Saturday, March 2, 2013

New at Miller Park in 2013

Much like most of the country, March is a time of renewal and anticipation in Southeastern Wisconsin.  The snow starts to melt - and then it snows again, and then it re-melts.  Summerfest headliners start to get announced.  AM 620 gradually shifts from Packers free agency talk to the smooth sounds of Bob Uecker.  Brewer fans everywhere await Opening Day with bated breath, and along with it what has become an annual tradiion since Mark Attanasio purchased the team in 2004 - improvements to Miller Park.

On the slate this year, the major project is the addition of the new Miller Lite Party Deck in right-center field (shown above).  Designed by the prevalent Milwaukee firm Uihlein-Wilson, this new seating area will add 70 to the park's capacity and includes the standard party-deck accessories: bar, televisions, comfy chairs, etc.  Also on tap are improvements to the Dew Deck directly adjacent - the bulk of which includes adding a 25-foot high rock climbing wall in the shape of a soda can - and improvements to the Home Plate Lounge. 

I don't have any factual evidence of this, but I do watch a lot of baseball, and it seems to me that the Brewers have by far the most specialty seating areas in the major leagues - I count 9 off the top of my head.  Being the smallest media market in the major leagues, I certainly applaud the ownership for thinking of creative ways to attract fans.  But at what cost?  I personally don't like the direction the stadium has taken the last few years.  When the park first opened, Erik and I used to love grabbing a beer and pretty much going wherever we wanted, which was usually standing above the left field bleachers, or right field where the Tundra Territory is now.  While I recognize that the days of 12,000 attendance at the ballpark are gone forever, with the addition of the Miller Lite Deck, one of the last remaining decent standing-room spaces is all but gone now.  Miller Park has way too many nodes and group areas now and lacks a good place where fans can run into each other and interact.  Standing room spaces with bars are always some of the most memorable spaces you can find at a park, because let's face it not many people can sit still for 9 innings.  Don't get me wrong, a visit to Miller Park is still certainly memorable and unique, but it lacks those social spaces that I have enjoyed so much at Nationals Park, Marlins Park, Target Field, Progressive Field, the GAB, PETCO Park, and I could go on...really, almost all of the other major league parks.  A great example of what I'm talking about is going to the games with my family.  Typically I am the only person who watches the entire game; by the 4th inning they are all up on the concourse drinking.  Which is fine, do what you want it's your ticket, but they should not have to be subject to standing basically crammed between a hallway and an aisle using flimsy makeshift picnic seating.  That's the main reason I don't stand up there with them, it's awkward.  The only decent bar Miller Park has is tucked so far back in the corner you have no idea where the field even is.  With a lack of social spaces, a cramped concourse, and almost no seats against the outfield wall, fans are now totally separated from not only the game, but from each other, and a view of the outfield is nothing but a hodgepodge of cliques and corporate sponsors now.  Miller Park has been electric the last few years since the Brewers started fielding exciting teams again, and the team really needs to capitalize on that energy in better ways than segregated velvet-rope areas.

Brewers - 2 v. White Sox (exhibition), 3 v. Rockies, 3 v. Diamondbacks
Reds - 2 @ Diamondbacks (exhibition), 3 v. Angels, 3 v. Nationals
Twins - 3 v. Tigers, 3 @ Orioles

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