Ballpark Visit ALERT: CHS Field – Inaugural Home Opener (St. Paul, MN)

St. Paul Saints Hat LogoBBiz SecondaryBelieve it or not, today marks the four-week anniversary of the opening of the new CHS field in Lowertown, St. Paul (MN).  Yes, it seems like a lifetime ago, when the first worthy souls were welcomed through the pearly black gates of the St. Paul Saints’ (Indy Pro, American Association) new heavenly playground, marking the beginning of an inaugural four-game home stand that saw 31,763 believers experience the second coming of Fun Is Good.

(Okay, enough of that sacred silliness – where is the Holy Hand Grenade when you need it?)

Because memories often fade and history is sometimes re-written as the years pass us by, I thought it would be the perfect time to flashback all the way to opening night on Thursday, May 21, to relive those memories with those who were there, and share the experience with those who couldn’t make it.

[Watch a pre-game interview with co-owner Mike Veeck]

THE BALLPARK

For those who opposed the idea of bringing professional baseball to Lowertown, I have to believe they are now fully on board.  Perfectly situated between I-94, Highway 52, the St. Paul (Metro Transit) Light Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility, and the Farmers’ Market, CHS Field is sleek, sophisticated, open and appropriately integrated.  In fact, it is so integrated that you wouldn’t even know it is there unless you spotted it from the highway or finally realized the roar of the crowd you were hearing from your window at the nearby School of Rock was for the Saints, not for your rendition of “Jukebox Hero.”

Outside the stadium’s black/charcoal exterior walls, the Saints incorporated a couple nifty features, including a dog park with views of the open concourse and playing field, and the “Meander” sculpture consisting of lighted, blinking pillars to represent the twisting course of the Mississippi River.

Inside the ballpark is your pretty standard (nowadays, anyway) open, wrap-around concourse, a grassy berm, a state-of-the-art video board, and plenty of group gathering places for socializing.  The most notable feature is the beautiful red cedar that adorns the stadium’s concourse and upper-level ceilings that show incredibly well, particularly at night.  Architect Julie Snow gets huge marks for this unique design element, which, intentional or not, gives the facility a subtle warm, modern and classy Minnesota North Woods feel.   The second-level Securian Club and adjoining outside patio also impressed.

THE FUN

Speaking of a sophisticated new ballpark, there are some who might have feared the Saints would lose their soul operating out of such fancy-pants, country-club digs.  Not so!  Make no mistake about it – the Saints’ irreverent antics are here to stay.  For opening night, appearing were Pablo Pigasso (this year’s ball pig), the goofy and fan-engaging “ushertainers” (including those intentionally annoying mimes), shameless staff dragging the field in drag, and fan-favorite Seigo “Karaoke with a Real Japanese Guy” Masubuchi singing, “Feels Like the First Time” by Foreigner.

[Meet the Saints entertainment team]

[Watch/listen to a sample of Seigo’s work at old Midway Stadium in 2011]

Kicking off the evening’s inaugural festivities was the voice of a blues/gospel angel, Robert Robinson, and a back-up choir belting out a powerful rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” at home plate.  This was followed by a full-blown Mardi Gras parade along the field’s perimeter before St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman tossed out the first pitch.

THE WORK ON IT

Before I turn this over to my gallery of 85 photos from opening night, I want to provide one recommendation to the Saints to enhance the ballpark experience for fans.  (We certainly can’t allow complete perfection right out of the starting gate, can we?)  Well, when the sun went down, I found the outfield concourse, including the craft beer area, dark and uninviting.  I would highly recommend lighting (string lights, for example, like I found at a rural Minnesota restaurant and Nationals Park in D.C.) and added texture (i.e., color, props, signage, plants, etc.) to make the area welcoming, festive and fun.  It’s an easy fix, and I assume the always-creative Saints staff are already on top of this.

[Watch the Saints YouTube video covering the opening four-game home stand]

[Find yourself on opening night with Saints panoramic photo giant pixel magnifier]

THE GALLERY

With the “ahh” of an angelic choir, click below to begin the show:

Alan Poff Skunk BeardAlan Poff is the founder of Ballpark Business (www.ballparkbiz.com), an online news and information resource for baseball industry professionals.

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Filed under Amenities & Features, Ballpark Visits, Design & Construction, Fun & Atmosphere, Promotions & Entertainment, Stadium Issues

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