Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Concessions Overhaul at Miller Park

All photos of Brewers Opening Week 2017 @ Miller Park available on Flickr.

Another baseball season is upon us and another home opener at Miller Park has come and gone, making it 10 in a row for me this year!  No matter how long the offseason may seem, all it takes is to pull into that parking lot at 9 AM and see all those cars, and the doldrums of winter are all but forgotten.  This year was a manageable 50 degrees, but whatever the weather, the thousands of grills always seem to keep us just warm enough until that next drink.

We made sure to get inside a little earlier than usual this year so that we had time to explore all of the highly-anticipated new concessions.  It seems like the Brewers do something new inside the park just about every year, but this year the city and team were abuzz with the excitement of a nearly complete overhaul of the concessions and branding.  It was long overdue, and it was certainly a good move by the team to roll this out now while the team is admittedly not too good in an effort to draw fans.  The Brewers have certainly come a long way in terms of food quality the last few years, adding ballpark fare beyond the standard sausages and nachos (which are still very good).  But unlike a lot of parks, the way the stands were set up and branded was rather generic.  In the past, often times you had to get up real close to the menu to even see what they have, which is incredibly inconsistent from stand to stand.  This creates a bottleneck of patrons and a lot of confusion.  The new concessions fix this problem with giant, bold signage.  There are also a few bars nearer to home plate now that are 4-sided like you would see at a festival tent, rather than one-sided as a typical bar cart would be at a stadium.  This relieves a lot of congestion and creates another bold branding opportunity, not to mention a great place to meet.  In a ballpark that is largely devoid of public shared spaces and communal areas, these new "Zing Boom Tararrel" bars are crucial. 

It would have been easy to just slap up some signs and paint and call it a day, but the Brewers also revamped their entire food and drink menu as well.  The Klements and Miller Lite stands still rightfully have their place, but this year, AJ Bombers and Smoke Shack have been given much more prominence in the park, beyond just the corner outdoor stand they had the last few years.  There are several locations on all levels that serve the delicious burgers and BBQ.  Local favorite Zaffiro's Pizza and a gourmet Mac & Cheese stand are new players this year, as is a giant "Local Brews" stand on the loge level.  It's a beer bar that is latching onto the craft beer craze sweeping the league and the nation, offering over 20 kinds of local beers, many from the dozen or so breweries that have popped up in metro Milwaukee in the past couple of years.  Perhaps the most anticipated addition and another Wisconsin staple - Brandy Old Fashioneds are now served on tap.  It's something I guarantee you won't find at any other stadium in the country.  After the home opener, Megan and I just had to go to another game on Wednesday to fully experience as much of the new foods and drinks as possible.  I think I can now objectively say that Miller Park is in the top 5 for food & drink concessions in MLB now, and I think that even the 100,000 Cubs fans that were here over the weekend would agree with that.

As for the team, well I guess the nicest thing I can say is that they will be fun to watch.  These kids can absolutely rake, and we've got a couple of decent starters with nice depth in the minors, but beyond that, the bullpen and defense are going to be problems all year.  Almost every Brewer that has recorded a save in the last 2 years has been traded and we are left with another reclamation project in Neftali Feliz to close games now, with a hodgepodge of mid-tier prospects and veteran long relievers filling out the middle innings.  The new heart of our order will be the most exciting to watch this year in my opinion - Eric Thames and Travis Shaw.  Thames put up video-game numbers in the KBO, averaging .348 with 41 HR and 126 RBI per season over 3 years.  Shaw was the key piece of the Thornburg trade to Boston, and I really don't have to say much else other than his nickname is "Mayor of Ding Dong City."  They've both more than held their own so far in the first week.  It will also be interesting to see how Orlando Arcia plays over a full season.  I think a lot of people expected him to hit better than he did last year, but honestly with his defense, I'd take .250 out of him.  With Villar, Arcia, Broxton, and eventually Lewis Brinson up the middle, the Brewers have an exciting future ahead of them.

updated park rankings
(see also previous post from 4/2/14):

aesthetics - 8
views from park – 4

view to field - 4
surrounding area – 3
food variety - 9
nachos - 9
beer - improves to 9

vendor price - 7
ticket price - 10 (pretty hard not to find discounted/free tickets)
atmosphere - decreases to 8 (team is not good)
walk to park – 6
parking price/proximity - decreases to 4
concourses - increases to 8
team shop - 10

best food – AJ Bombers or Smoke Shack
most unique stadium feature – roof, Bernie's slide
best jumbotron feature – can you name more of something than a Brewer?
best between-inning feature – Klements Sausage Race

Brewers 2-5 (2 @ Blue Jays, 4 @ Reds, 3 @ Cubs)
Reds 5-2 (3 @ Pirates, 4 v. Brewers, 3 v. Orioles
Twins 5-1 (3
@ Tigers, 3 v. White Sox, 4 v. Indians)

Erik - 3 (+0 worked)

Peter - 3

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