The Minnesota Twins front office concluded our whirlwind tour of recently built ballparks last week with a trip to California to visit San Diego?s PETCO Park and San Francisco?s AT&T Park. The following is a summary of what we learned while on the West Coast ?
In an era when new ballparks have been built from coast to coast, PETCO Park stands out as perhaps the most unique of all the new facilities. While many of the new parks feature traditional brick and steel materials and colors, PETCO makes an architectural statement like few others. Custom cut stone ? all the way from India ? is the dominant structure on the exterior of the ballpark. Combined with the white steel (symbolizing the city?s white beaches) and navy blue seats (symbolizing the Pacific Ocean), PETCO park is beautiful on all fronts. Credit well-known architect Antoine Predock, who worked closely with HOK, for creating the memorable design.
Once inside the park, our group was intrigued by the segmentation of the seating bowl. Referred to as ?neighborhoods?, the PETCO seating configuration is more segmented than any stadium I?ve ever seen. Each ?neighborhood? is designed to give fans a distinctive sightline and experience. While the segmentation could have been overdone, the Padres did everything they could to bring all 42,000 seats ?lower and closer? in relation to the playing field. Good lessons were learned by the Twins ballpark team on that front.
Perhaps the signature element of PETCO is the Camden Yards-like Western Metal Supply Company warehouse which forms the ballpark?s left-field corner. Credit the Padres for making wonderful use of this San Diego landmark. Not only does the building serve as the left-field foul pole, but it houses the Padres Team Store, the Hall of Fame Bar and Grille, multiple party suites and a section of rooftop bleachers.
Other unique elements of PETCO include the ?Park in the Park,? which serves as a casual, family-friendly grassy area beyond the centerfield fence. The ?Park in the Park? once again demonstrates the importance of creating space for fans to gather before a ballgame (not unlike the Metrodome Plaza).
All in all, PETCO Park is a unique facility which serves the Padres and the City of San Diego quite well. A special thanks to Padres? officials **** Freeman, Erik Judson and Richard Anderson for their hospitality and guidance with our ballpark team.
Despite the fact that AT&T Park was the last facility our group toured, it was clearly the most important. Opened in 2000, AT&T Park is among the most intimate facilities in all of sports. Built on a small footprint (12.5 acres) and only totaling 960,000 square feet in total space, AT&T Park provides a model of sorts for the Twins and Hennepin County as we build a similar ballpark on the highly-constrained Rapid Park site in downtown Minneapolis.
With those realities in mind, our group paid close attention to how the Giants utilized their limited space. Beyond the majestic views of the Bay Bridge and the marina, we found a ballpark featuring some the best sightlines in all of MLB. The 41,500 seats include an adequate seating bowl and a wonderful split upper deck. Perhaps one of best uses of space was the left-field ?bleachers? section along with a kids-only entitlement zone (featuring the large soft-drink bottle slide and baseball glove). While the main concourse was too narrow, the Giants did quite well by the fans in shaping the general seating and premium seating areas.
Meanwhile, our trip to the AT&T Park service level served as reality check for our ballpark team. While invisible to fans, the service level serves as the ?nerve center? for a ballpark. It includes the concessions areas, grounds crew space, storage, ballpark ops space, interview rooms, clubhouses, batting tunnels and more. Due to space challenges, the AT&T Park service level was more constrained than any we?ve ever seen. To the Giants credit, they make it work. It?s safe to assume the Twins will face similar challenges with the service level in Minnesota?s new ballpark. To that end, it will be critical that we continue to find ways to be efficient with service level space.
Inspired by classic ballparks such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, the Giants modeled AT&T Park after Jacob?s Field, Coors Field and Camden Yards. The Giants, along with HOK Sport, hit a home run in creating a facility which is widely regarded as one of the best ballparks in America.
A special thanks to Giants? officials Alfonso Felder and Jorge Costa for their time and counsel during our stay at AT&T Park.
With the ballpark tours now complete, the Twins front office will now turn our attention to shaping our overall project team while working to determine a final design. In addition, we will continue our collaboration with the Minnesota Ballpark Authority and Hennepin County. More on those fronts in the days to come.
Dave St. Peter
President, Minnesota Twins
The Twins ballpark team continued its tour over the past few days with stops at Philadelphia?s Citizens Bank Park and Cleveland?s Jacobs Field. The highlights of those trips are detailed below?
Philadelphia ? Citizens Bank Park
The scorching heat followed us to Philadelphia this week when a group of 10 Twins officials and advisers visited Citizens Bank Park. Opened in 2004, Citizens Bank Park seats 43,500 and is located away from downtown in a long-standing stadium district (it was built directly adjacent the old Vet and Spectrum and next to other new facilities ? the Eagles? Lincoln Financial Field and the Sixers? Wachovia Center).
Beyond the heat, what we found in Philly was a fantastic ballpark that in my opinion is underrated among MLB insiders. Citizens Bank Park?s design is credited to the team of HOK Sport and local Philadelphia architect Ewing Cole. Along with Phillies staff and project manager John Stranix, they did a superb job with their overall attention to detail and ensuring a incredible fan experience. This was a ?buttoned up? project. In other words, they truly managed every aspect of the facility design ? not only to ensure it was functional ? but more importantly to ensure it benefited the fan. The sightlines are outstanding, the finishings are remarkable and the food-service areas are inviting.
My favorite ballpark feature at Citizens Bank Park is Ashburn Alley (named after Phillies legend Richie Ashburn). The ?Alley? is as good a ballpark feature as you are going to find. Found beyond the centerfield fence, this area offers something for fans of all ages. From the unique interactives to the Build a Bear to Bull?s BBQ (named in honor of Greg ?The Bull? Luzinski). You can?t help but think what the possibilities are for similar space in Minnesota?s new ballpark.
Other highlights of the park include the view of the Philadelphia skyline ? the Liberty Bell sign high atop centerfield (a carry-over from the Vet) which ?swings and rings? when the Phillies hit a home run? the commissioned Phillies-themed artwork throughout the facility.
Field dimensions were an issue at Citizens Bank Park. Sensitive to being labeled a ?band box? or hitters park, Phillies officials moved the left field fence out (about 6 feet) before the 2005 season. The Twins are watching this situation closely as we focus our efforts on building a ballpark which is fair for both hitters and pitchers.
The only downside of our trip to Philly was the state of the playing field. The park had hosted a Bon Jovi concert a day or two before our visit and the field was showing significant wear and tear. Apparently the concert coincided with the recent heat wave driving ground temps beyond 115 degrees leaving the grass in tough shape. Needless to say the head groundskeeper was not pleased.
Thanks to Mr. Stranix as well as Phillies executives Mike Stiles and Richard Deats for their time and hospitality during our trip to Philadelphia.
Cleveland ? Jacobs Field
Now in its 12th season, Jacobs Field remains one of the best ballparks in America. You might be wondering why our group decided to tour Cleveland?s Jacobs Field. The decision was made with hopes of giving our group a sense of what is required in maintaining a new facility. The Indians organization ? as well as the Gateway Authority ? deserve a lot of credit for coming together to ensure that Jacob?s Field remains among the upper tier of MLB parks.
Nestled near the heart of downtown Cleveland, ?The Jake? sits immediately adjacent ?The Q? (Quicken Loans Arena ? the home to Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers). The proximity to the arena is interesting based on the closeness of Minneapolis? Target Center with the new Twins-Hennepin County ballpark. We learned a lot from the Indians about the importance of cooperation between the ballpark and arena in regards to scheduling, cross promotion, etc. A nifty plaza actually connects the two facilities (leaving us to ponder what can be done to better connect Target Center with the new ballpark).
Highlights of Jacobs Field include a nice view of downtown Cleveland, one of the best scoreboards/video boards in sports today, the trademark white steel and ?vertical? light standards (which actually symbolize smoke stacks from the area’s rich industrial base). I?ve always found the sightlines to be quite fan friendly at Jacobs Field. Another trademark element are the field-level suites which sit directly behind home plate from dugout to dugout.
While the conceptual Twins
ballpark design does not call for field-level suites, this week?s trip resurrected some discussion about finding a way to include a couple similar options within the facility.
Special thanks to Indians? owner Paul Dolan and Executive Vice President Dennis Lehman for their generous hospitality and counsel during our stay at Jacobs Field. It?s amazing what you learn during a three-hour tour.
Next week we are off to San Diego (PETCO Park) and San Francisco (AT&T Park). We?ll check in with a full report in the days to come.
Dave St. Peter
President, Minnesota Twins
With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game now in the books (another American League victory!!!!), I wanted to take a moment to address the possibility of Minnesota hosting the Midsummer Classic while also sharing some thoughts on this year?s All-Star Game venue ? Pittsburgh?s PNC Park.
Much has been written and said in recent weeks about the prospect of the MLB awarding Minnesota a future All-Star Game. While no formal discussions have taken place on the subject, the approval of the Twins-Hennepin County ballpark should give Upper Midwest baseball fans cause for optimism. The Twins have hosted the game twice ? at Metropolitan Stadium in 1965 and at the HHH Metrodome in 1985.
As the Twins-Hennepin County ballpark plan moved through the legislative process, the team did commence informal dialogue with MLB about the feasibility of securing a future game for Minnesota. While no commitments have been made, the Twins received every indication that Minnesota is well positioned to bring the All-Star Game back to our community. To that end, it?s our intention to begin formal discussions with MLB in the near future with hopes of bringing the Midsummer Classic to the new Hennepin County ballpark sometime following the 2010 season. Stay tuned for further updates on this exciting opportunity for Minnesota baseball fans.
Speaking of the All-Star Game, I wanted to share a few thoughts on the host venue for this year?s contest ? PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA. First and foremost, I thought the Pirates organization and City of Pittsburgh did a fantastic job in hosting the All-Star Week festivities. That task is made easier when you have a wonderful facility such as PNC Park. Opened in the spring of 2001, PNC Park is the most intimate of all the new ballparks in America with total seating capacity of roughly 37,000. The sightlines within PNC Park are outstanding, as are the views of the Pittsburgh skyline. I couldn?t help but think how PNC?s orientation to downtown Pittsburgh is similar to the opportunity we have with our site in relation to downtown Minneapolis. The major difference is the Allegheny River sits between PNC Park and downtown Pittsburgh, while Interstate 394 stands between the Twins-Hennepin County ballpark site and downtown Minneapolis.
Beyond the sightlines and downtown views, other signature elements of PNC Park include:
- Kasota stone is the featured material on the building?s exterior (along with exposed deep navy blue steel), giving the ballpark a truly Pittsburgh feel.
- The Roberto Clemente Bridge spans the Allegheny River and is highly visible in virtually all seating areas. This bridge serves as inspiration to Minnesota ballpark designers as we consider options surrounding the construction of a pedestrian bridge aimed at connecting downtown Minneapolis to the Twins-Hennepin County ballpark site.
- Pittsburgh?s very-own Primanti Brothers Sandwiches are the signature food item at PNC Park. These are so good, we may have to find a way to bring Primanti Brothers to Minnesota.
All in all, PNC Park is among the best of America?s new ballparks. We can learn a lot about what they did right in Pittsburgh.
Next week, our ballpark tour continues with visits to Citizen?s Bank Park in Philadelphia and Jacob?s Field in Cleveland.
Thanks again for your support.
Dave St. Peter
President, Minnesota Twins
One of my favorite movie moments of all-time is the famed City Slickers scene in which Billy Crystal?s character describes in vivid detail his memory of walking into Yankee Stadium for the very first time. He waxes poetically about the anticipation of attending the game, walking into the ballpark and seeing the spectacular fields of green.
That is precisely the same feeling I get every single time I walk into an open-air ballpark. No matter what the time of year, no matter what is going on in my life, that single moment of catching the first glimpse of the ballpark ? the natural grass playing field ? the scoreboard ? is simply magical.
I had that experience again this week when I joined several members of the Twins organization in visiting Busch Stadium in St. Louis as part of a series of visits to recently built open-air ballparks. The tour group, which included Twins Sports Inc. President Jerry Bell, our CFO Kip Elliott, our VP/Assistant GM Bill Smith, our VP Operations Matt Hoy, our VP Corporate Partnerships Eric Curry, our VP Ticket Sales and Service Steve Smith, our Director of Ticket Sales Scott O?Connell along with assorted team advisors, is visiting the ballparks in order to gain fresh perspective on the latest trends in sports facility construction and general fan amenities. Understanding the Twins will drive much of the ballpark?s final design, it?s truly important that we involve a variety of folks throughout our organization to offer input and specific expertise in their respective area?s of emphasis.
The St. Louis trip proved to be time well spent on a variety of fronts.
First, the ballpark itself was fantastic. The Cardinals organization deserves a lot of credit for building a facility that St. Louis baseball fans ? some of the best fans in all of sports ? can be proud of. Located immediately adjacent the site of the previous Busch Stadium, new Busch seats approximately 44,000 fans and opened in April of this year. Signature elements of Busch Stadium include the Cardinal red brick; wonderful views of downtown St. Louis and ? of course ? the Arch; a variety of tributes to the great Cardinal teams and players of the past; more group Party Rooms (40-plus) than any ballpark in America; and a split upper deck (which is the same design we would like to implement in Minnesota?s new ballpark).
Secondly, our team had a wonderful opportunity to spend the day with a variety of Cardinal officials headlined by team president Mark Lamping and owner?s representative John Loyd. Their hospitality was incredible and while the tour is important, it?s the one-on-one dialogue with folks like this that is absolutely critical. You learn so much over a few hours. Not only what they did right, but perhaps more importantly, what they would do differently if they could do it again.
Over the next month, Twins officials will visit Pittsburgh?s PNC Park (for the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Game) in addition to Cleveland?s Jacobs Field, Philadelphia?s Citizen?s Bank Park, San Diego?s PETCO Park and San Francisco?s AT&T Park. We will report back following each of those trips.
Dave St. Peter
President, Minnesota Twins
P.S. Keep the New Ballpark Suggestions coming. Thanks to everyone who has already sent in their thoughts. To date we have received 1,000+ plus ideas ? all of which are reviewed by our internal new ballpark team. Who knows? Perhaps your idea will be incorporated into the new facility.