Design it. Build it. The fans will come.
I love baseball but I must admit that I’m a convert. I grew up in Lincoln, Neb., so college football was king. We played little league and impromptu school yard games but I dreamed of being a defensive end, not a catcher.
When I joined DLR Group, I had the opportunity to join the Sports design team and our focus at the time was baseball. I immersed myself and found I loved the minor leagues. Why? It’s a combination of tradition, player effort, and summer evenings with family and friends. As an architect, I love the impact a ballpark can have on a community.
I’ve witnessed first-hand the impact that a well-planned, properly funded downtown ballpark can have. It starts at the first planning meetings of bringing a franchise to a city. No ballpark is going to work in isolation as a driver for urban development; there must be a good public-private partnership in place. In today’s political and economic climate this may mean the team finances the stadium—in part or in whole—and the city sets the stage, helping with land needs, infrastructure, zoning, and other investments that connect the stadium to the rest of the city.
When built, a ballpark doesn’t just become an immediate destination. It creates the foundation for new retail, dining, housing, and other amenities that are year-round economic drivers. As these ballparks age, the team becomes integrated into the city and the fans get invested. The team becomes a source of pride and an important part of the city’s identity.
In 2006, DLR Group designed Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C., for the Greenville Drive. This $16 million project has become the epitome of a ballpark as an economic catalyst and a model of public-private partnership. It’s a credit to a progressive city and team ownership that is committed to being a good citizen. Last summer, 10 years after the ballpark opened, DLR Group was back in Greenville meeting with the same core group of people for a strategic renovation, and expansion to Fluor Field.
How influential can a minor league stadium be when it comes to urban development? In Greenville, the area surrounding the ballpark had little to no development prior to the ballpark being built. In the past decade there have been restaurants, offices, hotels, housing, and retail development built in the surrounding area resulting in hundreds of building permits.
Craig Brown, the president and owner of the Greenville Drive, has stated that of the many successes and awards his team has garnered, his favorite is that the Greenville News stated Fluor Field has become the “front porch” of Greenville.
The Drive will unveil Greenville’s new front porch on opening day 2017.