The Milwaukee Brewers have been through similar stadium woes the Diamondbacks are going through now, but came out the other side alright.
Unlike the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Milwaukee Brewers are doing just fine at home in Miller Park, thank you very much. On May 9, Maricopa County lawmakers reached an agreement to allow the D-Backs to leave Chase Field, which opened in 1998 in downtown Phoenix, within the next five years.
The resulting scenario amounts to a bizarre but alternate-reality parallel to the stadium situation in Milwaukee with Miller Park, which opened in 2001. The D-Backs now not only have the power to say goodbye to their current ballpark in the near future, but also to force the county to pay for stadium upgrades in the meantime.
The team had filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County in 2017 regarding the lack of upkeep at Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark).
If you haven’t been paying attention to this visiting Diamondbacks ball club and its stadium brouhaha in Arizona, that’s understandable. The Brewers’ own stadium history is a checkered one and a subject of continual division among taxpayers in the five-county Milwaukee metro area.
The recent series for the Brewers in Arizona and the D-Backs’ current visit to Miller Park highlights some of the striking similarities and notable differences of the teams’ ballpark situations, however.
Both cities, like most cities in North America, have had contentious debates and disagreements regarding the use of taxpayer dollars to fund major league stadiums whose teams undoubtedly are owned by very successful and wealthy individuals.
Perhaps stadium deals that were struck later involved elevated or evolved discourses and financial plans. Across the border in Minneapolis, the benefits of the public tax related to Target Field, which opened in 2010, on the surrounding communities appear to be glowingly positive and the tax is projected to end in the visible future, not only on time but early.
But in Milwaukee, like in Phoenix to some degree, the widespread effects of the largely tax payer-funded Miller Park and its tax are murky at best and nefarious at worst. Some suggest that the wool has been pulled over the public’s eyes and that the contributing counties have paid far more than they ever bargained for, with much more to come.
No two stadiums’ locality, construction, legislation or finances are equal, so much is unknown and unmeasured. Ideally, stadium deals would be beneficial in the long term for the team and (if not especially) for the city and its population.
Whether the reasons are simple or complex (it’s hard to say which), the Diamondbacks have not continuously renewed the atmosphere and fan experience at Chase Field as the Brewers have done with Miller Park.
In 2017, the Brewers unveiled the latest in upgrades at the ballpark in the vast overhaul of the bars and concessions on offer. Those improvements come on the heels of other additions over the years, such as new scoreboards, LED banners, kids’ areas and more.
For the fans, Miller Park has been a boon for Brewers baseball, ushering in a modern baseball experience in the Cream City, cementing the team’s place in the city’s sports identity and future, and proving to be a popular asset as the smallest overall market in MLB regularly outdraws cities much larger than its humble self.
The team has committed resources to ensure the ballpark remains fresh and dynamic, rewarding what, in my opinion, is a still-underrated baseball city and Brewers fan base.
Some lawmakers, lawyers, fans and others say the deal made in Phoenix is ultimately a great concord for the local community which will seal the Diamondbacks’ prosperous future with that of the Phoenix metro area. Hopefully, those predictions are true.
Nevertheless, the Diamondbacks’ situation, with an eerily similar airplane hangar of a stadium in Chase Field, speaks volumes of what could have unfolded in Milwaukee had attendance languished for long periods such as in places like Cincinnati or Cleveland, if the team had fought against spending any of its own money for ballpark improvements or found its residence at One Brewers Way stagnated.
It’s hard to imagine the Milwaukee Brewers taking an irreconcilable view toward Miller Park and Milwaukee. And it’s unlikely the Diamondbacks bolt for another state, even though technically they could explore that possibility very soon.
But it’s happened before. Exhibit A: the Milwaukee Braves.
Let’s hope everything turns out all right for baseball in the desert.