At an afternoon press conference at Miller Park on Tuesday, the Milwaukee Brewers confirmed reports swirling all day that Madison-based American Family Insurance has bought the naming rights for the stadium.
The deal, which begins with the 2021 season, runs 15 years, with the last five years contingent on an extension of the Brewers’ lease on the stadium.
Financial details of the deal were not announced, and the exact future name of the stadium, which has been called Miller Park since it opened in 2001, has not yet been determined.
American Family Insurance Stadium? AmFam Ballpark? AFIS Stadium?
"This is a significant commitment that reflects American Family's growing presence in Milwaukee, as well as their support of the Brewers," said Brewers' owner Mark Attanasio.
"We look forward to all of the benefits this new partnership will bring to both of our organizations and to fans of the team."
As part of the announcement American Family CEO Jack Salzwedel said that his company is working with the City of Milwaukee and Mayor Tom Barrett, who was also at the press conference, on a new "multi-purpose office and community space" in Downtown Milwaukee.
The site and other details of that project were not discussed.
The future of the name of Miller Park Way has not been announced. A message to West Milwaukee Village Administrator Kim Egan -- in whose jurisdiction the street is located -- was not returned Tuesday.
"I'd assume it stays," said Barrett when asked about it, "but I don't know. I hadn’t thought about it."
Word of the deal appears to have leaked out via a memo shared with MillerCoors employees.
OnMilwaukee obtained a copy of that internal communication. Here is the email text that was sent on behalf of Wisconsin General Manager Jim Kanter:
"Last season was a special one for Brewers baseball, and with this team I’m sure there will be many more to come.
"We’re proud of our shared history with the Brewers – as we’re proud to be part of celebrations across the great state of Wisconsin, whether that’s at Packers and Bucks games, at Summerfest and the State Fair or in backyards and in beer bars.
"In fact, were it not for Miller Brewing, Major League Baseball would have looked a lot different in Milwaukee – if it existed there at all.
"Miller Park opened for Brewers baseball in the spring in 2001, but the effort to build (and fund) a new stadium began 14 years earlier. The period in between was marked with deep concern that without funding for a new stadium, the team would be forced to leave Milwaukee.
"While a heated political fight ultimately resulted in the State of Wisconsin agreeing to fund the vast majority of the construction of a new baseball stadium through a new tax, the final piece of the funding puzzle came from Miller Brewing. In March 1996, Miller Brewing purchased the naming rights to Miller Park through the 2020 season for $40 million – securing the money the team needed to fund the stadium.
"As Brewers vice president of business operations Rick Schlesinger said a few years ago, "there's no question that Miller Park has been integral to the success we've had."
"Late last year American Family Insurance proactively pitched the Brewers an incredibly rich offer for the future naming rights to Miller Park, and we’re proud to welcome American Family to the family we’ve been part of for generations.
"While the name on the stadium will change following the 2020 season, our relationship with the Brewers remains as strong as ever. We fully expect that the great play and great products Brewers fans love will remain staples of summer in Milwaukee for years to come. And the Brewers fans will continue to celebrate every home run and every strike out with one of our beloved brands, just like Brewers fans of the past and present."
American Family Insurance is also a major sponsor of Summerfest and holds the naming rights for the amphitheater at the Henry Maier Festival Park, which is currently being replaced.
As part of the naming rights deal, the Brewers and American Family Insurance will partner to fund community projects, such as the refurbishment of youth sports fields, and on marketing and promotional initiatives.
At the press conference, Salzwedel noted that the two entities have been linked since a 1995 promotion kicked off at County Stadium.
"We are thrilled to support and join the continuing transformation of a franchise and city that mean so much to so many people in our home state," Salzwedel said.
PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO:
Matt Mueller contributed to this report.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.