With the opening of American Family Fields of Phoenix Tuesday, Milwaukee Brewers fans were treated to a streamlined ballpark experience, thanks to enhancements to the complex and the accompanying training facilities.
The Brewers committed to staying in Phoenix last year, pledging to fund the vast majority of a $60-million-plus facility that touched on every aspect of the old Maryvale Baseball Park. Gone: the old minor league clubhouse and a very cluttered concourse. They were replaced by a new team building on the south side of the ballpark that encompasses team offices, minor- and major-league clubhouses, ticket offices, team stores, concession spaces and more. And while the seating bowl was largely untouched, basically everything on the first-base side of the ballpark is new.
(For an in-depth look at the American Family Fields of Phoenix renovations, check out our preview on our sister site, Ballpark Digest.)
Fan who took in the ballpark opening on a gorgeous February afternoon suffered through a 3-1 loss to the Padres, but they did a first look at the ballpark. Gone is the old main ticket gate and ticket office, replaced by multiple ticket offices and a grand plaza designed to bring Maryvale community events to the ballpark. The clutter of concessions behind home plate is gone as well, replaced by new entry gates. The first-base concourse is wider, with the old concession booths replaced by larger concession spaces with food-prep areas.
Fans were treated to a more inviting ballpark experience, with the ballpark opening more to the general Maryvale neighborhood. That’s by design.
A new team store is three times larger than the old team store, while a smaller satellite store is located down the first-base line. Multiple ticket offices will serve fans coming in from both sides of the ballpark.
The old Maryvale Baseball Park was popular among spring-training insiders for the intimate seating bowl, and that intimacy is unchanged. But a healthy opening-day crowd at American Family Fields of Phoenix bodes well for the Brewers as they enter this next phase of spring training—and we’re guessing the crowds will continue to grow as word gets out.
One thing that couldn’t change: the fan parking south of the ballpark. The walk is now designed to be a more pleasant experience, with most fans expected to take a route through the old practice fields before entering the grand plaza. Fans are expected to linger there and take plenty of selfies next to the displays honoring retired numbers and the associated players, like Rollie Fingers. You can’t build a ballpark these days without the requisite selfie spots, and the current installation is expected to grow to 10 or 12 numbers in coming years.
Once inside the ballpark, there were some subtle upgrades to the seating bowl. The larger berm areas are still there, but the number of concession stands within the bowl was lessened. Gone are the bleachers down each line, replaced by new seating that matches the existing theater-style ballpark seating. To the naked eye, it’s hard to see where the old seating ends and the new seating begins unless you were very familiar with the old Maryvale Baseball Park design. That continuity can be seen throughout the ballpark, and it was an important design point for Brewers management.
The new larger concession spaces are father off the concourse, allowing for better crowd flow. They also have one feature not found in the old Maryvale Baseball Park concession stands: concession workers can actually cook in there instead of distributing food prepped in a commissary, allowing for a fresher approach. And, as a plus, the condiment stations feature Secret Stadium Sauce, imported from Miller Park.
The other change fans will notice: Gone is the antique scoreboard, replaced by a new videoboard from Daktronics. Interestingly, the new scoreboard isn’t as large as you’ll find in other spring ballparks.