The Milwaukee Brewers and Live Nation announce Billy Joel will play at Miller Park.
Michael Sears, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
It looks like the Piano Man will play us a song — hours’ worth of them, actually — at Miller Park this year, his only Midwestern concert for 2019.
The Milwaukee Brewers and promoter Live Nation confirmed Thursday at the ballpark that Billy Joel will play the stadium for the first time April 26 — complete with Bernie Brewer unveiling a Billy Joel Brewers jersey to mark the news. Brewers manager Craig Counsell was also on hand, reminiscing during the press conference about listening to his old cassette of Joel’s “52nd Street” album.
It’s good news for the Brewers and area Joel fans, but it no doubt will cause some anxiety for anyone trapped in the great traffic nightmare for Ed Sheeran’s Miller Park show last October.
But Rick Schlesinger, chief operating officer for the Brewers, told the Journal Sentinel that the team has learned from its mistakes and will offer a smoother traffic and parking experience by increasing staffing and pushing advance parking sales.
AN ACCIDENTAL LEAK
The Brewers and Live Nation had teased Wednesday morning that an announcement was coming — which prompted one curious Journal Sentinel reader to try to guess the big act, by typing brewers.com and adding a backslash and various superstar names to see if it would lead him anywhere.
Sure enough, brewers.com/billyjoel led to an empty “Billy Joel at Miller Park” page — which the Brewers quickly took down after the Journal Sentinel reported the discovery. (It’s back online, with plenty of need-to-know info.)
Responsible for a lengthy list of enduring hits — “Uptown Girl,” “Only the Good Die Young” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” among them — Joel is one pop history’s biggest stars. He has 33 top 40 songs to his name, is the third best-selling solo artist of all time, and is the sixth best-selling artist of all time.
His Miller Park appearance will be his first Milwaukee concert in 11 years. He was last in town March 2, 2008, for a concert at the recently shuttered BMO Harris Bradley Center. But Joel did play Wisconsin two years ago, the first Green Bay gig of his career at Lambeau Field.
He’s played Wrigley Field every summer for the past five years — a record for the Chicago Cubs’ ballpark — but this year, those serial Chicago showgoers will have to travel to Milwaukee to get their Joel fix.
“There is a recognition of iconic artists and iconic stadiums and that marriage really creates something special, and Miller Park is on that list of facilities that are seen as being very special,” Jason Wright, president of Live Nation Midwest, told the Journal Sentinel. “Billy is a baseball fan, playing baseball stadiums. Milwaukee is a great community and a great marketplace to play. I think it was as simple as, ‘All right, this is our time to do this.’ ”
Presales for American Express cardholders begins at 10 a.m. Monday, and tickets will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Jan. 18 at (800) 745-3000 and ticketmaster.com. Prices have yet to be announced.
FIXING THE PARKING PROBLEM
Parking passes also will go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. at tickets.com and the Miller Park ticket office.
Schlesinger said promoting advance parking options will be a key focus for the Brewers, to minimize the gridlock on I-94 and side roads that occurred when Sheeran played for 40,000 people at a sold-out Miller Park on Oct. 24.
Traffic was so bad that night that a three-mile, typically 12-minute drive from downtown to the stadium stretched to an hour and 40 minutes. An uproar on social media even prompted the Brewers to issue an apology.
“Probably the secret ingredient that we’ve learned from parking is to have people buy parking in advance so that they don’t have do a transaction, all they have to do is show the parking pass and they can speed in,” Schlesinger told the Journal Sentinel. “It’s amazing how much time that saves.”
To push advance parking sales, the Brewers are offering passes for $25 for the general parking lots and $30 for the preferred parking lots. Offering the two pricing tiers is also a first for a Miller Park concert, mirroring typical Brewers game parking and minimizing driver confusion, Schlesinger suggested.
On game day, parking prices will jump up to $40 for preferred and $30 for general parking, but Schlesinger warned that the lots may be sold out before the day of the show.
Schlesinger also encouraged fans to arrive early — the lots will open at 4:30 p.m. — and the Brewers will have more parking attendants than they typically would for a sold-out Brewers game, he said.
A BIG CONCERT YEAR
The Joel booking follows a strong concert year for Miller Park, where two sold-out shows with Kenny Chesney and Sheeran were enough for Miller Park to crack concert trade Pollstar’s list of the 100 top-grossing outdoor stadiums in the world for concerts in 2018.
It also follows the strongest year for large-scale shows in the Milwaukee area in at least a decade. There were 40 concerts in area arenas, large amphitheaters and in Miller Park in 2018, a number that could be eclipsed in 2019.
Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, closed in 2017 for the first season in its 40-year history, has at least five shows lined up between Phish, Jimmy Buffett and Hootie & the Blowfish.
And the Milwaukee Bucks’ new Fiserv Forum is expected to eclipse the Bradley Center’s record for the number of concerts in a calendar year. The Bradley hosted 18 shows in 2008, but Fiserv Forum already has 17 concerts scheduled for 2019.
A week before Joel plays Miller Park, Ariana Grande will play Fiserv Forum. And just six days after Joel’s Milwaukee show, Pink will play a sold-out show at the new Bucks arena.
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