July 26th 2011: Loge Diamond Box
By: Cole Shoemaker
Well at least the Brewers can say this: in 20 years, out of all the retro ballparks constructed in America, their retro ballpark will be the most identifiable as a landmark of their city. With its massive exterior arches and gaudy steel trusses, Miller Park sticks out like the Taj Mayal in what is otherwise perhaps the most nondescript landscape in America, an unmistakable civic icon for Milwaukee and an engineering marvel.
But just because it is an engineering wonder, doesn’t mean it is necessarily an architectural one. And even if it was an architectural masterpiece, that doesn’t mean it’s a good ballpark.
It’s been said by everyone that retractable roof ballparks that feel like enclosed domes, even when open, can only be so good. And I pretty much agree. There’s no avoiding that the inside of Miller Park doesn’t even attempt to be aesthetically pleasing.
That being said, I think it’s slightly underrated as a building, just not as a ballpark. It is pretty fashionable to attack it as an obtuse or awkward structure, but Miller Park has a certain unseen structural elegance in its curvature both inside and out. I would usually be quick to criticize the basic design conflict between the cutting edge technology and Ebbets Field nostalgia, but it works better than Safeco or Chase. I’ll elaborate later.
But as a ballpark, there’s not much positive to say. The form of outfield design serves only one function: to support the retractable roof. Most of the infield stands are covered, even when the roof is open. Note how disconnected the outfield fences are from the structure itself. Miller Park looks like it’s a stadium first, and the ballpark is an afterthought.
For most, the enclosed feel and lack of context is the main reason why Miller Park is thought of as one of the worst retro ballparks. But I’m not crazy about all of the games on the concourse, either. I’m not talking about the normal ballpark kid distractions, I’m talking arcade games, pinball machines, and those annoying stuffed animal retrieval prize games (claw crane). The word “mallpark” is thrown around too loosely in describing distraction-filled facilities, but Miller Park certainly fits the description.
But at the same time, the Brewers do a lot of random things well. This is the first review where I did the concluding bonus section first. The fan-shaped retractable roof is a novel engineering marvel, but it doesn’t do much aesthetically, so I can’t include it in interior design. The tailgating scene is awesome, but you can’t really include it in location. Crowding is nonexistent on the concourses, which deserves credit, but the concourse doesn’t utilize that space efficiently.
I do want to emphasize that the Brewers do the best job possible in representing Milwaukee, considering the insular nature of the building. The regional food is fantastic. The atmosphere is great. The ballpark many restaurants and unique bar areas. Also, it should be noted that the Brewers fans apparently love this place with much enthusiasm: on numerous occasions since 2001, fan polls have placed Miller Park near the top.
While because something is popular doesn’t mean its good, there is obviously a subjective quality to all this. And it’s mostly home fans voting on their own park in these polls. Isn’t all that matters is whether the people in their own ballpark like their ballpark? Perhaps. Most fans don’t travel and compare parks. But here that’s exactly what we’re doing.
The bottom line is Miller Park certainly adds something to the ballpark landscape because of its structural novelty and local flare, but with a suburban location, controversial exterior design, and perhaps the least aesthetically focused interior design in baseball, Milwaukee is inevitably in the nadir of the new parks.NEXT - Setting