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