Major League Baseball has told the Milwaukee Brewers that they need to repair American Family Field to ensure it remains an MLB-caliber ballpark, "The Dan O'Donnell Show" has learned exclusively. While the league did not give the Brewers an explicit ultimatum, it was made clear that MLB will not allow American Family Field to "deteriorate" as Oakland-Alameda County Stadium (home of the Oakland A's) has. Last month, the A's announced a land purchase agreement that will move the team from Oakland to Las Vegas following the 2024 season.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred will be in Milwaukee for the Brewers' game against the San Francisco Giants Thursday as part of a tour of all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. A source familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity said Manfred will further outline the league's expectations when he meets with Brewers officials.
The Brewers said earlier this year that American Family Field needs an estimated $448 million in repairs. The ballpark, which opened, in 2001 as Miller Park, is owned by the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District, a local unit of government that owns and operates the stadium and leases it to the Brewers. The team's current lease expires in 2030 with five two-year options that could extend it until 2040.
Under the terms of the lease, the District is responsible for "all Major Capital Repairs" and must keep American Family Field in a condition that "can reasonably be said to fall within the 'top' twenty-five percent (25%) of all such facilities, when such facilities are ranked or rated according to the quality with which they are repaired and improved."
The Brewers have been in discussions with state and local government officials for more than a year regarding how the repairs would be funded and had hoped that a portion of the money would be allocated in the 2023-2025 state budget. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, however, "blindsided" the State Legislature when he announced that $290 million would be included in the budget without ever discussing the plan with legislative leaders.
"I think the deal that he cut is not a very good one for the taxpayer," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in March.
The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee has been working on Evers' budget proposal since receiving it in February and will present its amended budget to the full Legislature in the next few weeks. It is unclear how much, if any, public financing for American Family Field repairs will be included in it.
While Major League Baseball officials did not explicitly say that the Brewers could face relocation if the repairs are not completed, they did make a point of mentioning the relocation of the A's when they outlined their expectations. The Brewers have never threatened to leave Milwaukee and could face a difficult task in finding a new home if they ever would consider relocating. Las Vegas, easily the most likely destination for a relocated franchise, will be the home of the A's in two years and other potential landing spots such as Nashville, San Antonio, or Portland would likely be in line for an expansion team when, as expected, MLB expands by two franchises in the next few years.
Public financing of Milwaukee's stadium has been highly controversial since the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Ball Park District was created by the state in 1995, funded primarily through a new 0.1% sales tax on Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Ozaukee, and Washington Counties. The following year, State Senator George Petak was recalled from office after promising constituents that he would oppose the new tax and then changing his mind and voting for it.