September 23, 2014
If you build it they will come… that’s the infamous line from, “Field of Dreams,” referencing the manic like actions of Ray Kinsella, who mowed down part of his family’s corn field and built a baseball diamond for “Ghostly players” of the past to haunt, by way of a good ole’ game of baseball. Much like the tooth fairy, Santa & others akin to the, “you must believe to receive” philosophy; if you had the love of the game, you could see the players and enjoy watching them play. If you didn’t, you saw the abyss of lost profits from his once corn rich field & questioned the sanity of Ray and his family.
If you build it they will come…It’s hard not be a baseball fan in Kansas City. We have the Negro Baseball League Hall of Fame, a rich baseball history, numerous sought-after Architecture firms that specialize in stadium design (Populous, HOK, Crawford, to name a few) and of course our beloved Boys in Blue, the Kansas City Royals. Beloved especially this year (Go Royals!)
Baseball has hit a fever pitch in Kansas City, it may have waned a bit with recent (ok, the last 30 years or so) team performance, but it is alive & well today! What makes baseball so beloved? Is it the strategy involved? The memories of, “I was here when….” that generations share with the next? The sights, the sounds? I’d say, it’s the experience of it all. What’s interesting to watch is how the EXPERIENCE has changed over the years. Without going into the ins & outs of player contracts, team ownership, recruitment, etc… you cannot deny how the stadiums themselves dictate a large portion of how the ball park is experienced. In the age of Jumbotrons playing live feeds of selected, “tweets,” from fans & paperless tickets by way of your smart phone; how these firms design the space is quite a feat! The evolution of the “experience” is one of the preeminent factors. The aforementioned Kansas City A & D firms have an impressive portfolio of work. They are some of the players in the niche market of creating not only beautiful, aesthetic and architecturally savvy new stadium designs and remodels. That goes without saying, they are also charged with equipping the space with what the fans want and expect from the experience. That’s got to be tricky – what do fans want? I’d say, every fan wants something different, (except the uniform desire for their team to prevail, give a good show and perhaps for the cost of parking and beer to be capped, and soon!) Giving the fans the experience they want means different things to different people. I’m old school & funny enough, a very recent baseball fan, by way of being a recent baseball Mom. I don’t need the bells and whistles. I need a little leg room, a semi decent view of the field (or Jumbrotron to follow along) and some good baseball to watch, learn from, and enjoy.
While I know the latest and greatest concourse amenities are a sizeable ‘want,’ I prefer the not-so simple game of baseball in a simpler environment (caveat: an app that allows ease of concession use- where you order and charge your order from the comfort of your seat, would be welcomed.) Housing tens of thousands of fans at a time, and appealing to the masses, seems overwhelming, as not everyone shares my “old school” preference. I recently went to Wrigley Field for the first time, for both a game and a non-game day tour. From the moment we left the concourse, I felt it. I felt a part of the game. Not just “the experience”, but the game. No Jumbotron, the infamous hand-turned score board, incredibly limited advertising, the size and scope of the stadium itself. It was…..awesome. I can’t lie, but that’s me, it’s what I like.
Imagine all that the Designers and Architects who create these stadiums have to consider while conceptualizing these mammoth projects. It has to be many different things to many different people, who come together for the love of the game.
Aside from a winning team to cheer on, what do you need at a ball field to make your “experience” all that it can be?