It’s interesting what you stumble across on the Internet. A few days ago, Turambar pointed me in the direction of the website belonging to MEIS Architects, including what appeared to be a prototype for a Chase Field replacement. Company founder, Dan Meis, has a long track record of designing sports and entertainment facilities, with previous projects including Staples Center, Safeco Field, FC Cincinnati’s MLS Stadium and Everton FC’s new Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium. Locally, he also designed the Comerica (formerly Dodge) Theater in downtown Phoenix. So if a new ballpark was being considered by the D-backs, he would certainly seem to be one of the most obvious ‘go-to’ guys.
According to the page, the clients were listed as the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the date of the project given as 2019. This implied it was indeed an “officially” requested plan, rather than an unsolicited set of designs. I wrote to both the company and the team to ask for more information or comments on the project in question. [Interestingly, within a couple of hours of doing so, the page was no longer present.] The architects did not respond, but the team provided us with the following statement:
As we continue to do our due diligence, we interviewed a number of architecture firms to understand possibilities both for renovation of Chase Field and a potential new stadium, if and when the time is needed. We have never seen this design and we continue to consider all options to ensure the best long-term home for the D-backs and our fans.
This seems a reasonable explanation. Indeed, when we had been discussing this, Turambar said more or less exactly that to me: “It’s probably just a collective ‘kicking the tires,’ and this firm may have been one of several asked to produce some kind of concept.” However, it does tell us that the team are at least considering the possibility of a new stadium. And regardless of the intent, it’s fascinating to see what any potential replacement might look like. Below is an extract of what the now-deleted website page had to say about the proposed new stadium, along with some of the illustrations accompanying it.
The venue is designed to contain approximately 38,000 seats, 40 luxury suites, 4,000 club/premium seats and a retractable roof. Having the bowl nestled into the rocky terrain gives the ballpark a sense of belonging, helps save on structural costs and allows for fan seating to be located against the cliff, providing spectators with unparalleled views of the surrounding landscape. Both radial and linear retractable roof options were studied, with the roof serving a dual role of providing comfort from Arizona’s extreme outside temperatures, and when opened, shading the adjacent 365-day, mixed-use climate-controlled plazas.
The most concerning thing about the mock-ups, personally, is seeing that vuvuzelas will apparently be permitted at Chase Field 2.0. :) I imagine these proposals were requested, following the deal struck last May between the Diamondbacks and Maricopa County. This allowed the team to start looking for a new home immediately. Under the terms of the deal, “If the team found a location in Maricopa County, the team could leave Chase Field without penalty in 2022, five years earlier than the team’s current contract. If the new stadium was built on tribal land, the team would pay the same taxes as currently charged at Chase Field.”
One uncertainty would, of course, be the park’s location. This plan contains no specifics as to that - though the mention of a cliff is interesting. However, the two spots more frequently mentioned are both owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. One is near the suggested location of Phoenix Rising’s MLS expansion park (if that comes to pass), where the Loop 101 freeway intersects with the 202 in Tempe. The other is slightly further north, close to where the Diamondbacks already have their spring training facility at Salt River Fields. Both would put West-side fans (raises hand) at a disadvantage, but would be more convenient for the richer parts of town, such as the Scottsdale corridor.
Perhaps related, capacity is listed as 38,000, more than ten thousand below the current figure at Chase Field. This is line with the recent evolution of baseball parks: the last three to open, for the Twins, Marlins and Braves, have room for an average of 38,790. It has been no secret that the team has considered Chase Field too large for a while, exploring ways to reduce its size more than five years ago. Nothing came of those, and the park has been less than one-third full for multiple games already, bottoming out this season at a crowd of 15.449 on April 11 against the Padres. A smaller park could improve the game atmosphere, and potentially team revenue - because it wouldn’t be the expensive seats which are lost.
The question of how much something like this might cost also comes to mind. Those three recent parks had construction costs of $555 million (Target Field), $634 million (Marlins Park) and $622 million (SunTrust Park) - though only the Marlins’ field has a retractable roof, as is called for in this design. Its cost works out at about $700 million in current dollars. For football stadia, a retractable roof adds $100-150 million to the price-tag, and it seems reasonable to presume a similar amount for a baseball park. Adding that to the cost of the most recent park in Atlanta, would get us to around $750 million - roughly twice the cost of the $364 million it ended up costing to build Chase Field in the nineties.
One thing I noticed, and which I liked, was how considerably more “open” the park feels, with the roof down. A frequent complaint about Chase Field is how it feels like an aircraft hangar. With the roof open, it remains a gigantic box and even the open panels provide a breathtaking view of... the car park on the North side of Jefferson. Based on the design plans, the new stadium would offer considerably better vistas, though I’m not exactly sure how the retractable roof would function in this regard. The arches shown in the exterior view of the first image above also enhance the overall airy feel, and stands in contrast to the rather bunker-like look of Chase Field.
The second picture perhaps give the best idea of how the roof might operate. Based on that it would appear to be a fan-shape, running on rails and perhaps overhanging some of the exterior. Though in turn, that makes me wonder about how “sealed” the park might be, an important factor in considering air-conditioning. The remaining pictures provide general exterior shots, and seem reminiscent of Salt River Fields, with its desert landscaping. I’m also pleased to report that another picture does show a swimming pool beyond the outfield, so at least that tradition appears to have been carried forward to this new design! But what do you think about the suggested new park?