MILWAUKEE -- The old baseball traditions are returning, one bratwurst at a time.
The Brewers said Wednesday they’d been cleared by the City of Milwaukee Health Department to allow tailgating outside American Family Field beginning with the team’s next home game on Monday night against the Cubs. The city had placed a temporary ban on the pregame parking lot practice when it approved 25 percent capacity at the ballpark to begin the season.
“Obviously, one of the priorities for our organization was to try to bring a sense of normalcy back to our game experience, and Brewers games without tailgating felt like there was something awry in the universe,” Brewers president of business operations Rick Schlesinger said. “This is a step in the right direction.
“I would say of all of the issues we've faced with our fans in terms of attending games and the [health and safety] protocols, this has been topic No. 1. So, we are excited to deliver on our promise to bring tailgating back.”
Some pandemic policies remain in place in the parking lots, however. Tailgating will be allowed at single vehicles for those sitting in the same seating pod. Fans will need to remain in the immediate vicinity of their vehicle.
Parking gates will open three hours in advance of the game, except for 6:40 p.m. CT weekday games, for which parking gates will open two and a half hours in advance.
“As far as enforcement, it's really not that hard,” Schlesinger said. “We have parking attendants, we have parking security for all games, and I think our fans by and large are very respectful of the rules and the protocols. Their behavior in the first homestand, to me, is reflective of the fact that they want to do the right thing.”
For now, the Brewers are selling tickets at 25 percent occupancy through May 2, though they hope to get approval from the city for more after that date. That news could be coming soon; the Brewers said Wednesday they expect to announce information about ticketing for subsequent games as early as next week.
The city had health inspectors at American Family Field on Opening Day, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said.
"We were happy with the way things went down on Thursday, for sure,” Johnson said. “I actually had the opportunity to attend the game [Sunday], and I was equally impressed. All of the protocols were being followed, people were wearing masks, there was social distancing. A couple of little tweaks here and there, but I really personally felt safe. I was there with my family and we had a great time. I feel really good about where the Brewers are in terms of their mitigation measures.”
Even Brewers manager Craig Counsell was glad to hear that fans will get to fire up their grills again.
“It's another sign of normalcy,” Counsell said. “It feels like a safe activity as well. And it feels like part of summer, too. It's almost symbolic as much as anything for our state and for everybody around. People are getting vaccinated, we're doing a good job taking care of each other, and things like this that we feel like are a part of our summers that weren't last year come back.”