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People Flock to New Brewers Stadium

March 25, 2001

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Miller Park’s roof opened. Then it closed. And then it opened again as the Milwaukee Brewers gave thousands of chilly fans a sneak peak at their new $400 million home Saturday.

Rich Kabitzke, 43, had a beer in hand moments after fans entered at 1 p.m. It was his second visit to the ballpark _ season-ticket holders got a look Friday _ but he brought his brother and nephew along Saturday.

``We spent a lot of time at County Stadium. This is the natural evolution,″ said his brother, Lowell Fournier, 48, as he looked at the towering stands and freshly installed grass.

Kieth and Julie Eales dragged their friends, family and plenty of camera gear to the event about four hours after getting married.

``We had thought of it ever since we heard the open house was going to be on our wedding day,″ said Julie Eales, 37.

Her bridesmaids, dressed in sleeveless gowns, shivered as they posed for pictures near a dugout.

The asphalt was freshly poured in the parking lots, but there were no tailgating fans Saturday afternoon, when the wind chill dipped to 4 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

``I wish they would close the roof and turn up the heat,″ said Jerry Urban of Waukesha, as he sat high in the stands surveying the crowds.

On game days, the closed roof will allow the stadium to be heated 30 degrees warmer than outside.

More than 53,000 fans rolled through the turnstiles Saturday, Brewers spokesman Jon Greenberg said. About 30,000 visited Friday, and the team had another open house scheduled Sunday.

The first game at Miller Park will be an exhibition against the Chicago White Sox on March 30. The regular-season opener will be April 6 against Cincinnati.

The dust was still on the floor in much of the stadium, and construction crews worked around the crowds to finish installing some seats, a restaurant and the upscale suites.

Shining escalators whisked excited observers up to the exclusive club seating areas, where photos of other famous ballparks ring a carpeted floor, and bartenders serve mixed drinks from wood-paneled bars.

Fans also got a look inside the 300 Club _ a place most won’t visit again, with its exclusive sold-out membership and linen tablecloths covering tables overlooking left field.

``You can’t find words to describe it,″ Mabel Neumann, 85, said of the new ballpark. She planned to attend a game in August.

Others reminisced about how times have changed.

``Forty-eight years ago at about this time I went to the County Stadium open house,″ said Gil Wipijewski, 66. ``This is totally different.″

And so are concession prices. Nachos cost $6, and beer is $4.25 to $5.

``I think they should let McDonald’s in here so regular people could afford to eat something,″ grumbled Paul Whalen, 75.

Sales were brisk inside the Fan Zone, the Brewers’ 5,500-square-foot store, where people lined up to buy everything from Brewers logo-engraved golf balls to key chains depicting the racing sausage characters.

Manager Corey Perszyk said she hoped the store didn’t run out of some hot items. She said they hadn’t expected so many customers.

``They want anything that says Miller Park or inaugural season,″ she said.

The Brewers hope the new ballpark will spell a turnaround for the team, both financially and on the field, and the rave reviews were a good sign.

``This (open house) was a great thing to do to get everyone psyched up for the opening,″ said Irene Sorensen, 50. ``I saw a lot of people buying tickets here today.″

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