American Family Field is the home of the MLB franchise Milwaukee Brewers, which boasts the distinction of playing in four major league divisions. One of the seven retractable-roof ballparks, the stadium is the first to open with a fan-shaped convertible roof. Located off Interstate 94 in Wisconsin’s largest city Milwaukee, Am-Fam Field withered a stormy construction due to politics and accidents. However, once on the scene, it made history, which included the 2002 All-Star Game that broke the myth of “There’s no tying in baseball.”
In 1993, the demand for a new ballpark for the Milwaukee Brewers gained momentum. The old Milwaukee County Stadium had become outdated in the modern MLB era due to its limited facilities. Fans were not happy with the 1953 stadium that fails to provide a great game experience and lacks luxury suites. From the very beginning, the plan was to build a ballpark with a retractable roof to protect fans enjoying the game from the unpredictable Wisconsin weather.
The construction of American Family Field started on November 9, 1996. It was the biggest such project in Wisconsin and leads to a sales tax increase in Milwaukee and four neighboring counties. There was public outcry over $290 million funding of a private project and this cost George Petak, the state senator from Racine, his seat in a recall vote.
The LA-based NBBJ, an expert in sports and entertainment architecture, did the concept of American Family Field while Dallas-based HKS implemented the design. It was planned on the line of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and exhibited a retro-modern style. There were structural challenges from the starting and Mitsubishi gave up its contract midway. In July 1999, a crane used in lifting a 450-ton part of the roof section crashed killing three workers. This caused damage anywhere between $50 million to $75 million. The opening of Am-Fam Field was delayed by a year due to a probe and required repair work.
In March 2001, American Family Field got its grass field. The Milwaukee Brewers dug up the surface infield dirt and the home plate from their old stadium and transferred it to the new one.
Opening & Renovation
Am-Fam Field opened on April 6, 2001, after a delay of a year. Worth $310 million, it was the only in MLB to have a fan-shaped retractable roof. Others with a similar roof are T-Mobile Park, LoanDepot Park, Chase Field, Globe Life Field, Rogers Centre, and Minute Maid Park. Miller Park was the first name before it became American Family Field. Miller Brewing Company bought naming rights until 2020 for $40 million. In 2021, the American Family Insurance purchased naming rights for 15 years for $4 million a year.
The unique designed roof is a major challenge for maintenance at American Family Field. In 2006, its bogie system changes led to expenses of over $13 million. Renovations also added multiple LED scoreboards substituting “manually operated scoreboards.” Am-Fam Field also came to host a field-level picnic area, which became Aurora Health Care Bullpen in 2018. The glass panels on the roof cast shadows over the home plate raising safety issues for batters. A home run counter was inaugurated in 2007 after scoring record-breaking home runs in that season.
In 2008, the Milwaukee Brewers added a strikeout counter. It lights up a K every time a home-team pitcher wins a strikeout. Next year, Am-Fam Field unveiled the Harley-Davidson Deck. Before the 2011 season started, the ballpark installed a new display board – the ninth-largest in MLB.
Features & Concessions
American Family Field has a retractable roof with an unusual fan-shaped design, with roof panels that open and close simultaneously in a sweeping motion from first and third base to center field. The stadium’s $392 million price tag was inflated by the complex and huge roof. When the roof is closed, it increases the inside-ballpark temperature to 30 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the freezing outside. This allows fans to experience baseball despite the inclement weather in Wisconsin.
The picnic area – Aurora Health Care Bullpen – at Am-Fam Field can accommodate 75 fans at a time. Its relaxing ambiance along seats next to the right fielder provides an awesome experience. The home run counter overlooking the center-field scoreboard looks like a gas pump. It keeps track of the Brewers’ home runs throughout the season. When a home run is hit, it displays the player’s name as well as the distance of the ball traveled on the screen. Section 422, the topmost in the upper deck, has a statue of Milwaukee legend Bob Ueker. The seated statue – originally created as part of Miller Lite promotion – is the only such created for an ad campaign.
The brick and mortar parts of the exterior add an oldie semblance to American Family Field. It has extensive amenities so that fans can find them easily despite the presence of large crowds in the ballpark. Every time the Milwaukee Brewers win a game, the audience celebrates it with a “Let’s Go Brewers” chant. The ballpark has the unique distinction of selling affordable and more sausages compared to hot dogs. Its variety of sausages is worth the attention. Also, American Family Field hosts the Racing Sausages – a celebratory run by five mascots representing the highest-selling sausages – before the sixth inning.
Purely Baseball Things To Know
- The first game at American Family Field saw the Milwaukee Brewers routing the Cincinnati Reds 5-4 on April 6, 2001.
- The opener was full of dramatic events before a 42,000-plus crowd. Jeromy Burnitz of the Brewers made a solo home run. Dmitri Young of the Reds had two homers in the sixth and seventh innings. Aaron Boone’s RBI gave the Reds a lead. However, Richie Sexson made a tie-breaking home run in the eighth inning enabling the Brewers to win the game.
- Sexson hit the epic home run 435 feet away.
- Rain, first time in 31 years, fails to obstruct the inaugural match thanks to the retractable fan-shaped roof.
- President George W. Bush, who threw the ceremonial pitch, once won the rival team the Texas Rangers. He was also “the first US president to attend a sporting event in Wisconsin.”
- In the 2001-02 season, Richie Sexson made several hits that struck the scoreboard denting the Pepsi sign multiple times.
- American Family Field has statutes honoring the greatest in baseball history on the outer periphery of its concourse. These include Hank Aaron, Bud Selig, and Bob Uecker.
- Jeromy Burnitz of the Milwaukee Brewers hit four home runs against the Chicago Cubs in the 2001-02 season. One hit led the ball to land outside the ballpark.
- Shawn Green of the Los Angeles Dodgers scored four home runs against the Brewers on May 23, 2002.
- The baseball stadium is the only one to witness a tie in the game. The 2002 All-Star Game ended without any win or loss.
- On September 5, 2021, Daniel Vogelbach of the Milwaukee Brewers achieved a grand slam that helped beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5.
- The Brewers lost 8-5 to the Cardinals on September 23, 2021, despite leading by five runs till the last five innings. Home team player Tyrone Taylor hit a homer and grand slam but it went in vain.
- Chad Moeller’s hitting for the cycle in May 2004 was the first by a home-team player at American Family Field.
- Am-Fam Field has become a neutral site twice. In 2007, the Cleveland Indians hosted the Los Angeles Angels. Following the hurricane in Houston, the Astros played the Chicago Cubs in 2008. Though the Astros were the home team, the crowd at American Family Field was mostly Cubs’ fans.
- To deter the fans of bitter rivals the Chicago Cubs overwhelming the supporters of the Milwaukee Brewers, advanced ticket sales in 2018 were only for those living in Wisconsin.
- Despite the Brewers not being able to win a major title, the average attendance at Am-Fam Field exceeds 31,500 a game and 2,574,000 per season.
- The Hank the Dog mascot remembers a dog rescued from the training ground of the Brewers in Maryvale, Arizona. He got his name after Brewers’ great Hank Aaron.
- American Family Field has a facility to train the youth called Helfaer Field.
- After each homer by a home-team player and game-winning performance by the Brewers, Team Mascot Bernie Brewer slides into a platform resembling the home plate