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