I walked down the third base concourse of Frontier Field, home of Minor League Baseball’s Rochester Red Wings, in search of the perfect ballpark cure for my grumbling stomach. Eventually the stadium seats above me gave way to an open space that resembled a city picnic area, perfect for the casual fan who enjoys the ballpark experience without the need to watch every pitch. I’d been here before, but as a rabid baseball fan, I’m usually glued to my seat in anticipation of seeing a thrilling double play, or a towering homer on the field.
This time I took a moment to stop and capture an image of the folks enjoying the beautiful evening at the ballpark much like they’d enjoy a picnic at their local public park. But the picture got me thinking about newer baseball stadiums and their incorporation or this kind of space. Obviously the larger Major League parks have done this to a greater extent, but the narrative is the same… create an atmosphere that caters to the baseball fan, and an experience that dazzles the senses of the casual visitor alike. As a result, more and more ballparks have been adding elements of vibrant urban life within their confines… enticing public space, a walkable, aesthetically intriguing environment that invites and inspires, and a food and drink scene that has something for everyone. It’s taking a game on a field and turning into a multi-dimensional, dense urban experience that just happens to be inside a ballpark.
Human amenities that make for approachable, family friendly experiences have become a priority inside baseball stadium limits. Wrigley Field in Chicago now features green space just outside of the stadium, with a large “Jumbo-Tron” television broadcasting the game in the background.
Want a literal farm to table experience experience in Boston’s historic Fenway Park? Fenway Farms is a vegetable garden built inside the ballpark, supplying a restaurant in the stadium concourse with the freshest possible greenery.
The goal of any baseball organization is to get as many people through the gates as possible. More and more, they are doing this by implementing a walkable, human-scale urban experience that compliments the game on the field. If sports teams, who’s existence is dependent on ticket sales, are making this a priority, shouldn’t all of our cities, communities and neighborhoods?