Ballpark Quirks is a series on the distinctive features and oddities that make up each of MLB’s 30 parks. Today’s Pick: Miller Park and its slide. For past stories in the series, click here.
Bernie Brewer. What’s not to love? The mascot created a buzz by sliding from a beer-barreled chalet into a mug of beer. That was the 1970s, though. And in old Milwaukee County Stadium. Miller Park, which opened in 2001, wasn’t Milwaukee County Stadium (not even a little bit) and Bernie’s embracing of all things suds wasn’t exactly the most kid-friendly piece of the Brewers’ marketing puzzle. But Bernie’s history still was something to cherish, beer and all.
“(Bernie) was one of the many tangible and intangible things that we culled from the history of the franchise,” Brian Trubey, architect at HKS who designed Miller Park, tells SI.com about the process of designing a new Milwaukee stadium. “Obviously the slide and chalet is a physical thing, but we wanted to reinterpret it in a bigger way. And you can see a lot about that from the way it is now.”
While Miller Park has plenty to boast about, from a fan-shaped retractable roof, giant glass curtain walls and even a leftfield foul pole that pierces through the seating deck, everything about leftfield starts and ends with Bernie. His popularity demands it.
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Trubey says the desire was to build Bernie into something even bigger, bolder and more kid-friendly than ever, all while focusing on the baseball aspect of Bernie. Cue the “dugout” to replace the chalet, which is now restored and housed inside Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery.
With his very own dugout, Bernie can emerge and ride a twisty yellow slide -- a key color in the Milwaukee aesthetic -- toward a giant home place after each Brewers home run and victory, all in conjunction with a small fireworks display. Atop the dugout is a sign with Bob Uecker’s famed “Get up, get up, get outta here, gone!!” home run call.
Placing Bernie in leftfield was a product of the environment. “That is where we were going to have the most sun the longest and be the most visible,” says Trubey. “We had the most depth there.” The dugout perches high above the leftfield seats, while jutting out toward centerfield from the grandstands that make up the left field foul territory. About 20 steps lead up to Bernie’s dugout, while the slide twirls out into open space. Trubey calls it one of the top attractions in Miller Park, and fans clamoring for a ride down the slide have agreed. Everyone loves Bernie, right?
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.