stadium as the home of the Brewers. Miller Park was the fifth Major League Baseball stadium to feature a retractable roof (not counting Olympic Stadium in Montreal), and in 2001 was the fourth retractable-roof stadium to open in as many years. The retractable-roof craze subsided after Miller Park opened, though, and only one more retractable-roof stadium (Marlins Park) has opened since. Globe Life Field will make it two retractable-roof stadiums since 2001 when the Texas Rangers start playing there in 2020.
The roof at Miller Park has a unique fan shape. Because of its shape, large shadows cover the field during day games when the roof is open (see above). That can make the retractable-roof stadium feel more like a dome with an opening (a la Texas Stadium). That’s not a concern for night games, and at night the stadium feels more like a typical open-air ballpark (see below). I’ve been to Miller Park three times, and the roof was open on all three occasions.
Aside from the roof, the first thing I noticed when rolling up to Miller Park was its expansive parking lots. That made parking and getting into the ballpark relatively easy and affordable. It also made for perfect tailgating conditions.
Milwaukee has long been known as one of the best (and few) tailgate cities in all of baseball. If you show up a few hours before the game you will see the parking lots filled with fans, tents, cornhole games, portable grills and empty cans of Miller Lite. [No lie, Miller Lite outnumbered Bud Light about 100 to 1 outside the ballpark.]
If you didn’t pack your portable grill and cooler, Miller Park has an impressive selection of food and beverages inside the park. As you’d expect at the home of the Sausage Race, they have a great selection of sausages, brats and dogs. I ordered a polish sausage and loaded it up with Secret Stadium Sauce. Secret Stadium Sauce is reportedly a ketchup and barbecue sauce hybrid, with a little mustard, smoked syrup and other ingredients mixed in.
As you’d expect in Miller Park, High Life and Lite flow like wine. If you want a craft beer instead there’s still plenty of options. Miller Park’s Local Brews stand offers two dozen craft brews from across the Badger State. If you’re looking for a mixed drink instead, try the Long Island Iced Tea at the TGI Fridays at the ballpark. Seriously.
After figuring out what to eat and drink and getting back to my seat I was able to take in the game experience. I kept a close eye on Bernie’s Dugout (and slide) in left field. Bernie Brewer goes down the slide after every Brewers home run. Not into a vat of beer like the old days, but still cool. Definitely an underrated mascot.
I made sure to be in my seat in the middle of the sixth inning to catch the famous Sausage Race. The Milwaukee Brewers might not be America’s Team, but most sports fans will be familiar with this in-game promotion, which has been copied by so many other teams since it started in the early ’90s. (see Nationals, Washington).
And before the game was over I made sure to get a look at the Uecker Seats.
Miller Park can feel a bit like bizarro world for a Red Sox fan with it’s ample parking, wide concourses, and (more) reasonably priced beer, but it is a prime example of the retro-modern ballpark trend. The park can feel massive when your sitting in your seat, and the outfield dimensions are basically symmetrical, but those are minor quibbles. Everything else going on in (and around) the ballpark makes a trip to Miller Park an enjoyable and memorable experience. It also doesn’t hurt that I snagged giveaway items in two of my three visits.
I wouldn’t rank Miller Park ahead of Fenway Park or Target Field (which will be the next stop on our tour), but I do prefer it to Camden Yards and Angel Stadium.
Big Z Ballpark Rating – 7.7