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Huntington Park

Who says there's nothing new under the sun? (continued)


The
design

The interior of Huntington Park is even more stunning than the outside. Here you will find one innovative design element after another, after another, after another.

Let's start with the best one of them all: the main seating bowl. If you've been to a lot of Minor League parks, especially those of a recent vintage, you've seen an open concourse behind home plate. Almost without exception.

Not here. In fact, the seating behind the backstop goes all the way to the front edge of the upper level. The regular seats closest to the field are called Club Seats -- and I do mean close, as the first row is only 48 feet from the plate. The rows behind the Club section are in the Loge (above left). The Loge is actually made up of counter tops and moveable chairs, with easy access to the upper-level lounge right behind you. This is truly a great concept in stadium design, and gives you a great view of the action (above right).

In order for this seating section to work, it must have a fairly steep incline. In fact, the entire lower seating bowl is a little steeper than at other parks. Not only does this keep the fans closer to the action, it also permits the luxury boxes on the upper level to be closer to the field.

Down the right field line is the Home Run Porch, complete with two levels for standing and watching the action from a great vantage point (below). The traffic isn't very heavy here because fans can't walk from here around to left field. Once you reach a stairwell right next to the scoreboard, that's the end of the road. Indeed, this is the only one of the three new Triple-A parks opening this year that doesn't have a 360-degree concourse.

"It was a healthy debate" over whether to have a concourse all the way around the park, said 360 Architecture's Ralston. In the end, the design group elected to think long-term rather than short. "Once a park matures, the novelty of walking all the way around will pass and you'll just want to go back to the spot in the park where you're most comfortable watching the game." Further, Nationwide Boulevard on the park's south perimeter doesn't run perfectly parallel to Harold M. Cooper Lane on the north side. This forces the park's footprint to be a little more narrow north-to-south on the eastern (left-field) side than on the western edge, and presses the street right up against right-center field. The result? The concourse stops when it reaches the scoreboard.

Now, in my opinion they still could've inserted a walkway -- admittedly, it wouldn't have been very wide -- underneath the scoreboard to connect the right-field and center-field areas. A 360-degree concourse is one of my favorite ballpark features, and without one, the wonderful right-field Home Run Porch tends to feel a little remote.

The things you'll find on the other side of the scoreboard, though, are phenomenal, starting with the batter's eye just to the left of the scoreboard. This isn't your grandfather's batter's eye, though. The design team wanted something special, and that's what they created. "One of the most interesting challenges in designing a park is how to make the batter's eye," said King of 360 Architecture. "There isn't a catalog for those."

The one in Columbus is like none other because a series of flag poles and pulleys (above right) allow its fabric to be lowered all the way to the ground when there's not a game going on -- and it can be removed entirely for storage at the end of the season. That way, the public can look in and see what a lovely park exists beyond that batter's eye. Truly, in a park full of innovations, this one is near the top. Sports Business Journal, in fact, found it so novel they devoted an entire article to it.

The area around the center-field concourse is alive with activity. "Other parks have a number of their features behind home plate, and out in the outfield, there might not be a lot" explained Ralston. "Here, we thought we'd reverse that. We wanted to make a midway experience that you encounter first when you enter (the center-field gates)."

One intriguing design decision in this area was to construct a completely separate building beyond the left-field concourse (above). While its name isn't very imaginative -- the Left Field Building -- its exterior is. That's because a slightly different color of brick was used here to make it appear much older than the ballpark itself. And like its bigger brother in Baltimore, this warehouse-looking structure is abuzz with activity. The ground level features a Bob Evans concession stand, the souvenir shop, restrooms and the ticket windows. The second floor has the Hall Of Fame Bar with six balconies from which to watch the action on the field and fascinating memorabilia everywhere, much of it embedded in the bar itself (below left).

The top level (above right) is the most fascinating, though. Here, you'll find Roosters, a restaurant and bar, as well as Wrigley-esque rooftop bleachers. And the most interesting thing about this level? There's no roof over it!

The only berm in the park in is left center field. No, it's not as large as at other new parks, but it does offer fans a perfect, unobstructed view of the field, unlike Gwinnett County's new Triple-A park. Behind the berm on the street side of the batter's eye is a clever idea -- a fountain (below center). It's not a Kauffman Stadium-type of showy, colorful, shooting-water fountain. Instead, it exists so that kids can cool off by splashing around and running through it. An absolutely great idea.

The concourse level in left field (above right), called The Grove because of its wonderful landscaping, is an example of the "neighborhood" concept the designers were trying to achieve. This is a very family-friendly place, with an inflatable game for the kids, picnic tables and concession kiosks like the Catcher's Mitt Grill with cheeseburgers and Cracker Jacks. If you look carefully at the right-hand shot above, you'll notice a grassy area toward the top of the picture. This is an outdoor concert pavilion across the street from the park. One more reason the site for the ballpark is excellent.

Finally, one of the most clever features of Huntington Park is the design of the concession stands behind both first base (below) and third base. Here, you can face the field while ordering because the stands are open on all sides. Ralston revealed that, "We asked ourselves, 'How do we make it (a concession stand) open and inviting?' We decided that we hate backing the stands up against a wall, so we made them open and airy." There's also a bar using this design in the lounge above home plate.

Yes, there's quite a lot to say about the brilliant design work done by 360 Architecture and their design partners. Bravo!


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