Now that there is a proposed site for a new ballpark in Escondido, Calif.; on paper, it made me ruminate for a few hours today at how I would design a ballpark if given the opportunity. There would be many standards that you see in today’s new green cathedrals, but I am sure I would want to enhance the ballparks’ look and feel ever so slightly. It would be a very multifarious ballpark, but after asking myself several questions I came up with a simple response-I would build it like Bowman Field.
Bowman Field has been standing merriment for the past 84-years in Williamsport, Pa.; and little has changed with how the folks view baseball in the lumber capital of Pennsylvania. The echoes of seasons past still chime loudly as you park your car, walk by a bevy of little leaguers and purchase your ticket at the will call window as they once did for generations past. There is just an authentic feeling that seems missing from today’s new ballparks and perhaps it cannot easily be duplicated when constructing a ballpark in the 21st century, but surely I will try my best.
First things first, my ballpark would feature luxurious covered grandstand seating and if I had enough money I might even considered covering a small section if the outfield bleachers. The columns of rows that some observers state block the view would be there and all negative opinions would dissipate when those same defeatists are sitting comfortable during a rain delay or when they want to get away from the coruscating rays of sunlight. There is nothing more glorious that driving up to a old time ballpark and seeing the grandstands covered-that is why they would be there if I designed a stadium.
Next, I would include rows for box seats, since they look cool and even cooler when you know that the ones at Bowman have been there for quite some time. Just peel off the chipped paint and have it tested for carbon 14, you will see how genuine it is. Ok, perhaps, the paint was a fresh coat added this season, but when was the last time you saw actual box seats at the ballpark? That is why they would be included somewhere in the design of my new ballpark.
Third, I love how Bowman Field is nestled outside the neighborhood, adjacent to a municipal swimming pool and close to a creek. The backdrop of houses beyond the outfield walls harkens back when many ballparks like Bowman were featured around the country and baseball of different levels were being played in all of them. The parking is on dirt and gravel rocks, makeshift spaces are to be found and congregations of people are found outside the main entrance before game time. I, myself, would increase parking space and pave it as well, but that would be the only change. I think the concept of building a community ballpark for the betterment of its people is something that has gone missing; just like your local recreation setting that offers adult dodgeball, kickball (my second passion) and volleyball leagues, my ballpark would be a place similar for professional, collegiate or recreation leagues.
This leads to another quandary, how would I set up my concession stands. The newer ballparks feature independent areas throughout the facility to attract both sight and smell of their standard and not so standard ballpark fare to their booths; the older ballparks like Bowman usually have one small area where patrons wait in line for their hot dogs, peanuts and beer. The benefits with the newer ballparks are that there are more choices, smaller lines, quicker service and more time watching the game; however, the benefits of waiting in line in a compact space is the ability to mingle with friends, business cohorts, strangers and others. This is a tough decision, but I would have to differ from Bowman’s setup and set up a few stand alone places throughout the ballpark that would serve the greasiest, high caloric cuisine that would make the folks at the Gateway Grizzlies, West Michigan Whitecaps and the Indiana State Fair blush. It is because I know that a high percentage of fans will be at my ballpark to eat something along the lines of a tempura battered banana, a hot dog served on a Twinkie and a hamburger with grilled onions, pineapple, and ham so big that even Adam Richman from Man v. Food would succumb to in battle.
However, I would add something that does not exist at Bowman Field and that is the grass seating beyond the outfield or down one of the baselines. It would be ineffable to build a ballpark without a strip of berm seating somewhere in the outfield. I do not want it steep like in Charlotte or Somerset, N.J.; but more along the lines on how they have it at Victory Field in Indianapolis or Midland, Mich. A nice comfortable slope for the kids to play on and the parents to watch, or for the group of friends who are not all baseball fans (but enjoy lying out on a blanket), or for the girlfriend who brings a blanket while her boyfriend attempts to teach her the game of baseball and so on.
Ultimately, I would want to have the same diehard fans that were at Bowman Field during my visit; they packed the park and were concerned about the team’s chase for a spot in the playoffs amidst the summer heat. These fans seemed a little more dedicated to the art of winning and losing and were quite audible when a call did not go in the hometown Cutters’ favor. Tactfully, these are the type of minor league fans that are missing from the game -not to say the casual fan is a truculent alien to the ballpark, but how can you not be full of vim when you see a packed covered grandstand stadium with keen fans glued to their seat for every pitch.
I think my new ballpark would be a success and I would not create one for the likes of the AAA or even AA, but for a lower league that are in small towns or suburbs of major cities. I hope the ballpark elicits enough interest from my market to support me for quite some time. It may not be an exact replica of Bowman Field, but it would be close enough to mix the traditional and not too traditional of minor league baseball. I would also strip away any attempt for a corporate name, unless they are going to foot the bill for the project. Now all I need is the chance to build one.
Marc Viquez is a contributing author for Ballpark Business (www.ballparkbiz.com). A fan of baseball for most of his life, Marc has been traveling around the country writing about minor league baseball since 2001 for various websites and print publications. When he is not searching down a ballpark, he can be found teaching middle school in Indianapolis, Indiana.