Sure, AT&T Park regularly is at or near the top of ballpark rankings, and deservedly so. The spot on the water, the views, the fans, the team…the stadium is magic.
But it’s not perfect.
There are small annoyances here and there. There are aging features…yes, the ballpark is close to 20 years old, this was bound to happen. And there are some very big upgrades that would enhance the ballpark experience. These are my professional, unasked-for expert-ish opinions on how the Giants can, and should, make the ballpark better.
An Out of Town Scoreboard That Isn’t Obstructed
This has been around for several years, and it vexes me that it hasn’t been fixed yet.
I mean, really? Even ballparks built before AT&T Park have scoreboards that are not blocked by something as simple as gates. Surely, in the 18 years since AT&T Park has been built, the technology has been made that can create a gate that doesn’t need padding right in the middle of the out-of-town scores. Maybe a gate whose hinges are along the edge of the archway?
Maybe it’s a little silly to complain about not seeing out-of-town scores in the digital internet age. I’m still going to complain. It’s ugly, and it looks bad and cheap to have them obstructed like this, and the park, team and fans deserve better.
Look at those three bins. One is ketchup. One is BBQ sauce. (Mustard is also there, but that’s obvious so I’m ignoring it.) The shades between the ketchup and BBQ are…a little hard to tell. How is one to know what they will get out of it? For a $12 batch of chicken strips and garlic fries, I’d rather not make it a mystery meal topping.
It’s even worse when they are “Fixed” the way that you’d find at a charming food truck at Off The Grid, rather than a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art stadium. At least it’s not in Comic Sans, but it’s kind of Comic Sadz.
Sure, in some parts of the parks, they have those obviously labeled Heinz bottles, as seen here. What would it really cost to get that setup everywhere? Is consistency so hard to achieve?
A Better Scoreboard Experience
Let me show you something from our hated rivals in L.A.
Baseball nerds: The Dodger Stadium RF scoreboard has a new layout for 2018, and now features OPS+, WAR, pitch type, hit distance, launch angle, mound visits... and an homage to the clock on the original board. pic.twitter.com/FvBuvvaZm7— Ross Yoshida (@RYDesignLA) March 29, 2018
Ignore the hated hexagon. Look at all that information! OPS. OPS+! WAR!!!!!
(Note, if you want to know where the Balls-Strikes-Outs and Inning-by-Inning scores are, they are on an auxiliary board below the hexagon.)
Now, look at the Giants’ scoreboard.
The player photos are…usually cool. Not always. (The projected video on the jerseys this year just looks like screen burn-in, guys.) Look, I understand not wanting to make things too busy on the scoreboard, and yes, what the Dodgers have up might be too much. But I absolutely believe the Giants could find a happy medium between these two extremes.
Plus, the Giants’ classic clock at the top of the scoreboard is far cooler than that emulation of 1960’s lightbulb technology the Dodgers have at the top of their scoreboard. Emulate old video games, not Thomas Edison’s legacy.
Too Many Concession Carts
Yeah, get rid of these extra new carts along the Promenade.
I get the team needs to make money, and that they want to use every inch of free space. But these new carts not only reduce the space on a crowded Promenade, but the lines make it insane to walk around. Look at how much of the promenade is blocked! And it was crowded to walk on before.
These are some carts set up behind Sections 108-109. They aren’t even a special vendor, just another beer option. The lines wrap around and take up half the width of the Promenade They’re adjacent to the women’s restroom which often has a long line of its own that used to run along the wall where the cart is, now it can’t. Those are both adjacent to a souvenir stand that has no organized line and is often crowded. Even on non-sellout games, this is causing a blockage that rivals the bridge in the left field corner that once was the stadium’s biggest chokepoint…until the team made the bridge wider.
You can’t make this area wider. What you can do is remove the blockage. Do some plumbing and clear the pipes.
In-Seat Food Ordering & Delivery for All Fans
Is this 2018 or 2008?
The technology is there, since it’s used for some premium seats. Why not add this for all fans? Sure, it may seem like it’s for lazy fans, but there’s two positives here:
- It’s a sponsorship opportunity for any one of a half-dozen food delivery companies. MONEY!
- It will lessen the increasing crowding in the Promenade for those who do wish to walk around and enjoy the ambience.
Since it’s very hard to add space for free movement (or is it?…hmmm…), adding convenience that will put less pressure on the existing spaces would be an incredibly efficient use of resources, and make the gameday experience even better.
A Television On The Back Of the Scoreboard
The New York Mets have a food plaza behind their scoreboard, similar to the Giants. What’s different is that their scoreboard is double-sided. They have a big screen (and ads) on the back of the scoreboard, letting fans watch the game while enjoying the food court.
(I’m sorry, I tried to find images of it, but apparently no one found the back of the Citi Field scoreboard interesting.)
Now, Citi Field has one big difference from AT&T Park: the back of the scoreboard faces a street and a freeway, which makes that valuable advertising space. On non-gamedays, it’s an electronic billboard. Obviously, that’s not going to be the case in San Francisco.
That said, putting a bigscreen that’s available to all the fans on the back of the scoreboard would help keep the fans involved as they wait in line or eat. The current TVs over the small bar in the middle of the plaza are tiny and often not working. A miniature scoreboard along the backside of the plaza might also work, but at least do something to give the fans something.
Add Features Outside Of The Park
Sorry, I have no fancy renderings to put here.
One of the things the Cubs recently did in the Wrigley Park renovations was to add some fan-related features in a building that’s separate from the park.
The Giants have long tried to make restaurants happen at AT&T Park, and while the Public House is, indeed, crowded before game times, let’s be honest: Almost every restaurant concept has failed in the office building alongside the park. So much so that the taqueria that was there has closed and become an extension of the Dugout Store. And the buildings around the park, while many have been renovated, have often also gone through troubles with tenants. The loss of the Happy Donuts/Louisiana Fried Chicken is just one example, now replaced with a Baseballism store.
The Giants have leveraged the retail across King Street before in the past. During postseason runs, a satellite Dugout Store resided there. But what else could be there? Perhaps a Giants Hall of Fame? The Giants are attempting to do something like that down the right field line in the tunnel, but it could be far better. Across the street can still be a nice part of a Gameday Experience.
Heck, you want to get really crazy? If one of the buildings comes open, how about a Satellite Food Plaza, that fans can get to from the stadium in a bridge over King Street? There are places along the Promenade behind 123 and other spots where that might work. I might be crazy, but…well, no, I’m just crazy.
And this doesn’t have to be across King Street. The Giants have done a nice job putting activities in Lot A alongside McCovey Cove…a lot of these ideas could become more permanent with the Giants’ development plans. Retail, food, Hall of Fame…it could all go there.
The Coke Bottle
At least fix the lights that are out, but let’s go further.
Initially, the coke bottle was one of my least favorite parts of AT&T Park, just because it was HUGE BLATANT ADVERTISEMENT. It also blocked the view of the Bay Bridge and east bay hills from many on the first base side, which annoyed me. Over the years, however, my dislike of it has waned. I’m not a particular fan of it, but it’s a really unique object that helps define AT&T Park. But it’s still kitschy (and thank goodness Coca-Cola convinced Giants executive Jack Bair away from his original idea, to have the coke bottle pour into a dunk tank!)
In the nearly 20 years since the park opened, the environment around the coke bottle has changed. Two lawsuits from adults who have been injured on the slide, and others have been injured as well, which I assume is the reason that adults haven’t been able to use the slide for years. The raised platform had been a popular place for fans to view the game from, and for between-inning promos and the live organist, but now the platform is no longer publicly accessible. And the bottle itself is starting to look…worn.
It’s time to rethink this area, and it might start with upgrading the bottle and slide. Don’t make it glitzier, it doesn’t need plastic or glass, but clearly the slide could be safer with two decades-worth of innovations to use. The platforms could be rethought, making them accessible again (perhaps with the Right Field Portwalk idea of innings limitations). Perhaps the promotional videos could be done on a new platform, on top of the @Cafe, to open up the space (and remind people that, hey, there’s an @Cafe out there and it’s a thing).
And all this could be tied in with the next idea…
Build A New Platform Over The 2nd Street Lot
Here we see the view from space of the Left Field area of AT&T Park including the aforementioned Coke Bottle.
Now, AT&T Park is notable of all the new ballparks in that it was constrained by an incredibly tiny lot, just 12.7 acres, where as many new parks have a lot size as big as 20 acres. The Giants have squeezed as much into the ballpark as possible, which has, in turn, led to the elimination of almost every inch of free space. So…why not just add more?
Look at that parking lot behind left field. Now, parking spaces are pretty much platinum-laced gold in San Francisco, so there’s no eliminating those spots. Instead, how about building a platform over that lot? The coke bottle and glove can be pushed back from the field, as can the kids lot, opening up space for other attractions and concessions. It would also open up that part of the walkway significantly, freeing up one of the most congested areas to walk in the park.
The Bonds Statue
We all know it will happen. It should be alongside the Cove, and the most likely spot is at Seals Plaza. Sure, it’d take it Colossus Style over the mouth of the cove, but that might like, block airplanes and stuff. But let’s stop waiting.
Look, I know a lot of these things are nitpicking. Maybe nitpicking is all we have left when the Giants did build an amazing, beautiful and iconic ballpark. But that doesn’t mean we can’t seriously look at our ballpark and see flaws, annoyances, and things that could make our gameday better. Maybe, just maybe, good enough isn’t.
Go ahead. Make AT&T Park even better. We have the technology, and we have the fans that deserve it.