Sunday, June 8, 2008

Miller Park: It's the food, not the economics!

A few weeks ago I authored an article that questioned the economic value of publicly subsidized sports stadiums and professional teams. It generated a surprising amount of controversy since there is near unanimity among economists that professional sports stadiums deliver very little bang for the public buck.

An article in the Sunday New York Times lavishes praise on Miller Park. Not for its economic impact, but for its food.

The article, Buy Me Some Sushi and Baby Back Ribs, by Peter Meehan, who writes the $25 and Under restaurant reviews for The Times Dining section, doesn't rate Miller Park's food numero uno.

The gold medal goes to San Francisco AT & T Park which may no longer have a Bonds, but has "an overgenerous helping of fresh Dungeness crab meat, dressed in a gossamer coating of mayonnaise and piled between two warm slices of sourdough bread that had been scrubbed with garlic and griddled crisp that is to die for." That sounds like its almost worth the trip!

And Seattle may have the worst record in baseball, but its cedar planked salmon, what else, and its "Ichiroll, a spicy tuna roll named after the Mariners’ celebrity center fielder, Ichiro Suzuki" won the silver.

But Milwaukee's own Miller Park with its dome, brats, cheese curds and micro brews took the bronze, despite Meehan's obligatory swipe at our alleged lack of sophistication:

" Of course, baseball food isn’t all about cod, crab and sushi. Some parks excel at using more modest ingredients. Case in point: Miller Park in Milwaukee, a seven-year-old stadium that felt like a cathedral to baseball on the day I was there, when the fan-shaped retractable roof kept me and 41,196 other fans dry.

Like the city it is in, Miller doesn’t bother with cosmopolitan cuisine like edamame, but prides itself on heartier fare like grilled bratwursts and beer. The brats, from Klement’s, have that Germanic sweet spice accent just right, the casings are snappy and each of the three I ate had a good char on it. Another popular dish is cheese curds, which are crisp, not greasy, and have that unmistakable squeak.

And although the stadium’s name is owned by the Miller Brewing Company, the team had the foresight not to muscle out smaller Wisconsin brewers like Lakefront, New Glarus, Stevens Point and Sprecher. The team, after all, is called the Brewers."

I concluded my critique of the professional sports economic development paradigm writing: "So there may be good reasons for rooting for the Brewers. But economic development isn't one of them."

Maybe Major League Baseball needs to commission a new study providing a gastronomic rational for Miller Park. I'm sure there's an economist or consultant who would be willing to make the case for little more than a brat or two!

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