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Pac Bell Park, San Francisco

BASEBALLPARKS.COM's Best New Major League Park for 2000

NOTE: THE NAME OF PAC BELL PARK CHANGED TO SBC PARK IN 2004, AND TO AT&T PARK IN 2006

Of the three new Major League parks that made their debut in 2000, I feel the nicest is San Francisco's beautiful Pacific Bell Park.  Located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, Pac Bell is truly lovely, offering a wonderful, sweeping view of the San Francisco Bay and enough idiosyncrasies inside to make any game interesting.  And, thankfully, it's not the wind tunnel that 3Com (Candlestick) Park was.

The statue of the "Say Hey Kid" that graces the entry plaza for the park is shown above.  The brick exterior and the landscaping, needless to say, are gorgeous.

There are a lot of features which make Pac Bell unique.  One is its location near downtown (Candlestick Point was well south of downtown) -- just a street-car ride away from Fisherman's Wharf and all of the neat attractions in downtown San Fran.  Obviously, this adds a certain excitement, as anything beats surrounding your stadium with acres of pavement for parking, which was the case at 3Com.  However, this also means that the area around Pac Bell is very congested -- and parking is at a premium.  Luckily, a lot of thought was put into mass transit, with street cars, bus lines and the extensive Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) all nearby.  And you can even take a ferry right to the outfield entrance of the park!

Another interesting aspect is the park's dimensions.  While it is a respectable 335 feet down the third-base line and 404 to dead center, it is a whopping 420 feet to the deepest part of right center!  And from that point to the right field line, the wall just keeps getting closer and closer and closer -- until you reach the foul pole which is only 307 feet from home.  This is the shortest distance down any right-field line currently in the Majors.  The reason this is such a short poke?  Ahh, that's because of Pac Bell's Most Unique Element (see below). 

The intimacy of the park is another positive aspect.  The fans are really on top of the action here, with upper decks much closer to the field than at 3Com, and the first row of lower-deck boxes are just 48 feet from home plate.

Like Enron Field and Comerica Park, Pac Bell follows the trend of offering fewer seats than its predecessor.  In fact, there are only 40,800 seats in the park -- and for its first season, all were scarfed up before Opening Day!  

And like several other newer parks, there is an extensive play area for kids.  Like Atlanta's Turner Field, it is located beyond the left-field seats.  Undoubtedly you've seen this area in television shots of Pac Bell, with its massive baseball glove and Coke "bottle" (which conceals a long slide).  There's even a miniature whiffle-ball field where youngsters can take some hacks.

Famous ballpark-designer HOK is the architect of this beautiful stadium.  And best of all (if you're a San Francisco resident), the actual construction costs were paid by the team, making Pac Bell the most ambitious privately funded baseball park since Dodger Stadium almost four decades ago!  

But the Most Unique Element of this park?  You guessed it:  the water!  If your seats are on the Club Level or the Upper Deck (cleverly marketed as being the "View Level"), you can see the San Francisco Bay, and beyond that, the mountains on the far side of Oakland.  This view is impressive beyond words.  You simply have to see it for yourself!

The very-wet area beyond the right-field seats has been dubbed McCovey's Cove, after the Giants' Hall Of Fame first baseman.  Going into Pac Bell's inaugural season, there was considerable discussion about who would be the first player to deposit a home-run ball in the water there.  Well, the first player to do it was also the second and the third and the fourth. That batter was Barry Bonds.

Of course, baseball teams never miss a chance to make a buck (and the Giants need to, after spending all that money building the place!).  The right-field area near this Cove even has a "sponsor," as that part of the park is called "Old Navy Splash Landing."

BASEBALLPARKS.COM visitor Brandon Bunch provided this stunning photo of the panorama as it was starting to get dark. 

If you can get your hands on a ticket -- a challenge at Pac Bell -- you need to see this place!  That's why it's BASEBALLPARKS.COM's Major League New Park of the Year!