The Milwaukee Brewers' Miller Park has a roof hotline – 414-902-4636 – that tells callers the weather and if the roof is open or closed. That way fans know what to expect when they head to a ball game. But how do the Brewers decide whether the Miller Park roof is open or closed at game time?
That’s a question Bubbler Talk received from listener Lila Johnson.
Lila is a recent transplant to Milwaukee from Minnesota, whose Twins don’t get to decide whether to close the non-existent roof at Target Field in Minneapolis. The Brewers do get to decide, but how do they go about that?
Steve Ethier, the senior vice president for stadium operations for the Brewers, says there are several different criteria. “Certainly, precipitation – and really, it’s predicated on fan comfort, first and foremost. And of course, right along with that would be making sure that we are able to play the games as scheduled – that is the whole idea behind the roof,” he says. “Certainly, if there’s snow or rain, we need to close the roof.”
Rain or snow, sure – but what about those days in April when we’ve all been huddled inside for the last five months and it’s sunny and just a little brisk outside? Turns out, 60 degrees is the threshold.
“If we look at the hourly forecast and if, throughout the timeframe of the game, the temperature is not going below 60 degrees, and there’s no precipitation in the area, generally we would have the roof open,” Steve explains.
Miller Park’s fan-shaped roof includes 12,000 tons of structural steel and spans about 600 feet. Each of its five movable panels (two others are stationary) changes position independently of the others and is powered by electric motors. The roof takes about 12-15 minutes to close (watch a time-lapse of the roof opening below), which means some planning is involved.
But what about the games that start out sunny and take a turn for the worst? Turns out, there are policies and procedures that MLB teams with operable roofs must follow.
“So, we can move the roof one time during the course of the game, based on weather. Then if we elect to move it a second time, that’s when you need to consult with the umpiring crew chief, and typically both managers will at least be advised – if not, they have an opportunity to weigh in,” he adds.
That list, you might notice, does not include the opinion of the players, who don’t have a say in the matter. That hasn’t always been the case at retractable roof stadiums. In 2002, the Arizona Diamondbacks used to close their roof at superstitious pitcher Curt Schilling’s request.
“I think it’s less these days of players having strong opinions, but certainly in the past they did,” Steve says. “And the operable roofs were kind of a new phenomenon, and MLB sort of had to catch up and develop some procedures in order to ensure fair play.”
He adds that’s really at the heart of the issue about whether to open or close the Miller Park’s roof during a game – making sure the opponents are afforded the same weather conditions as the Brewers.
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