Miller Park will become ‘American Family Field’

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As we wrote last year, this year will be the last year the Milwaukee Brewers play in Miller Park. No, they’re not getting a new building. The old building is getting a new name, as the naming rights deal MillerCoors (or whatever they were called then) bought when the park opened expires following the 2020 season. The new name as of January 1, 2021:  American Family Field.

From yesterday’s official announcement:

“The name American Family Field incorporates what we learned from fans, the Brewers and marketing research that included analysis of our brand and other sporting venue names.”

That’s rather corporate-speaky, but at least “American Family Field” sounds at least kinda organic if you forget for a moment that it’s an insurance company. Kind of how like Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati or Progressive Field in Cleveland work as both corporate names and descriptors that, at least arguably, sound organic. Really: I have met people who didn’t realize the Reds pay in a park named after an insurer. They just assumed it was a really great, totally American ballpark. It’s almost quaint in this day and age. Certainly better than some other really, really ridiculous ballpark names I could mention.

At the risk of further romanticizing corporate naming rights, I’ll say that I’m at least a little sad to see the moniker “Miller Park” go.

The big beer company that was once based in St. Louis no longer owns the Cardinals, but it’d be weird for them not to play in “Busch Stadium.” Coors Field, likewise, seems appropriate for the Rockies, partially because it’s the only name that ballpark has ever had, partially because both the Rockies and Coors are so strongly identified as Colorado institutions. The same could be said for Miller Park. Miller is no longer a Milwaukee company — it’s based in Chicago — and none of these other beer companies have been local concerns for ages and ages, but Miller was the name of the stadium housing the only baseball team which is specifically named as a nod to the brewing industry. It just seemed right somehow. Baseball goes with beer and beer goes with Milwaukee, ya know?

But that’s just me romanticizing water, hops, yeast and barley. Beyond that, the march of time — and the payment of millions by other entities — goes on.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.