Milwaukee is loaded with spring traditions: dusting off the golf clubs, jogging along the Lakefront, scooping up some frozen custard. But no tradition is as permeating as the groans over the status of the American Family Field roof. It is certainly a topic that is near and dear to our hearts here at OnMilwaukee – and one that's being posited again with Thursday's highly anticipated Opening Day game being played under a metal sky.
While first pitch is still hours away, the Brewers officially announced on Tuesday that the roof would be closed for the 2021 debut. The update came from the team's official Twitter account – but you can also stay up to date with each game thanks to the American Family Field Roof Hotline number, which fans can call with any and all roof-related game day questions.
The American Family Field roof will be CLOSED on #OpeningDay.
Want to know the roof status before a game this season? Just visit https://t.co/nX3KDf2sP9. pic.twitter.com/yA5IwDqnxi — Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) March 30, 2021
While Major League Baseball rules in all postseason retractable roof situations, it allows the home team to make the final roofing decision before each regular season game. According to WUWM Radio, the Brewers’ self-imposed threshold is 60 degrees.
"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 Ethier, the club’s senior vice president of stadium operations, told WUMW’s "Bubbler Talk" in August 2018.
However, with COVID-19, the roof's status is no longer wholly reliant on the weather. Considering open air flow and outdoor settings have proven to help mitigate the spread of the virus, the Brewers plan to open the roof as often as possible throughout the season within the limits of weather, playing conditions and fan comfort.
"We may push the envelope a little bit more and have it open – the roof or the panels – but it's still dependent on the playability of the game and fan comfort," Ethier told JSOnline.
Unfortunately, Thursday's 37 degree forecast pushes the envelope a bit too far – but with the weekend expected to warm up into the 50s and even 60s, perhaps we'll open the lid along with the season's opening series.
After all, 50 degree weather is still palatable baseball weather. Fan bases have sat through far colder during runs to the World Series in the fall, and its not as if Milwaukeeans – many of whom have sat through their fair share of frigid Lambeau night games – have any less resolve. The Brewers could probably stand to be a little more lenient with its roof policy, especially in a situation like Thursday’s home opener – and with the pandemic not only still lingering but potentially surging.
Still, I’m not offended by the Brewers’ roof closures. Even with the roof closed, the team has plenty of Health Department-approved precautions in place for fans' health. And as far aesthetics and comfort go, during afternoon games, the sun still peeks through the stadium’s glass paneling, and I’m not one to complain about the extra warmth the roof provides. Plus, the arching retractable ceiling is American Family Field’s defining feature! It’s unique and, as far as canopies go, relatively stylish. If the crown of the stadium looked like Tampa Bay’s horror show, I’d be more open to an altered roof strategy. But it doesn’t. It’s clean, cool and distinct, and it amplifies the crowd noise when, say, Lorenzo Cain robs a home run to seal a win over a division rival. That final feature could definitely come in handy this season in particular with the limited capacity, making things feel a little more homey and bustling than the allowed 25 percent without sacrificing safety.
But even if you’re pro-roof or pro-sky, with people back in the stands, it’s a good time to be a baseball fan in Milwaukee. May the American Family Field roof be ever in your favor this summer.
When Brian's not writing about sports, he is probably prattling on about Marquette hoops, digging through statistics, or re-binging his favorite television series. Any conversation that begins with a quote from "The Office" or "West Wing" is a surefire way to grab his attention.