ALL STAR GAME: 2011 WORLD SERIES: 2001
This is another one of those new stadiums that you just don't know what to make of. Chase Field, which was formerly known as "Bank One Ballpark," has more bells and whistles than any of the recently-built neoclassical stadiums, and if it weren't for the rectangular overall shape, it would probably be classified along with the "doughnut clones." That shape, plus the arched roof, give it the appearance of a gigantic airplane hangar. It is the second major league stadium to feature a solid, working retractable roof, and unlike the first one (Rogers Centre/Skydome), it has real grass. There are eight roof sections, six of which telescope from the left and right sides toward the center. Each side of the roof can be operated separately, to shield the seating areas from the the sun, wherever it happens to be, while keeping the grass bathed in sunlight. Because of the frequent 100-degree-plus days in Phoenix, however, ball games at Chase Field (or "BOB," as Phoenicians call it) are usually played with the roof closed, with the air conditioning on at full blast. This is the first ballpark to have a swimming pool, located just beyond the fence in deep right center field. Several "splash" home runs have been recorded there. Beyond the center field wall, there is a picnic area with room for about 600 fans. Finally, there is a sports grill with terraced tables in back of the left field bleachers. (It's open year-round, but you have to pay stadium admission on game days, so even though it's at the same level as the mezzanine, it is color-coded as "luxury suites" in the above diagram.)
One clear difference from the doughnut clones is that virtually all the upper deck seats at Chase Field are located in foul territory. In addition, the lower deck is smaller than average, bringing upper deck fans even closer to the infield. The upper deck is very large, however, especially in the seating areas beyond first and third base, over which the moveable sections of the roof sit when the roof is opened. Those high-altitude "Bob Uecker" seats near the top are fairly cheap, accommodating fans of modest means. There are even a few one-dollar seats in the far extremities. On the down side, almost every element of the stadium has been named after some corporate sponsor, including Infiniti, Nextel, MasterCard, and even Fox Sports. The very size of the stadium might be considered a drawback, as the D-Backs rarely fill more than half of the 48,000 seats. Since their inaugural year drew 3.6 million fans, a whopping success, the Arizona franchise has drawn a little more than two million fans per year.
In the original name, (Bank One) "Ballpark" was a misnomer for such a big and extravagant venue, but (Chase) "Field" isn't very appropriate, either. Perhaps to offset all the high-tech comforts, there are a few special features designed to appeal to baseball traditionalists, most notably the dirt path between the pitcher's mound and home plate. The irregular corners in the outfield wall next to the bullpens create some excitement when balls are hit out there. Another subtle bow to tradition is the fact that the brick walls of a former food warehouse were preserved and incorporated into the exterior of the stadium. Finally, there is a baseball history museum. Overall, Chase Field is OK as a baseball venue, but I do question the architectural design which leaves such a huge void in the corners beyond right- and left-center field. Perhaps they have plans to fill all that space in the future.
The outfield layout of Chase Field strongly resembles Tropicana Field, including some slight irregularities in the outfield fence. The bullpen on the right side (for the visiting team) is apprently several feet shorter than the home bullpen. Originally, the corners on either side of center field were both marked as 413 feet from home plate; why these have changed slightly is not certain. The center field wall is almost 20 feet high, making home runs in that area a rare event. One nice quirky touch is the small "balcony" seating area which hangs over the corners on either side of dead center field. (The Polo Grounds had a similar overhang in deep center field, creating confusion over distances.)
In 2001, in the fourth year of their existence, the Diamondbacks became the youngest franchise ever to win the World Series, beating the Yankees 4 games to 3. You certainly have to give a lot of credit to starting pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, and pity to reliever Byung Ho Kim. (Flashy, brand new stadium ... deadly pitching duo ... it almost seemed like 1963 all over again...) The Diamondbacks' triumph seemed to validate the huge public investment and the risky debt-leveraged acquisition campaign by the original franchise owner, Jerry Colangelo, but he sold out to a partnership led by Ken Kendricks in 2004.
Even though it was designed almost exclusively as a venue for baseball, Chase Field hosted the Insight Bowl football games from 2001 to 2005. When configured for football games, temporary bleachers are set up in right field. The goal line coincides with the right field foul line and the other goal line just touches the bullpen in the left field corner. Since 2006 the Insight Bowl has been played at Sun Devil Stadium, in nearby Tempe Arizona, and is now known as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Chase Field has also hosted basketball games, monster truck shows, and even a Black Sabbath concert! Chase Field is owned by the Maricopa County Stadium District, whose residents obviously want to get as much of their money back as possible.
SOURCES: Pastier (2007), Lowry (2006), USA Today / Fodor's (1996), Rosen (2001)