They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the Richmond Flying Squirrels (AA SF Giants) led by IronPigs President Chuck Domino (who also happens to be the Squirrels Chief Executive Manager) are doing just that by patterning their new stadium experience after that of Coca-Cola Park. Mr. Domino certainly has the track-record to pull the whole thing off. Providing of course he can garner the same first-class staff the IronPigs have. It shouldn’t be too difficult – after all – Virginia is For Lovers!
Good luck Chuck and perhaps one day we’ll bring the Noise Nation bus on down to Squirreltown!
Proposed Richmond Flying Squirrels stadium modeled after Pa. ballpark
The stadium that the Richmond Flying Squirrels want to build on North Boulevard has been game-tested in Allentown, Pa., and it appears to be a winner.
The Lehigh Valley Ironpigs have drawn more than 2.5 million fans to Coca-Cola Park since its opening in 2008, setting attendance records for all of Minor League Baseball for the past two seasons.
Allentown, with the fourth-smallest market in Triple-A baseball, hadn’t had a professionally affiliated baseball team for almost 50 years until the Ironpigs came to town the same year that the Richmond Braves played their last game at The Diamond.
“The new stadium and new team have improved our quality-of-life quotient by about 300 percent,” said T. Anthony Ianelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. “It’s had a phenomenal impact on the community.”
Coca-Cola Park is the model for the unnamed stadium that the Flying Squirrels are pitching to people in the Richmond area through a conceptual rendering of a ballpark where no one loses sight of the game on the field.
“It has the kind of design feel we’re going for — a lot of openness,” said Todd Parnell, chief operating officer for the Squirrels, a San Francisco Giants affiliate in the Double-A Eastern League.
Squirrels Chief Executive Manager Chuck Domino also is the president of the Ironpigs, a Philadelphia Phillies affiliate in the Triple-A International League.
“It’s hard to say the ballpark brings people here,” Domino said. “It’s the experience people have at the ballpark.”
In Allentown, the experience has been positive, said Mayor Ed Pawlowski. “You would think you are looking at a high-definition TV,” he said of the view of the game from throughout the park. Pawlowski thinks the stadium would have had a greater economic benefit if it had been in the heart of the city instead of the outskirts — similar to the debate over where to play ball in Richmond. In fact, Allentown is building a $150 million arena complex downtown for the Philadelphia Flyers minor league hockey franchise.
But the mayor is happy with the experience the Ironpigs give fans at Coca-Cola Park, much as fans have warmed to the Squirrels in their first two seasons at The Diamond.
“They’ve done a really good job in giving us a product that is really attractive to families,” Pawlowski said.
While the experience is similar to what the Squirrels plan at the proposed ballpark, the stadiums wouldn’t look exactly the same.
The brick façade of the proposed stadium along North Boulevard has a similar look to Oriole Park at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, which set the standard for new stadiums with an old-time feel when it opened 20 years ago.
“Everybody felt Richmond would be Richmond brick,” Domino said.
Not coincidentally, Populous, the Kansas City, Mo.-based company that is designing the Squirrels’ proposed nest, is a spinoff of HOK Group, which designed the Orioles’ stadium.
The design compresses the two levels of seating at The Diamond into one level of 6,000 seats close to the field and down from the street level instead of up.
Unlike The Diamond, the Squirrels’ stadium would put spectators all the way around the field — along a grass berm where people can pitch their blankets beyond the outfield; in a picnic area in the right-field corner, where a circular bar also would be perched on the outfield wall; and along an open-air concourse where people could buy a hot dog and still see the field.
Together, these features would add about 3,000 seats to the ballpark, while increasing the number of suites from 15 to 20 and doubling the number of concession stands from 25 to 50. The design is meant to be easier for fans, including people with physical disabilities.
The stadium also is designed to be wired — from a scoreboard that would be capable of showing instant replays, videos or live shots around the ballpark, to the television sets that would show the games throughout the concourse.
“The game will never leave you,” Parnell said.
For the players, including those on Virginia Commonwealth University’s baseball squad, the design includes extensive locker room and training facilities beneath the concourse.
The design is based on a $50 million stadium, which is about what Lehigh Valley paid for Coca-Cola Park four years ago with a combination of funding from Lehigh County, the Ironpigs and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“I happen to believe it is worth the investment,” said Ianelli, who said the stadium has brought “a little bit of swagger” to Lehigh Valley.
“I hate to be a typical Chamber of Commerce Pollyanna guy,” he said, “but everything they said they’d deliver they’ve delivered.”
OiNk LY 9 More Days!