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Why ESPN’s Jim Caple is Wrong and What Milwaukee Brewers Fans See in Miller Park

Miller Park, Home of the Milwaukee Brewers

Miller Park, Home of the Milwaukee Brewers

When ESPN initially announced the Battle of the Ballparks, with Pittsburgh’s PNC Park and Boston’s Fenway Park getting first-round byes, I was incredibly surprised to see Miller Park as the 24th seed. The combination of pride and lack of national respect has Brewers fans flocking to the polls, where Miller Park has now found itself in the final four after beating Angel Stadium, Dodger Stadium, and PNC Park.

Update: After winning against Camden Yards, Miller Park is now taking on AT&T Park for the Championship

As a Brewers fan, and resident of Milwaukee, it’s painful to see ESPN senior writer Jim Caple consistently dog Miller Park. In the first round Caple called the Miller Park win a “bracket-busting upset.” In the second round he went on to say we “pulled off an upset, beating Dodger Stadium one day after whipping Angel Stadium” and that “Milwaukee fans have their work cut out for them in the third round, though, with a matchup against our No. 1 seed — Pittsburgh’s gorgeous PNC Park.”

On Twitter, Caple continues to cheer for each Miller Park opponent to outvote Milwaukee. He must really believe Miller Park doesn’t deserve it’s place among some of the best ballparks in baseball. Can Milwaukee and Brewers fans turn out the vote to beat beautiful Camden Yards, the stadium that kicked-off the revival of ballparks in major league baseball?

Maybe Caple just needs a lesson on each category, as it applies to Miller Park, to better understand what Brewers fans see. ESPN instructed readers to base their vote on location, architecture, history, seating, price, concessions, scoreboards, transportation, roofs, and grass.

Location

Before opening in 2001, Milwaukee did consider a downtown location for the new stadium before it was finally erected next to County Stadium – at the west end of the Menomonee Valley. It would have been great to see the structure find it’s way to the lakefront or downtown Milwaukee, but the Valley has tremendous history and is vital to the growth of our city. Miller Park continues to spark a rejuvenation in the area.

It’s also important to note that without the abundance of parking, the tradition of tailgating would have been lost for Milwaukee Brewers fans. Perhaps ESPN and Caple disagree that this is an important tradition, but even MLB has called tailgating a “tradition in Milwaukee” and that “Miller Park hosts a unique atmosphere unrivaled in the Majors.”

Architecture

The neo-classic ballpark has a brick facade and many other details to cause even a casual fan to reminisce about the old ballparks.The Milwaukee Business Journal reported that “Miller Park stadium district director Mike Duckett crunched the numbers and said the roof was significant in making Brewers home attendance increase by about 1 million fans annually since the new stadium opened.”

Miller Park has seen over three million fans comes through the gates in three of the last four years – an impressive feat. Lets not forget, Milwaukee continues to be one of the smallest markets in all of Major League Baseball.

Personally, I miss the ivy in the outfield that was removed prior to the 2010 season, but consistent upgrades continue to make this a great stadium. And as of April 2012 Miller Park is LEED certified, “making it the first stadium with a retractable roof and just the third Major League Baseball stadium overall to receive the designation.”

History

Does Jim Caple know that Milwaukee is the birthplace of the American League? Historian Ed Pahule states that, “on March 5, 1900 in the Republican Hotel in Milwaukee a group including Connie Mack, Ban Johnson, and Charles Comiskey met to legally incorporate the American League. That year the AL was not recognized as a major league, but in 1901 they achieved major league status fielding eight teams, the Baltimore Orioles (later moved to New York), Boston Americans, Chicago White Stockings, Cleveland Blues, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Athletics, Washington Senators, and the Milwaukee Brewers.”

While not specifically tied to Miller Park, it proves Milwaukee is a baseball city. And lets not forget Mr. Baseball Bob Uecker. He isn’t THE stadium, but he is part of our history with every game he calls.

During the seventh inning stretch, in addition to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame“, fans at Miller Park sing “Roll Out the Barrel“, to salute Milwaukee’s beer-making history.

And what about the Klement’s Racing Sausages? In October of 2011, the New York Times said “the Brewers’ sausage races have become such an iconic part of the Miller Park scene that players are often besieged by relatives seeking to participate.”

Imitation is one of the sincerest forms of flattery, but the Washington Nationals, New York Yankees, and Pittsburgh Pirates just can’t compare.

There has also been a few major events in the ballpark’s history:

  • In September 2008, the Astros were forced to play the Cubs in Milwaukee because of Hurricane Ike. If you forgot, Carlos Zambrano threw a no-hitter that Monday and Miller Park became the first neutral site in Major League history to host a no-hitter.
  • After opening in 2001, Miller Park hosted the 2002 MLB All-Star Game, which ended (infamously) in a tie.

While those two events are not the type of “history” ESPN and Caple are looking for, we are still a young franchise that has just begun to write it’s history. There is no way for a stadium like Miller Park to compare to the 100 years of history of Fenway.

But I’ve had a lot of great moments as a season ticket holder – and I’ll never forget Nyjer Morgan’s winning hit in game five of the 2011 NLDS.

Seating

Miller Park has a capacity of 42,200, and there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Even walking along the concourse is a pleasure as you can easily see the field from anywhere. Some of the best seats on the second level are less than $30 each, including those behind home plate.

Even the worst seats in the house, the (aptly named) Uecker Seats are a deal. They are obstructed view seats located on the Terrace Level behind home plate, that sell for only $1 each. How can you beat the price of four quarters to see America’s pastime?

Miller Park also has the Stadium Club, the pen in right field, and beautiful suites.

Price

Besides having great views of the game, Miller Park also has some of the best prices in baseball. According to the Fan Cost Index for Major League Baseball, ticket prices at Miller Park are an incredible value. The average ticket price in 2012 is $26.98 and at Miller Park the average ticket is $24.01.

More importantly, Miller Park ranks as the 3rd lowest for premium seats at $42.53 (the MLB average at $88.18). So Jim Caple, that seems like an incredible value.

Since it appears Caple’s own ESPN uses the Fan Cost Index for their reporting, I feel very comfortable using it here. If you need another source, how about Seat Geek? They calculate average ticket sale prices over the past seven days, and as of today the Milwaukee Brewers rank dead last at $26.66 per ticket.

And lets not forget the value at the concession stand – which I address below.

Concessions

Caple has previously ranked Miller Park as having some of the best concessions (go bratwurst), yet we were also on the list as having the worst beer. That even Caple, and all his bias, can enjoy a good brat has to count for something.

In 2005, Sports Illustrated conducted fan surveys that rated Miller Park the best ballpark based on value per dollar spent. As a season-ticket holder I know many of those prices haven’t changed, including concessions, and if you want proof the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looked at prices during the Mark Attanasio era. I also think the Milwaukee Brewers have done a great job diversifying the food available and addressing the need for healthy options. In 2011 PETA included Miller Park on it’s list of the top 10 veg-friendly Major League ballparks.

We’ve already talked tailgating, but when Wisconsinites can hear Dodgers announcer Vin Scully talk about brats you have to be proud. And it doesn’t stop there, whether its the NFL or MLB there are plenty of great commentary about tailgating in both the cold and warm months at Lambeau Field and Miller Park.

Scoreboards

In 2011 the Brewers introduced a new scoreboard, and the single screen high-definition display is one of the best in baseball. It’s the fourth-largest scoreboard in Major League Baseball at 5,940 sq. ft. and came with a price tag north of $10 million. At the time,  Brewers Executive Vice President – Business Operations Rick Schlesinger said “when you factor in the overall size and resolution of the new display, we believe this will be the finest video board in Major League Baseball.”

‘Nuff said.

Transportation
Getting to Miller Park is quite easy. The ballpark is near downtown Milwaukee, has immediate exits off I-94, is easily accessed via public transportation and shuttles, is bicycle and pedestrian friendly, and did I already mention tailgating?

Also, don’t forget about the Hank Aaron State Trail which “provides a continuous connection between Milwaukee’s Miller Park Stadium and the Lake Michigan lakefront for bicyclists, walkers, runners, and skaters.”

Roofs

Designed as North America’s only radial, retractable roof it is the signature feature of the ballpark. Having sat through sub-freezing weather and even snow at County Stadium, it is a necessity in Milwaukee.

Major League Baseball has also benefited from the Miller Park roof. I already mentioned the Astros-Cubs series from 2008. In April 2007, snow storms moved the Indians home opener to Milwaukee where attendance was 52,496 for the three games. Those are pretty fantastic numbers, and again proves that Milwaukee is a baseball city.

And according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “it’s Duckett’s opinion and that of the Milwaukee Brewers that the roof is actually a marketing tool. Last season [2011], more than 56% of the fans who came to Miller Park came from outside the five-county area. They did so, in large part, knowing that inclement weather would not mean postponing a game.”

The beautiful Helfaer Field doesn’t have a roof, but it is a wonderful softball park for children.

Grass

Even with a retractable roof, Miller Park has fresh grass. Always groomed, always beautiful, always ready for baseball. Do we get extra points for a roof and grass together? We should.

Conclusion

In ESPN.com’s 2011 “Ultimate Rankings” the sports network listed Miller Park as the eighth-best stadium among those representing all 122 major league sports franchises.

So Jim Caple (or is it incapable?), why dog Miller Park, Milwaukee, and Brewers fans? I don’t understand your strong bias against the ballpark. Is it just because we are not a major media market? Have you not enjoyed enough Brewers games? Are you a Cubs fans? How about you come back to Milwaukee after we win the Battle of the Ballparks and enjoy a brat, some polka, and a great game at one of the new cathedrals of baseball?

If you’re worried about the fans booing you, don’t. Milwaukee is one of the friendliest cities in America and we’d be more than happy to be your host. I’ll even buy the tickets. So how about it Jim, are you in?

And Milwaukee Brewers fans, lets get out the vote!

  1. Thank you for writing this. I have been saying the same thing about the rankings. Although I could never say it like you said it. Thanks again this blog really made me proud to be from Milwaukee, and our ability to piss off the four-letter network by making things not go the way that they think it should.

    Cody

    Reply

  2. Dennis, Nice article. However, I disagree with your conclusions. I have lived in Milwaukee my whole life and have attended Brewer games since 1974. I go to about 30 games a year. But I would put Miller Park about 10th among all the ballparks in major league baseball.

    Location
    Being from Milwaukee, I am well aware of why they built the park where it is. In fact, I was for the current location. However, after a game is over, what do you do? You go to your car and drive somewhere for entertainment (or fire the grill back up). Other parks, you can leave your car and go to a bar or restaurant. Impossible to do at Miller Park. In fact, when the stadium was being built, they were going to buiild a Leinie’s Lodge outside home plate (ala the one outside Chase Field) but due to John Norquist, that was scuttled.

    Architecture
    Quite nice but so is every other park built since 1993. The roof is the selling point and more on that later.

    History
    Not much history at Miller Park, although you try to sell it big. That’s not that big of a detriment, however, because how much history do the other new ballparks have around major league baseball? They put this category in there so that Fenway could rise to a #2 seed.

    Seating
    Every seat is obstructed from some view of the field but that’s not a negative since every other ballpark is like that too.

    Pricing
    Milwaukee is cheap therefore Miller Park is affordable. Also, things are cheaper in the midwest that they are on the coasts, so that’s a good thing.

    Concessions
    Milwaukee and sausage. ‘Nuff said.

    Scoreboard
    One of the best in the majors.

    Transportation
    Easy to get to but it’s the only thing in the area. Don’t give me the “buildup of the Monominee Valley” because, other than the casino, what are fans to do after the game?

    Roof
    This is where you and I disagree. Whereas in PNC Park, Target Field, Progressive Field, etc. there is nice scenery over the outfield wall, in Milwaukee, all we see are steel and concrete beams. The roof ensures a game will be played, but you better not be sitting where the damn thing still leaks 12 years later. It’s ridiculous that a roof can’t keep the water out. Plus, if Bud Selig REALLY loved Milwaukee, he would have taken some of the $170 million he made thru the sale of the team thanks to the taxpayers and installed a heating and air conditioning system in the place. Have you ever sat at an August game with a chance of rain? I call Miller Park the Greenhouse. There is no air flow whatsoever in the place so even with the roof open you will be sitting in a pool of sweat. As for heating, Milwaukee talks about hosting a Final Four but no way will the NCAA come here when the place could potentially be 40 degrees inside.

    Grass
    Beautiful except for the dead spots in centerfield.

    Conclusion
    Miller Park is firmly in the middle of the pack. I would put PNC, AT&T, Progressive, Comerica, Camden Yards, Target Field, Ballpark at Arlington, Citizen Bank and Petco above Miller Park. I have been to all of these parks. The only parks, new or old, that I haven’t seen since 1989 are the new ones in New York (both), Washington, Seattle, St. Louis and Miami.

    Reply

    • Al –

      Thanks for the comment(s). I do appreciate it, even if we differ in opinion.

      As for location, I see the opportunity Milwaukee has to make the Valley more of a destination. This would solve the issue of driving to Tosa or Downtown to party more.

      I definitely disagree on seating. Minus a little loss of the corners from the upper decks, I can see the field perfectly from behind home plate and anywhere on the 1st and 3rd base sides.

      As for the roof, I do believe the stadium can be heated. As for cooling, I just think that is cost prohibitive. It may get warm and muggy in there, but that can happen every night in Texas or Florida in an open air stadium.

      I’m still saying Miller Park is one of the best, and because of the fans – even more so.

      Reply

    • I notice that you talk about what to do after a game… and you know there are plenty of bars and resturants along bluemound road that offer free shuttles to the games. So you save on parking by grabbing a beer before heading down. Then after the game, its not that difficult to grab a shuttle to get out, and there are plenty of places to choose from where you want to grab a bite afterwards at along Bluemound. I have also taken the shuttle and met up with friends to tailgate, and then afterwards, we all head back to the bar I took the shuttle down on, its not that hard to find something to do after the game.

      Reply

  3. Well said Dennis!

    Thanks for taking the time to help Jim understand why Miller Park will probably win this thing.

    Reply

  4. well written. how do we make sure Jim (in) Caple reads this. An apology article is going to be appropriate I’d say…

    Reply

  5. Who is “Charles Cominsky”?

    Reply

  6. Dennis,

    I absolutely love your article. It was very well thought out and written. This ballpark article is a joke, and if people who read ESPN don’t know it now, Milwaukee has some of the most loyal baseball fans in all of sports.

    All we needed was a owner who is willing to try to be competitive every year. He got it right away. Don’t understand why Jim Caple is this hard headed!

    Reply

    • Thanks Brian, I sure hope we win it all and get to see Jim Caple and ESPN announce Miller Park as the winner – and hopefully that happens without any “buts” or whatnot. Thanks for the comment and the votes!

      Reply

  7. Thank you for writing this true and detailed account of Miller Park!

    Reply

  8. Nuf said! no reply needed. Thanks for making me smarter!

    Reply

  9. I agree with much of what Al Michaels had to say. How ever I have been to the stadium on on pretty cold days. While not exactly warm I was never freezing. Dennis you mentioned open air stadiums such as Miami. They have a retractable roof. You are probably right about it being prohibitive to put in air conditioning. I doubt that there are really that many games where you need it. As for the location there are pros and cons. You would certainly lose the tail gating if the park was downtown. And that may be the only real con to having a down town stadium. I think it would help the downtown area especially on weekends when people would stay out later. Plus you would probably get some pre game customers as well. While the scenery is nice at PNC and other parks, are you there for the game or to look at buildings. As others have mentioned the pricing is probably one of the best in the league. It helps that they have some great promotions as far as pricing goes. What I really dislike and other teams do it as well is dynamic pricing. Plus I really dislike that they knock up the parking for weekend and marquis games. Of course if people were smart they would buy a general parking ticket if they purchase tickets in advance. We have a 20 pack and we got parking passes as well for 9 dollars each whether it was a weekend or marquis game. We went Wednesday afternoon for senior citizens day. Parking was ten dollars. Granted it was only a dollar difference, but it is just the principle of the thing.

    Reply

    • Thanks so much for the comment.

      As for Florida, I was thinking more about Sun Life Stadium and not the new facility the Marlins opened in 2012.

      Ever since I visited Detroit I wish Milwaukee has built Miller Park somewhere closer to downtown. A lakefront site would have been even more exciting. In Detroit you have both Ford Field and Comercia Park right next to each other. We could have has something similar with the Milwaukee Bucks and Brewers.

      I also think you nailed it with the views. PNC and AT&T have great views. It definitely adds to the ambience. Something Miller Park doesn’t have. But I’m there to watch baseball, not boats.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it.

      Reply

  10. Dear Dennis,

    This is one of the greatest articles. I think that everything is covered and well written. But, unless I missed it, you forgot one thing…. YOU CAN BRING IN YOUR OWN FOOD AND DRANK!

    thanks again for the great article. take it easy Dennis

    Reply

  11. I couldnt have said it better myself, although I’ve been saying it for days now! I cannot believe the way Jim Caple is talking about Milwaukee and being a voting pole, whoever is running something such as this, should have a non-bias opinion…. or at least keep his opinion to himself and not try to sway people to vote one way or the other?!? If someone at ESPN is close to him when Milwaukee wins this contest, please take a picture of his face and post it with all of his rude comments!!
    No matter what people think about Milwaukee or Miller Park, its more than obviousl that we have the best fan base in the nation!!
    Jim’s words mean nothing and only make him look immature and silly… its the tortoise and the hare of baseball, Milwaukee is going all the way.
    Sorry to burst your bubble Jim, maybe next time you’ll keep your OPINIONS to yourself… or maybe things like this will be ran by somebody with the respect that you clearly lack!

    GO BREW CREW!!!!

    Reply

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read, and comment, on my post.

      Hopefully Jim Caple reconsiders his bias and takes me up on the offer of visiting Miller Park and enjoying all the amenities and great fans. Lets prove him wrong!

      Reply

  12. Just a few things to add to a great article.

    Concessions – How does the fact that Miller Park offers over 40 different beers to its guests continue to be overlooked. Along with many other mixed drink varieties (albeit most of that is through Fridays Front Row, there is also a great bottled beer selection behind home plate atthe 400 level.)

    History – The commerative plaque marking the spot of Hank Aaron’s 755th Home run in the parking lot.

    Reply

    • Great points Bryan. I should have also included the Hank Aaron fact in my post.

      And you are so right about the beer, again something I should have included. There is never a shortage of choices at the ballpark.

      Thanks again for the comments.

      Reply

  13. […] practically nothing if the fans don’t support the team that plays there. (I recommend reading this article for a complete breakdown of how Miller Park fulfills each of Caple’s 10 factors though.) A […]

    Reply

  14. I love Miller Park. It’s a great ballpark…it might not be my favorite park, but it’s a great experience. I would say PNC is probably the coolest park in the majors.

    That being said, I don’t like several things about this guy’s attitude. He’s actually offended that our stadium is getting a popular vote and he pisses and moans about it in every interview I’ve read or heard. It’s not just that he’s surprised about it, it’s that he gives Miller Park little to no respect whatsoever outside of tailgating.

    Sorry Jim, but just because you believe it doesn’t mean the rest of us baseball fans have to…

    Reply

    • Thanks for the comment Travis. I haven’t been inside PNC but it is amazing. I’ve also been a fan of the street level views at Comercia Park in Detroit and of course the views at AT&T Park. I’ve never been to Fenway (crossing my fingers for a trip this summer) but I imagine the history alone makes it a pretty great place.

      That said, I think Milwaukee does have a gem in Miller Park. I took the time to go point by point because I do think we win as you consider all the criteria. I’m biased as a Brewers fan, but I do truly believe it’s Top 10, if not Top 5 in all of MLB.

      The bias was surprising coming from a senior writer. Hopefully Jim takes me up on the offer and joins us for a game at Miller Park.

      Reply

  15. You are the man!!

    Reply

  16. The vote is right —
    Miller Park and AT&T Park are the two best ballparks I’ve ever been to.
    But despite my allegiance to my hometown team, I have to give the edge to AT&T Park. It wins because the Giants’ major electronic sponsors have all made sure to update the TV’s and other electronic amenities over the years. Meanwhile, those 2001 Standard Definition tube TV’s all over Miller Park are just as embarrassing as the 11 layers of ballpark dust covering the backs of them.

    Reply

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Chuck. The good news is most of the TVs in Miller Park are being replaced. I’d say a majority of spots on the concourse now are flat panels. So we’re getting there. But who needs LCDs when you have one of the best HD scoreboards in all of sports!?

      Reply

  17. Dennis, My thoughts exactly. Was struggling to put into words all the pride I feel about Miller Park and couldn’t. You put it all together. If you can get Caple to come and enjoy the fans Miller Park I would love to help show him. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Now that Miller Park has been crowned champion I sure hope he takes Milwaukee up on the offer and visits Miller Park to enjoy a true end-to-end experience. Thanks so much for the kind words and taking the time to comment.

      Reply

  18. Fantastic article!

    Reply

  19. […] their opinion. I obviously did in my post explaining why I thought ESPN’s Jim Caple was wrong and what Milwaukee Brewers fans see in Miller Park. It was also pretty exciting to see the rally on Twitter, including Brewers closer John Axford […]

    Reply

  20. Dennis,

    Thanks a lot for putting my video in this article, your work is fantastic.

    cheers

    Reply

  21. Dennis,
    I was reminded this evening of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding a certain networks Battle of the Ballparks. I was watching the Brewers play at PNC Park, one of Jim’s favorites as I’m sure you know. In the midst of a Wild Card race and in danger of having a losing season for the twentieth straight season Pittsburgh fans apparently had better things to do. Clearly they aren’t coming out to watch their team and clearly they aren’t coming out to enjoy the ball ark either!
    I’m a Brewliever!

    Reply

    • Dave –

      Thanks so much for taking the time to drop a comment here. I was just as surprised to see PNC Park not nearly as full as it should be. Perhaps it’s the nearly 20 losing seasons that have left them less than optimistic. But that hasn’t been an excuse in Milwaukee, and once again we may find ourselves in a post-season race.

      What Jim Caple and ESPN didn’t get is that a sports franchise is greater than the sum of their parts. And Miller Park, and the Brewers, offer an amazing experience because of the fans.

      Here’s to hoping we cut the Wild Card race to 1.5 games this weekend.

      Cheers,
      Dennis

      Reply

  22. Caple’s opinion of Miller Park really isn’t that far from the consensus. But as Caple said, there’s not much difference between #10 and #24. It seems that all but two or three of the venues today are great places to watch a game. We’re in the golden age of parks.

    Reply

  23. Miller Park is the best. The fans and designers wanted and got the following features:

    1. A new stadium
    2. A new state of the art scoreboard
    3. More bathrooms, more dining choices, better views, wider seats, luxury boxes, kids areas
    4. A freeway spur and freeway access
    5. An expensive red brick facade
    6. A dome (to keep out the rain and cold) with a fan shape
    7. A natural grass field
    8. Natural sunlight even when the dome is closed
    9. Lots of parking space with tailgate parties before every game
    10. All the same celebrations (sausage race, roll out the barrel, bernie brewer)

    No other ballpark in the country has those features. Not one.

    The roof was an absolute must in making Brewers home attendance increase by about 1 million fans annually. Try replacing Miller Park with any other stadium and watch attendance drop.

    Reply

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