Miller Park – An Impact Beyond Baseball

I. Introduction

Miller Park stadium MilwaukeeFormer Major League Baseball (“MLB”) Commissioner, Bud Selig, acquired the Milwaukee Brewers (“Brewers”), originally the Seattle Pilots, through bankruptcy, and the team moved to Milwaukee in 1969 as an expansion club in the American League through, and including, the 1997 season.[1] In 1997, the Brewers became a National League Central Division team and played their first game in the National League during the 1998 season.[2] From the time of their relocation to Milwaukee in 1969 through 2000, the Brewers played their games at County Stadium.[3]

The 1995 Wisconsin Act 56[4], now WIS. STAT. §§ 229.64–229.81,[5] created the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District (“District”) to oversee the design and construction of a new stadium for the Brewers.[6] The District is a “special district that is a local government unit, . . . a body corporate and politic, that is separate and distinct from, and independent of, the state.”[7] The District is comprised of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington, and Waukesha counties and is managed by an appointed Board of Directors made up of thirteen individuals representing the five-county area.[8] Its responsibilities include the oversight and monitoring of the planning, financing, designing, constructing, commissioning, operating, and maintenance of the new baseball stadium.[9]

To finance the new stadium, the District was authorized to “impose a sales tax and a use tax . . . at a rate of no more than 0.1% of the sales price or purchase price.”[10]

Construction of the new stadium began on October 22, 1996 and the ceremonial groundbreaking took place on November 9, 1996.[11] Miller Park opened with an exhibition game on March 30, 2001, and the first actual MLB-sanctioned game occurred on April 6, 2001.[12] The stadium was named Miller Park pursuant to a naming rights agreement with Miller Brewery.[13]

Miller Park comprises 1.2 million square feet and has a seating capacity of 41,900 persons.[14]

To pay for Miller Park, the Wisconsin legislature passed a five-county 0.1% sales tax in 1995, and the State began levying the tax as of January 1, 1996.

The Brewers and the District entered into a lease agreement on December 31, 1996, which has been amended and restated as of June 30, 2004 (Lease), providing for a term commencing on March 31, 2001 and expiring on December 31, 2030.[15] The Lease has been amended twice since June 30, 2004, once on December 1, 2004[16] and again on January 14, 2005.[17]

The State of Wisconsin owns the parcels of land on which the stadium site is situated and has landleased the same to the District pursuant to a Ground Lease, dated October 21, 1996, between the State of Wisconsin and State Building Commission, as the Lessor, and the District, as the Lessee.[18] The total land leased to the Brewers is 186 acres.[19] The Miller Park facility itself, consisting of the ballpark and plaza, comprises about twenty acres.[20] The rest of the site is comprised of parking lots, access roads, the Menomonee River, and Helfaer Field.[21]

Unlike most venues, the team actually owns a proprietary interest in the stadium facility.

Pursuant to a Summary of Costs/Ownership Percentages, dated February 1, 2006,[22] the District owns 70.91% of the stadium site and the Brewers own the remaining 29.09%. The total cost of the stadium was approximately $392,490,712.[23]

Miller Park has been described as: (1) one of the stadiums that has the best game day experience; (2) one of the loudest venues in MLB; (3) having the best bratwursts in America, including the “Down Wisconsin Avenue Brat;” (4) the tailgating capital of the world; (5) having a one-of-a-kind fan-shaped retractable roof (fans never have to worry about rainouts); (6) one of the best stadiums based on value per dollar spent; (7) the home of the Klements Sausage Race – featuring the racing sausages; and (8) having a dog, “Hank,” as a mascot.

Miller Park is not only one of the best of the MLB stadiums, but also has had a tremendous impact upon the development of the areas that are near it. Unlike many other stadiums that are located in urban areas, Miller Park is located in the very center of Milwaukee County, and is adjacent to the site of the prior stadium, Milwaukee County Stadium. In being located in the center of Milwaukee County, Miller Park is adjacent to the Village of West Milwaukee on the South and a major industrial center, the Menomonee Valley, on the East. Miller Park is also surrounded by a sea of roadways. In June of 2012, I prepared a report as a Board Member of the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District entitled “Ten Years Later: Miller Park and Real Estate Development in the Village of West Milwaukee and the Menomonee Valley” (“Report”). The purpose of the Report was to determine whether the creation of Miller Park has had any impact on the adjacent mixed-use development on Miller Parkway in West Milwaukee and the industrial development along Canal Street in the Menomonee Valley. The Report also commented on what the future may hold for the development of the property leased by the Brewers from the District.

II. Sports Facility Development is Real Estate Development

Sports facility development is nothing more than another form of real estate development.

With the creation of MLB stadiums in Baltimore, Denver, and Cleveland during the early and mid-1990s, a new phenomenon, referred to as “concentric circles,” occurred in relation to the development of those stadiums. Concentric circles is happenstance or planned real estate development comprised of a mixed-use variety near, adjacent to, or around baseball facilities occurring before or after the construction of the stadium. In the case of Cleveland, concentric circles occurred prior to the construction of the stadium. In most instances, however, concentric circles occur subsequent to the construction of a stadium. The phenomenon of concentric circles has continued and has occurred in many other MLB stadiums built around the country since the 1990s. Many of these stadiums are built in core urban areas that are blighted and in need of renewal projects. Baseball stadiums attract people: in 2011, 73,425,667 fans attended MLB games, while 3,071,373 fans attended Brewers games.

People enjoy living near sports facilities, which results in the generation of residential development further creating other service and commercial needs and opportunities. Baseball stadiums are, and should be, the anchor tenant for development districts. Districts anchored by sports facilities should be places where people live, work, socialize, eat, become educated, shop, and congregate. Mixed-use development surrounding stadiums will normally include residential development, hotels, auxiliary entertainment development, service establishments, retail outlets, office space, and potentially some corporate headquarters. In the future, sports facilities will be part of a planned community in which the sports facility is the anchor for mixed-use real estate development, a sports.comm.

The planned or happenstance creation of sports districts, and all the benefits associated with them, should help ameliorate the controversy surrounding taxpayer-supported sports facilities.

Blighted areas, environmentally impacted areas, underutilized areas, and areas with dilapidated buildings will profit most from the creation of sports districts.

District redevelopment that occurs where a sports facility is the catalyst for physical redevelopment of a portion of a city is another means of analyzing the justification for the public investment in sports facilities, along with direct and indirect economic benefits. District redevelopment can occur in a city core area or outside the core area. Sports facilities draw visitors to a sports district that help to create the critical mass necessary to support other commercial activities.

A Special Activity Generator (“SAG”) analysis is another way to look at the benefits of sports facility development by measuring spillover-spending benefits from the surrounding district, new construction within the district, and the rejuvenation of a blighted area.

For there to be surrounding or adjacent real estate development, the jurisdiction in which the stadium is located in, or adjoining jurisdictions, must be receptive communities. Receptive communities must open their development toolbox to stimulate development, welcome developers, provide flexibility in zoning, and be willing to create tax incremental financing districts (“TIFs”).

Because of the unique location of Miller Park in that it is surrounded by a sea of expressways, development can be currently measured only to the south on Miller Park Way in West Milwaukee, to the east on Canal Street in the Menomonee Valley, and on the property leased by the District to the Brewers.

The real estate development that occurred after the opening of Miller Park in April of 2001, in adjacent and surrounding areas, is an example of concentric circles occurring outside the city’s core area.

As previously indicated, Miller Park has impacted West Milwaukee to the south and the Menomonee Valley to the east. What follows are the conclusions as reached in the Report relative to both the development in the Village of West Milwaukee and the Menomonee Valley and Miller Park’s impact on such developments:

III.       The Village of West Milwaukee
  1. Due to an aborted expressway plan, West Milwaukee was ripe for redevelopment.
  2. Redevelopment does not occur without outstanding vision and leadership, an Authority, and a Resolution and Development Plan to combat blight.
  3. West Milwaukee was a prime area for development because of its location, affordable land mass, density, traffic volume, and access to transportation.
  4. West Milwaukee is a receptive community willing to use its development toolbox to attract commerce and incentivize development.
  5. Even though an Authority was created and a Resolution created a blighted district, development along the 43rd Street Corridor was slow to progress from 1988 to 2000.
  6. The first development along the 43rd Street Corridor was multi-family residential real estate.
  7. From 2001 to the present, the South 43rd Street Corridor, which is comprised of Miller Park Way, Electric Avenue, Burnham Street, and Greenfield Avenue (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Miller Park Way”) has experienced a renaissance and has been transformed from a vacant, blighted eyesore to a center of commerce and business corridor.
  8. Miller Park Way was attractive not only to big box retailers, but also to a host of national chains, indicating that Miller Park Way has the right demographics.
  9. The development of Miller Park Way from National Avenue to Lincoln Avenue, with adjacent development on Electric Avenue, Burnham Street, and Greenfield Avenue, has added significant assessed valuation to the Village of West Milwaukee, which has increased its real estate tax base and population base, as well as created new jobs.
  10. The employment make up of the Village has changed from factory, foundry, and industry-related jobs to service-related jobs.
  11. The development of Miller Park Way is in line with the concept and phenomenon of concentric circles, wherein real estate develops near, adjacent to, or surrounding a sports facility before or after it is built.
  12. Miller Park drew attention to West Milwaukee in a way that was not possible before its construction, making West Milwaukee and Miller Park Way a reference point which ultimately assisted in attracting developers and businesses to the area.
  13. The construction of Miller Park created access and a flow of traffic that made development more attractive through the opening of Miller Park Way and the infrastructure that was part of the Miller Park project.
IV. The Menomonee Valley
  1. The Menomonee Valley is one of the City of Milwaukee’s great success stories—a national model for how to reclaim dirty, old industrial land and plant the seeds for a new economy. The City of Milwaukee has taken the engine of the “machine shop” world and converted it into a model of economic development and environmental sustainability.
  2. The Menomonee Valley has intrinsic advantages besides the millions of dollars of investment capital that have gone into both its east and the west ends: It is anchored by the Harley Davidson Museum on the east, Potawatomi Bingo Casino in the center, and Miller Park on the west.
  3. Menomonee Valley is located off two major interstate highways and is ideally situated for commerce. Canal Street has opened up and given access to the Valley.
  4. The credit goes to the Mayor of the City of Milwaukee and the Department of City Development for holding steadfast on making sure that the zoning for this area never became other than what it was intended to be, that is, industrial.
  5. Menomonee Valley is a shining example of a land use plan that worked where brownfields were reinvigorated, land development produced real estate taxes, construction created family-supporting jobs, and where the environment came first.
  6. While its missive was industrial regeneration, forty-five acres of native plants, seven miles of trails, a nationally recognized shared storm water treatment system, and over ten million people visiting the Valley’s recreation and entertainment destinations, made this development the best of the best.
  7. While the recession has dramatically hurt the development of real estate, the Menomonee Valley has remained a “hot spot” for development even through these difficult times.
  8. The City of Milwaukee is an extraordinarily receptive community in that the industrial revitalization of the Menomonee Valley is so directly related to the millions of dollars spent on public improvements, cleaning polluted brownfields, site preparation, creation of seven tax incremental financing districts, and creating public-private partnerships.
  9. It takes partners to develop real estate. Credit must be given to the State of Wisconsin and its agencies for its role in improving the Menomonee Valley through substantial infrastructure investment, including Canal Street, 6th Street bridges, the Hank Aaron State Trail, Miller Park improvements, and brownfield programs. Once again, all the credit must go to the State of Wisconsin, the City of Milwaukee, its Mayor, its Department of City Development, the Redevelopment Authority, and, of course, the Menomonee Valley Partners, Inc.
  10. Since the opening of Miller Park, the west end of the Menomonee Valley has experienced a rapid growth in construction and development, resulting in increased assessed valuation as a result of said construction, the creation of new real estate taxes for the City of Milwaukee and, of course, the creation of industrial real estate development also creates new jobs.
V. Future Development of District Property

The District property is not totally engulfed by structures and parking. There are developable areas on the property that could see real estate development in the future.

When Mark Attanasio took over ownership control of the Milwaukee Brewers, he had two primary missions: 1) to create a quality and competitive team, and 2) to enhance the already outstanding fan experience at Miller Park. In a short period of time, he has more than accomplished both of these missions.

The Attanasio group has invested team profits into the improvement and enhancement of Miller Park.

The District has leased a large parcel of land to the Brewers encompassing approximately 186 acres that fulfills its primary use: the exhibition of baseball games for a Major League Baseball franchise. Some of the land so demised does have the possibility for future development potential.

Real estate development has not been a priority to date for the Attanasio ownership. Certainly, the recessionary economy, which has had a chilling effect on real estate development, could have delayed any planning process.

Parking, tailgating, and ease of ingress and egress are crucial to the Brewers’ stadium experience.

A prognostication: At some point in time, the Brewers’ leased property will experience what the Green Bay Packers have undertaken through the development of the Titletown District. Be assured that a lot of planning and thought will go in to any development, with its primary goal being to further enhance the Brewers’ stadium experience.

There is a trend emerging among professional team owners and government units who did not develop their sports facilities as a sports community, i.e., a sports.comm. The trend involves sports owners, as well as government units, either acquiring, leasing, or developing land that is already owned adjacent to or surrounding the stadium facility subsequent to stadium construction. I have denominated this phenomenon as a “staged sports.comm.”

The Titletown District of the Green Bay Packers and the developed property adjoining the New Orleans Superdome are good examples of team-developed real estate, while the Bricktown District of Oklahoma City and the Platinum Triangle of Anaheim, California, are good examples of governmental unit development.

VI. Final Thoughts

Miller Park was constructed in the dead center of Milwaukee County, bounded by the Village of West Milwaukee to the south, and Milwaukee industrial center, the Menomonee Valley, to the east. Much of the land in the Village and in the Valley prior to Miller Park’s construction was contaminated and environmentally tainted, underutilized, created an eyesore, and was legally blighted according to the Wisconsin Statutes. The construction of Miller Park brought to the center of Milwaukee County a fan-shaped retractable roof on a state-of-the-art Calatrava Major League Baseball stadium, which created a new focus, a new identification, and a focal point for the area. Miller Park was one of the largest public improvement and public-private joint ventures in the history of the State of Wisconsin. The surrounding areas, including the Village of West Milwaukee and the Menomonee Valley, were directly impacted and benefited from the investment by various governmental units in new infrastructure, transportation, access, and, of course, aesthetics. Miller Park Way in West Milwaukee and the west end of Canal Street in the Menomonee Valley have experienced a rebirth of a business and industrial corridor, a renaissance during this period. The creation of Miller Park and the rapid development since the construction of Miller Park of Miller Park Way and the west end of Canal Street in the Menomonee Valley is a further indication that intergovernmental cooperation can help drive real estate and economic development. The investment in Miller Park was a successful public-private partnership that shows that a financial bond between community groups, private development, and public assistance can recreate an area.

While it is recognized that Miller Park is not located in the core of downtown and its location has different geographical and demographic characteristics, the opening of Miller Park has created new life for abandoned areas. Even given its unique location, I believe that Miller Park has experienced the phenomenon of concentric circles in a non-downtown core setting. Miller Park has contributed to the recreation of a district by providing impetus to the rejuvenation of blighted areas. The numbers speak themselves: simply compare the baseline statistics pre-construction of Miller Park to the 2011 statistics relative to assessed valuation and real estate taxes.

This Report further fortifies the fact that real estate development has and is occurring in core areas near Major League Baseball facilities. Such phenomenon has now occurred outside the core of a downtown area. Construction of a sports facility as well as the public infrastructure that helps create the district in which it is surrounded creates auxiliary real estate development, whether happenstance or planned.

See more from “Ten Years Later: Miller Park and Real Estate Development in the Village of West Milwaukee and the Menomonee Valley” here:

[1] Timeline, The Official Site of the Milwaukee Brewers, (last visited Feb. 16, 2012.)

[2] Id.

[3] Brewers Ball Parks, The Official Site of the Milwaukee Brewers , (last visited Feb. 16, 2012).

[4] See The Stadium Act, 1995 Wis. Act 56.

[5] WIS. STAT. §§ 229.64–229.81

[6] WIS. STAT. §§ 229.66–229.68

[7] WIS. STAT. §§ 229.66(1)

[8] See Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, (last vistited Feb. 16, 2012).

[9] Id.

[10] WIS. STAT. §§ 77.705 (2009-10)

[11] Miller Park, Ballparks, (last visited Feb. 16, 2012).

[12] Id.

[13] Lamke, Kenneth R., Miller Puts a Name on Ballpark,

[14] Facts & Ground Rules, The Official Site of the Milwaukee Brewers, (last visited Feb. 16, 2012).

[15] Lease Agreement by and between Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District and Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, Limited Partnership (June 30, 2004).

[16] First Amendment to Amended and Restated Lease Agreement by and between Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District and Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, Limited Partnership (Dec. 1, 2004).

[17] Second Amendment to Amended and Restated Lease Agreement by and between Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District and Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, Limited Partnership (Jan. 14, 2005).

[18] Ground Lease by and between the State of Wisconsin and the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, dated October 21, 1996, and evidenced by a Memorandum of Ground Lease dated as of Dec. 31, 1996 and recorded on July 3, 1997 in Reel 4033, Image 1395, as Document No. 7389194.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Summary of Costs/Ownership Percentages, Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District (Feb. 1, 2006).

[23] Stadium costs – $309,361,846; infrastructure costs – $50,521,477; other general costs – $32,607,389. Summary of Costs/Ownership Percentages, supra note 31