Miller Park is one of the largest construction projects in Wisconsin history. It was built with $310 million of public funds from a 0.1% sales tax that began January 1, 1996 and is scheduled for retirement upon completion, sometime around 2014. The tax is applied on purchases over $10 in Milwaukee County and four surrounding counties: Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha. The tax was controversial, in part because of the notion of using public funds for a privately owned sports team. The state senator who cast the deciding vote in the funding bill, George Petak of Racine, lost a recall election based on his vote for the stadium.
Construction was subject to numerous delays. Groundbreaking took place on November 9, 1996, in a parking lot behind County Stadium. Construction had already been slowed, and the originally planned opening date of Opening Day 1999 had been pushed back, and was delayed even further after three construction workers were killed in an accident. The massive Lampson Transi-lift crane 3 (nicknamed "Big Blue"), brought in to build the roof, collapsed while lifting a 400-ton roof section on July 14, 1999. The stadium did not open until Opening Day 2001.
The stadium has a retractable roof, built in a unique convertible style, with the roof panels opening and closing simultaneously in a sweeping manner from the first- and third-base sides toward center field. The complex and massive roof was a significant factor in the $400 million cost of the stadium. It allows the seating area to be heated 30 degrees warmer than the outside temperature when closed, allowing games to be played in more comfortable conditions than an open air stadium.
The design team was appointed after a design competition in the mid 1990s. The architectural concept for the stadium was developed by the Los Angeles based sports and entertainment team NBBJ, who worked closely with a Los Angeles-based team from engineers Arup, who were responsible for all stages of the structural and building services engineering design for the stadium, with the exception of the mechanical mechanisms that move the roof structure. The original versions of these mechanisms were designed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America as part of a design and build contract, but they have now been replaced by new designs after their failure. The executive architect responsible for the delivery of the final stadium design was a Dallas-based team of HKS, Inc. In addition to these major players there were a significant contributions from local teams including FLAD engineers and Eppstein Uhen architects.
The stadium design followed the trend of retro-designed ballparks with current amenities that began in 1992 with Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland.
The original grass playing surface was installed on March 10, 2001. It consisted mostly of sod transplanted from the old County Stadium.
The unconventional fan-shaped roof has not been without complications. Major elements of the pivot system behind home plate and the outfield roof track have been replaced.
On September 25, 2006, one day after the final Brewers home game of the season, the roof failed while opening and was stuck partially open. A shattered lower guide roller was the cause of the failure. At the end of the 2006 season, the roof's bogie system was replaced at a cost of over $13 million. The 10 new, 24-feet-(7.3 m)-long, 60 horsepower (45 kW) bogies were paid for with money from the settlement between the stadium district and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America. Six of the bogies weigh 66 tons apiece, while the four others weigh 49 tons. The work was completed by lifting sections of the roof approximately six inches with hydraulic lifts, while a 300-ton crane replaced the bogies individually. "We're saying the bogies will last for the life of the facility," said Mike Duckett, executive director of the Miller Park stadium district. But any evidence of the original bogie and pivot failure was disclosed. While the majority of the project was completed by the start of the 2007 season, final calibrations were not complete until the 2007 midseason.
Because of its height and size, the fixed roof panel on the stadium's west (first-base) grandstand casts a shadow on the infield during most of the day. This has caused problems with the maintenance of the grass playing field on the first base side, resulting in the consideration of replacing the natural grass surface with an artificial surface, such as FieldTurf.
In time for the 2006 season there were three additions to the stadium. Two sets of LED scoreboards were added. One replaced the formerly manually-operated "out of town" scoreboards along the left and right field walls with a new set of LED scoreboards along the left-field wall. The new "out of town" scoreboards show continually updated information about other Major League games, including the score, hits, errors, outs, and an image of the field displaying the runners on base. A second-tier marquee scoreboard was also added along the bottom of the 300-level of the stadium stretching from foul pole to home plate to foul pole. The section of the second-tier scoreboard above home plate displays statistics for those unable to see the main scoreboard above the center-field wall. The final addition to Miller Park for the 2006 season was the addition of a field-level picnic area in the corner of right-field. The picnic area now has a capacity of 75 and provides a place for fans to watch the game in a leisurely setting and be within feet of the right-fielder. Known first as the Mercedes-Benz Field Haus, the picnic area's name was changed to AirTran Airways Landing Zone in 2009.
During the 2007 season, as the Brewers got closer to the team record of home runs in a season, a home run counter was added to the right of the center field scoreboard. In the shape of a gas pump, the counter is sponsored by Citgo, whose name can be seen as a play on words for a home run (C-It-Go). The counter keeps track of the home runs hit by the Brewers during the season and when a home run is hit, the player's name is shown on the display as well as the distance of the home run. The home run counter was removed after the 2009 season and was replaced by a new control room for the stadium's retractable roof.
Early into the 2008 season, the Brewers also added a strikeout counter to the tier of the second deck of the right field bleachers, which illuminates a K when a Brewers' pitcher notches a strikeout and keeps track of how many strikeouts as a team the Brewers have.
In 2009, Miller Park's outfield was replaced with "Lo-Mo" Kentucky bluegrass just like the infield was the prior year. The new turf, common in other ballparks around baseball, is denser and has a sand base, instead of the sand and clay mix under the original grass. The turf yields truer hops and fewer instances in which the baseball skips under an outfielder's glove than the previous turf. Also for the 2009 season, the Harley-Davidson Deck was opened on the field level of the stadium in left-center field.
Popularity and attendance
In 2005, Sports Illustrated conducted fan surveys that rated Miller Park the best ballpark based on value per dollar spent. ESPN writer Bill Simmons described Brewers fans as being like "over-supportive Little League parents" in a 2006 visit to Miller Park. An upscale lounge, the "Gehl Club", located next to the "NYCE Club," opened in 2007.
Although attendance dropped after the 2001 opening season to a low of 20,993 per game in 2003, attendance rebounded in subsequent seasons. In 2008, the Brewers set a franchise record for attendance with over 3,000,000. This was 9th among 30 major league teams, despite Milwaukee being one of the smallest markets in baseball.
* The Klement's Sausage Race occurs during each game in the middle of the 6th inning; it was moved from the bottom of the 6th inning to enable the sausages to create more excitement for the fans as the Brewers prepared to bat. The current "racing sausages" are the bratwurst, the Italian, the chorizo, the Polish, and the hot dog. The Chorizo sausage (to salute the region's growing Latino population) was added on July 29, 2006 for one race, and became a full-time participant in 2007.
* Bernie Brewer, the team mascot, has a club house above the left field seats. Following every Brewers home run, Bernie Brewer will make a splash in the new "Kalahari Splash Zone" area, which will send an explosion of water into the air. While fans in 2009 will stay relatively dry, the feature can be adjusted in the future to send more water into the air, giving fans seated below an experience similar to attractions at the Kalahari Resorts in the Wisconsin Dells. This is different from his old home at Milwaukee County Stadium, where Bernie slid into a giant mug of beer in center field. During the home run celebration, a short burst of fireworks is shot out from the top of the center field scoreboard, and above Bernie's club house, the call words of Brewers' radio announcer Bob Uecker are illuminated, "Get Up, Get Up, Get Outta Here, Gone!"
* During the seventh inning stretch, in addition to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", fans at Miller Park sing the "Beer Barrel Polka", in salute to Milwaukee's beer-making history.
On opening day in April 2001, President George W. Bush and owner Bud Selig had first pitch honors for the stadium. The park hosted the 2002 MLB All-Star Game, which ended infamously in a tie. It was also a major filming location for the motion picture Mr. 3000, which centered on a fictional Brewers player.
In April 2007, snow storms in northern Ohio caused the Cleveland Indians to postpone their home opening series against the Seattle Mariners and forced the Indians to find a different location for their home series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Major League Baseball took advantage of Miller Park's roof and moved the Indians-Angels series to Milwaukee. All seats were sold for $10 apiece, and attendance was 52,496 for the three games. The series was a reminder to many of the 1989 film Major League, which featured scenes filmed in Milwaukee County Stadium, though the film was about a fictionalized Cleveland Indians team. The first game of the series was played on the same day that the film's "Wild Thing Edition" was released on DVD. When Joe Borowski came to close for the Indians, the song "Wild Thing" was played over the PA system, in an homage to the film. Also, the Indians' mascot Slider slid down Bernie Brewer's slide following Indians home runs. These games were the first to be played under American League rules in Milwaukee since 1997 (the Brewers' final season in the AL), and have been the only games played under AL rules in Miller Park.
Hurricane Ike's landfall in Houston forced the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros to play a two-game series at Miller Park on Sunday, September 14 and Monday, September 15, 2008. The park became the first neutral site in Major League history to host a no-hitter, when Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs threw the first no-hitter in the history of the park against the Houston Astros on Sunday, September 14, 2008.
Miller Park hosted the 2007 United States Bowling Congress Masters finals on Sunday, October 28, 2007. The playing surface was fitted with four bowling lanes for the tournament.
Concerts held at Miller Park include George Strait (May 19, 2001), 'N Sync ( June 26, 2001), Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (September 27, 2003), Bon Jovi (August 20, 2005), and Aerosmith, Joan Jett, Sugarland & Kid Rock (August 28, 2008-held outside of stadium, Aerosmith did not perform).
Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp will headline Farm Aid’s 25th Anniversary concert Oct. 2, 2010 at Milwaukee's Miller Park, the first time the charity event will be held at a major league stadium.