In The Ballpark
These baseball stadiums score big with special attractions
By Kathleen Landis
While professional baseball’s rules don’t vary, every Major League ballpark’s design, amenities and traditions do. For some fans, seeing a game unfold in a century-old ballpark can’t be beat. For others, a ticket that includes a “mile-high” view is a score. For young spectators, what could be cooler than touching and feeding fish as part of the experience?
Here’s a look at some Major League ballparks and what, besides the game, awaits fans.
Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, has fans covered — with its one-of-a-kind retractable roof, designed to cover but not enclose the ballpark. The three-panel, 22-million-pound roof contains enough steel to build a 55-story skyscraper. With the touch of a button, the roof opens and closes in less than 20 minutes, under normal wind and weather conditions.
What fans won’t see is a sophisticated underground strata of drain pipe, pea gravel, plastic hose and sand that works to keep Safeco’s 106,000 square-feet of grass in tip-top shape.
Between February and mid-May, an underground matrix of between 20 and 30 feet of one-inch plastic hose circulates warm water beneath the turf. The heating system maintains the ground temperature at just above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, optimum for stimulating the growth of grass and compensating for shade and low levels of direct sunlight.
Tropicana Field, home field of the Tampa Bay Rays, is the world’s only professional sports facility that features live cownose stingrays, so named for their blunt snouts that resemble cows’ noses. The ball club partners with the Florida Aquarium to maintain a 10,000-gallon touch tank filled with these rays, just behind the right-centerfield fence, where the rays are available for gentle touching and feeding. Unlike other species of rays, the cownose spend most of their time swimming near the water’s surface so are a perfect fit for the touch tank.
An artificial surface and all-dirt base paths also set Tropicana Field apart from all other Major League ballparks. In a nod to ballpark title sponsor Tropicana Dole Beverages, the dome’s roof glows orange after a Rays home win.
Designers took Denver’s “Mile High City” nickname into account when they laid out the Colorado Rockies’ Coors Field stadium. While the bulk of the stadium’s seats are dark green, when intrepid ticket holders reach row 20 in the upper deck, a band of purple seats indicates they’ve climbed to the 5,280-foot, “mile high” mark.
During construction, workers unearthed dinosaur fossils throughout the grounds. Based on these finds, the Rockies adopted “Dinger” the triceratops as the team’s mascot.
U.S. Cellular Field
When it’s summer in the city and the White Sox are in town, U.S. Cellular Field offers several “cool” spectator options. One is a pass under the Chicagoland Plumbing Council Shower. Located on the main level near Section 161, the shower was originally installed in the outfield stands at Old Comisky Park and in 1991 was moved to U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox current home.
It’s no “mist-ery” to those in the know that another heat reliever is a stroll through one of two “rain rooms,” located in the lower level’s section 162, or upper level’s section 524, for a light misting.
Tradition plays a big role at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs’ stadium, built in 1914, and the second-oldest ballpark in the majors. The scoreboard was constructed in 1937, and except for a few modern additions it remains the same as it was then. Score-by-innings and pitchers’ numbers are all changed by hand.
Cubs tradition also includes the flying of either a “Win” or “Loss” flag after home games. A white flag with a blue “W” indicates a win. A blue flag with a white “L” indicates a loss.