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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Miller Park: The Same Old Garbage in a Shiny New Can

The title quote is from my Uncle Tom, a long-suffering Brewers fan (who haven't had a winning season since 1992) who likes the park, but hates the management, the team, the pervading aura of failure, etc.

It's tough to disagree there. Luckily for fans of the Brew Crew, new management has come into town, and has both increased payroll and made some exciting trades which look to at least elevate the Brewers into .500 territory. I couldn't be happier, since: 1. Their fans deserve it, and 2. They play the Cubs 19 times or so. Go Brewers!

On to the park. Miller Park benefits from that glorious hybrid of modern stadium design, the retractable roof. It's the most distinctive architectural feature present - a giant green roof which spreads apart radially from the center behind home plate. Closed during cold weather, the park still gets loads of natural light, owing to the huge vaulted windows around the UD and OF. Open, it allows for a natural grass field and a perfectly outdoor baseball experience. Man, I wish we had one of these puppies at Comiskey when it's 35 degrees in April.

Ticket prices are shockingly high for a team which hasn't cracked the cellar for such a long time. Gone are the $1 "Bob Eucker seats" which ringed the top of the UD. New management must have been leery of an otherwise empty UD being upgraded into by $1 skinflints. (I'd sure do it...)

The only true budget area now is Bernie's Terrace, for $5 during regular games and $8 "marquee" games (no relation to former Brewer Marquis Grissom, mostly they're games against the Flubbies.) OF "Bleacher" seats are available for $10-$15, but I can tell you from experience that these seats are hardly worth it. They have obstructed views of the OF, and are about as close to the action as a tailgate party in the parking lot. The best "deal" would be "Terrace Reserved" UD seats for $12-$15. Get them behind home plate in the UD and you'll be doing fine.

The best seats in the house IMHO are the "Loge Infield" and Loge Diamond" boxes, 200 level, for $20-$32. These seats are slightly elevated above the LD (some are even more expensive, which bears out my judgment of their quality), offering a tremendous view of the action. I sat in 211 for a Preseason game against the Sox this year (pictures to come).

The main issue with seats in the OF at Miller Park is their obstructed nature. I am assuming that these decks were built so far inwards owing to the roughly cylindrical shape of the building, to accommodate the roof. Unfortunately, this means that you can never see both foul poles at once unless you are in the 30% of the park or so by home plate. The further you go down the line, the less you can see of your OF corner.

Concessions are high in quality and midrange in prices. The bratwurst in particular can't be beat, with optional kraut and brown mustard. Beer is available in plastic bottles, which is nice, considering how much it sucks to have a cloud of someone's peanut shavings drift into your lidless beer cup. It also prevent spillage from spasmodic Cubs fans.

In-game entertainment is standard fare except for the famed Sausage Races. In this delightful distraction, 4 sausages (German, Italian, Polish and Hot Dog) race from foul pole to foul pole around the diamond. An emasculated Bernie Brewer, who used to slide into a giant mug of beer at old County Stadium now slides down a slide and waves a flag when the Brewers hit a homer. The scoreboard is very nice, but a little high in the stratosphere and far away for comfortable viewing.

Bathrooms and concourses are particularly nice at Miller. I swear, some of these bathrooms resemble the cleanest airport restrooms you've ever seen. Concourses are extremely wide with plenty of space for concession lines. This I'm sure owes to the aforementioned cylindrical construction of the park.

Milwaukee fans are middle of the pack as far as making your visit enjoyable. There are a lot of families, which is nice, but public drunkenness is definitely a pronounced feature. And some of these Milwaukee residents are folks you don't want to mess with, take my word for it.

Pre, Post, and during-game Tailgating is the thing du jour in Miller's extremely copious and relatively affordable parking lots. The smells of all sorts of roast carcass can be picked up wafting in the breeze. The lots are so big, there's a bathroom stop at the halfway point.

Seat comfort: 5 - Cup holders, good views, and TEMPERATE CONDITIONS ALL YEAR make Miller a tough park to beat for comfort.
Concessions: 4 - The brats rock. Beer has some variety (but non-Miller products are hard to find), and is priced very average for MLB. You'd think they'd cut you a deal since the park is named for a brewery...
Scoreboard: 3 - Nice and pretty, but very remote.
P.A. system: 4 - Good sound system is aided by interior acoustics.
Ticket Prices: 3 - Pretty bad considering the Brewers' atrocious record.
Exterior Architecture: 4.5 - This park is seriously pretty from the outside. The Roof is a sight to see. Only a very bland outfield wall brings this down a half-tick.
Arch.: 4 - Sight lines are impaired by verticality of construction. Otherwise sweet. Concourses are to die for.
Access: 5 - The largest parking lot you've ever seen, right off the freeway. No problemo.
Ushers: 3 - There were ushers? Oh yeah. LD ushers watch people like a hawk.
Trading up: 3 - Fans can access all levels. LD ushers are very stingy about trading up, however. Go for the UD.

Points out of 50: 38.5


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