Dunkin’ Donuts Park Opening Day – Yes…We’re Still In Love With The Ballpark

The most common question I get from people when they find out I design ballparks is: “which ballpark is your favorite?”.  I always respond the same way because it’s true, “ballparks are like your children, you love them all”. The unspoken truth is that from time to time there’s one that rises above the rest, but still, the right answer is “you love them all”.

A habit I’ve developed over the last 24 years in the business is to go back to ballparks I’ve designed to check on how they’ve held up.  Reconnecting with my friends in the front office (the operators) is something I’ve found a lot of joy in.  When you think about it, who better to give feedback on the design than the people who live in the ballpark everyday?  In an even greater sense, it’s rare to share a more intimate experience with a stranger than being in each other’s company on a weekly basis for months  dealing with the stresses of the design process, budgeting, the intensity of the construction phase, and the feeling of joy after the work is complete; it’s a process that most people will never understand until they experience it, and the truth of the matter is very few people are afforded that opportunity.

I’ve been back to Dunkin’ Donuts Park at least ten times since its completion. Every time I’ve been I’ve enjoyed a surprising calm, free of the nervous anticipation I typically have when I visit some of my other past projects.  This warrants further explanation… The reality is, once the front office takes occupancy of the ballpark, It’s no longer under my control.  I don’t have the authority to influence what happens to the design after spending months nurturing it and well over a year monitoring developments during construction. To add insult to injury, after a season or two it’s been long enough that when I check in at the front desk no one even remembers who I am.  It’s no longer my ballpark, it’s theirs…sometimes that hurts.  Dunkin’ Donuts Park is different.  Every time I’m at or around the ballpark I feel at home, almost like I never left.  That’s a HUGE testament to the ownership of Josh Solomon and the leadership in the front office with Tim Restall and Mike Abramson.

I was invited to attend the final home game of the 2018 season at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.  As usual I walked from the heart of downtown, across Interstate 84, and straight up Main Street to the intersection of Main & Trumbull. The first thing that always catches my eye is the custom billboards above the “Retro Brands Team Store”. This design feature is special to me because we had to fight for it.  Believe it or not it wasn’t me fighting the owner; Josh Solomon was always on board 100%. Josh and I had to team up and convince the staff that we weren’t crazy. I won’t say they hated the idea… but they certainly didn’t love it.  In all honesty I think the hesitation was more related to nervousness about “the unknown”; the reality is we were taking a leap with this one. Nobody else in MiLB had this, so the advice from MANY folks inside and outside our circle was to save the money and pass on the idea. I have to give Josh credit… I will never forget the conference call as we planned the photo shoot for the billboards. Someone said, “let’s pass on this idea”… and Josh said, “It’s time to step up and take the shot guys… we are doing this, so get on board.”  The next thing you know the photo shoot is set with Internationally known photographers “The Wade Brothers” and the Yard Goats are shipping merchandise to Kansas City for the shoot.

Downtown Hartford has been bisected by I-84 for quite some time. It disconnects the northern portion of downtown from the southern two-thirds of downtown where the bulk of traditional urban retail, commercial businesses and entertainment exist. We encouraged the City of Hartford to site Dunkin’ Donuts Park in it’s current location to link the north and south with a visual terminating point. The ballpark anchors new development and increases pedestrian foot traffic, thus breathing life into the virtually abandoned edge of downtown. Instead of designing billboards that celebrate star athletes, as is typically done, we dressed everyday people of all shapes, sizes, and racial backgrounds in Yard Goats merchandise with the simple messaging “No Goats No Glory”. Our crazy idea was to celebrate the urban nature of our site while sending the important message that you don’t have to be an athlete to be great. You can be anyone from the neighborhood, just work hard and aspire to be great.  Our plan worked out brilliantly because Main Street, as you walk across Interstate 84 visually
terminates right into the billboards; you just can miss the message. We placed additional billboards along Pleasant Street (north boundary of the site), which just happens to be across the street from an elementary school.  The simple message there reads “Be Amazing”.

After passing the Main Street billboard I walked toward the VIP entry, checked in at the front desk, then went upstairs to the premium level. As usual I made a bee-line to the outdoor club seats behind home plate to take a seat and let it all soak in. This is my favorite pregame spot to capture a panoramic view of the seating inventory throughout the park. This is the time when the team is warming up on the field, the guys in the video production room are running through graphic programming for the game and staff is finishing last-minute pregame tasks… the calm before the storm when the gates open to the public and it’s time to play ball.

Once the gates open at 6pm I typically head indoors to the YG Club to see how the early crowd (pre-game parties and groups) use the space.  The unobstructed view of the field from inside the club behind home plate encourages patrons to lounge between the bar and the open seating without feeling like they’re missing anything. The club is certainly one of my favorite features of the ballpark because it has the right energy. We purposefully designed the space for light levels, interior finishes feel dark enough to be just above a night club but not so bright that you feel like you’re in a cafeteria… it’s right in the pocket. The addition of the carving station that serves prime rib sandwiches was a nice move by the Yard Goats this season, it really contributes to the deliberate upscale feel of the club. It’s clear by the way people use the space that they feel comfortable and at home.

At around 7:15pm, the starting lineup had been announced and the national anthem had been performed. Although this was the 47th sellout of the season the seating bowl seemed to only be half full. It’s not because people weren’t there but because patrons were navigating the concourse and enjoying the many strategically placed activation spaces throughout.  Each of the concession stands were branded to pay tribute to Hartford, CT history. “Dark Blues Diner” gives a nod to the Negro League team that played in Hartford in 1874 to 1876: The Hartford Dark Blues.  “Huck’s Hot Corner” is a play on words honoring The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Samuel Clemons (Mark Twain) whose childhood home remains a historic landmark in Hartford.  “The Whistle Stop” is a locomotive themed food cart that references the “New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company” that operated in the New England region of the United States from 1872 to 1968.  There’s “Reggae In Right” which is a food cart celebrating Hartford’s Caribbean culture.  The cart, on the upper deck in right field, offers items from Scotts’ Jamaican Bakery, a family owned local business with deep Jamaican roots. Another local favorite is “Bear’s Smokehouse Barbecue” which occupies a purpose-built casual dining area in the left field corner. I can still remember the spirited design discussions with the team about the desire to create destinations on the concourse that contribute to the “emotional muscle memory” of the patrons. The plumes of BBQ scented smoke in the air, the sweet smell of Dunkin’ Donuts glaze… it’s all part of the experience that generates a time stamp in our minds, it’s these sensory memories that keep us coming back to the ballpark. The traditional peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jack offerings will never be replaced but the emergence of innovative and regional options is a definite move toward the future.

At 7:30PM I headed toward the outfield group areas. Along the way I stopped off at the Beer bat stand. This is an added feature this season and another example of the Yard Goats’ willingness to enhance the fan experience by collaborating with local business.  A local cup company that uses architects to design interesting vessels for drinks in Las Vegas pitched the Goats on cups shaped like everything from goats to trash cans as a novelty item. Yard Goats President and 2017 Eastern League Executive of the Year Tim Restall said, “what about a full size bat?”.  The rest is history… and people are absolutely loving it! $9 buys an empty bat, $19 buys a bat full of beer, and you can refill the bat for $10. The promotion was such a hit that people who purchased a bat on a Monday returned later in the week on Thursday and kept the party going!

As I walked around the left field foul pole, the group area right below the scoreboard is the first section of seating I encountered. That we chose to design the bowl without a grass seating berm feature is one of those decisions that many people questioned, but to this day I think was the right move.  Dunkin’ Donuts Park is urban, so I’ve always thought about the seating bowl as a bunch of small neighborhoods. Home plate and behind the dugouts is where the baseball purists sit for an authentic experience. The third baseline just below “Bear’s BBQ Pit” is a super cool section of seating called “Dunkin’ Dugout” that the Yard Goats donate to community groups every game. The left field foul pole seats were always in our plan to be the rowdy section of the park. Technically speaking, the seats are only five feet above the playing field surface with only a wire mesh rail separating patrons from players. This is next to the visitor bullpen that is just below the “Connecticare Picnic Pavilion” which terminates right into the center field batter’s eye. The entire outfield from the left field foul pole to the “Travelers Kids Fun Zone” was designed to feel totally different from behind home plate; it’s reminiscent of a smaller version of the outfield bleachers at Wrigley Field.  When walking through “Travelers Kids Fun Zone” and heading towards right-center field the ballpark transforms to a double-deck area that again wraps itself around the home team bullpen (which is also visible from outside the secure line as you walk along Trumbull Street). This area was inspired by Fenway Park that very similarly exists within a very tight footprint.  We emulated Fenway’s steel shapes and narrow concourses with the entire area of seating behind protective netting.  Home runs that are hit in shallow right field must be hit over the 250’ long video display that serves as the edge of the approximately 650 fixed seats and open concourse, roughly 24’ above the playing field surface.  At the end of the right field concourse directly behind the foul pole our stroll ended at the “Hanging Hills Short Porch”.  We decided to poke fun at ourselves a bit for having such a short porch, so we ran the foul line all the way though the bar and up the wall.

Before I headed upstairs to the upper right field seating I stopped off at “Sheriff Tim’s Patty Wagon” a freshly made burger stand that was added this season. This is located right below the elevated premium seating area I affectionately refer to as “The Knuckle”, which is technically called “The Hartford Terrace”. I still prefer “The Knuckle” but I get the sponsorship angle for sure.  This is one of my favorite locations on the main concourse, entering the main gates of the park, it’s the first view of the field that hits you. This spot is flanked by the main stair tower that supports the massive “Dunkin’ Donuts Park” naming rights sign on the left, the “Retro Brand Team Store” on the right as well as the game day starting lineup. This is the best place to people watch and listen to conversations and reactions as people walk in and around the concourse. On that particular night I heard a gentleman, an obvious out-of-towner, say, “Wow! Hartford did it right! They didn’t overbuild, it’s not too big… it’s perfect!”. I think his read was right on point.

It was time to navigate the final leg of my lap around the ballpark before heading to the Owner’s suite for a check in with the family and then back downstairs to the dugout suites to watch the annual end of season concert (more on that later). I always find it interesting to analyze the way patrons use the ballpark once construction is complete and I’ve moved on.  Although we originally envisioned the right field upper deck seating as a means to an end to get to the right capacity, the area has actually become the hang out spot for young professionals. As I stood at the Budweiser standing tables that Tim Restall brilliantly added this season, I noticed a swarm of people arriving from the center field stair tower. They made a quick pit stop at the “Budweiser Sky Bar”, positioned directly above the batter’s eye screen, grabbed a drink at the bar and then circulated the upper concourse. This area is a heavily trafficked millennial haven that was my second favorite place to people watch and listen to casual conversation. By the time the game had progressed to the top of the seventh inning the upper concourse and seating was jam-packed, so much so that it became hard to see the field below due to the constant traffic and hordes of milling patrons. It was time to work my way to the Owner’s suite. It was perfect timing because the artist that was to perform the post-game concert had made their way to the suite and we stuck around for a bit talking about the music we grew up on.

At the end of the 2017 season the Yard Goats booked hip hop legend Curtis Blow,2018 year they had a double feature of Black Sheep and DJ Kool. It’s endearing to me that the team is 100% in tune with the surrounding community. We’ve all worked with people in the business with “attitudes” and that’s absolutely not what we’re talking about with team owner Josh Solomon and his family. Josh is tough, a business man, but fair, authentic and genuine. He surrounds himself with like-minded people and I appreciate that. There were many times during the stadium design that we had tough conversations (real talk), direct conversations, and sometimes weird stressful situations based on the goings on of the project that are well documented in the local Hartford news journals. Even so, we always had respect amongst the group and a genuine desire to extract the absolute best out of everyone involved in the project.

The post-game concert was a blast! The crowd was engaged and the artist was exactly like I remembered: seasoned veterans of the game with the ability to move the crowd with classic hip hop tunes… an incredible way to end the season.  The Yard Goats didn’t make the playoffs but honestly, I don’t think it really matters.  The citizens of Hartford came out and supported the home team, selling out seven more games than the season before and I’d be willing to bet money that they’ll sell out at least ten more games in 2019… that’s how much I believe in the people behind the brand.  I can honestly say without hesitation that I am still in love with every inch of Dunkin’ Donuts Park. To be clear: it’s not just because I designed it, this feeling is much bigger than that.  It’s the staff, the community, the passion of the ownership, it’s their willingness to put themselves out there every game and present themselves as just that much better than their counterparts.  I will forever be a fan.

So to the good folks within the Yard Goat organization, have a great season…keep breaking records.  It’s no mistake that “The Dunk” was voted best ballpark 2017 and 2018.  The 2019 season is upon us – let’s get it!

Credits:

Lee Frommelt: Copy Editor

The Hartford Yard Goats: Community Advocates

Photography: Robert Benson Photography

 

 

 

Design Is Everywhere Volume 01 – Launch From The Hive


We’re launching a new series that explores the many aspects of daily life that influence our designs. As we release each volume in the series you’ll notice that we often reference “the process”, that is deliberate. We find it interesting that as designers our natural tendency is to hide our process, we don’t want our audience to know the steps it took to arrive at a final thought…we project the idea that our first thought was perfect, as if we are perfect, yet reality is quite the opposite.  Our best designs are the product of collaboration.  It is the result of our willingness to be influenced by the things we see, hear, and smell, the people we surround ourselves with (our circle) that are chipping away at the same block of ice that we are but from a slightly different vantage point.  It’s the applied pressure from our circle that challenge us to do better and be better, even when we get deal fatigue*.

Tinker Hatfield & Jordan 3
Gehry Residence 1978
Museo Guggenheim Bilbao

What is most interesting about the concept of “deal fatigue” is that it is a phenomenon only experienced by the designer.  The end-user/consumer is never exposed to the steps associated with getting from point A (the beginning), to point B (the end), so this concept is foreign to them.
The consumer in general sees something they like, and they go buy it.  The designer in contrast has to create, edit, market, and sell the idea.  Think about it – how many different versions of the Air Jordan 3 do you think Tinker Hatfield studied before he pitched Michael Jordan who was at the time frustrated with Nike and considering leaving the brand?  The end result was Tinker’s design and it saved the day…the rest is history.  How many attempts in material study did it take for famed architect Frank Gehry to arrive at Museo Guggenheim Bilbao?  When you think about it, his trajectory toward use of a material that defies gravity started with chain link fence.  A very simple, affordable, and readily available sheet good that is pliable in multiple directions.  “The process” of study, trial and error eventually led him to the use of titanium which is also a pliable sheet good…but not as readily obtainable, much more expensive, but perfect for the application.  The end result is architecture that inspires us to aspire to challenge conventional methodology.

As an owner of an architectural firm, I’ve noticed amongst young talent the hesitancy to expose the process.  There’s this gravitational pull toward putting on our headphones and hiding in our cocoons and spending hours upon hours cranking way on what we think is the perfect solution.  It almost seems as if what’s really being taught at universities is the idea of self-reliance as a path to success which cheats the process. I’ve seen MANY portfolios in interviews where I look at the finished product and think to myself “wow, this is impressive”, only to realize that the individual was working in their cocoon all by themselves for the better part of a year to produce something that in real-time we’d have to produce in a couple of weeks.  It’s the most difficult adjustment for young talent to make…the transition from theory to real-time which is about twenty times faster.

I’ve concluded that the cocoon that we all gravitate toward climbing in as a default is really our safe place that protects us from vulnerability.   I think the people most successful at breaking boundaries, innovating, and generating new ideas are the people who are OK with exposing their vulnerability.  Those that are OK with looking a little weird or sounding a little crazy.  They are not afraid to be excited or show genuine emotion for the people around them that are exploding with talent.  They let their fears push them ahead rather than stand in front of them and impede forward progress.  The “Design Is Everywhere” series is our gesture of stepping outside of our cocoon and exposing you to the things we encounter on a daily basis that inspire us, the people in our circle that push us, the highs of challenging the market and our competitors, the inevitable lows of missing the mark, and yes – the occasional occurrence of crazy.

We are not afraid…let’s get it!

Stay tuned for Volume 02 of “Design Is Everywhere” – Sportswear Passion.

Footnotes:

*  Deal fatigue is a term used to describe the point of mental and physical exhaustion when working on a project because for various reasons often out of the designer’s control, the project seems as if it will not come to completion.  

Credits:

Lee Frommelt – Copy Editor

 

Pendulum Press Release 8/11/2017

Pictured: Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford, CT.

Photo Credit: Robert Benson Photography

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hartford, Conn., August 11, 2017 – Dunkin’ Donuts Park, home of the Colorado Rockies’ Eastern League affiliate Hartford Yard Goats, has been awarded BaseballParks.com’s “Ballpark of the Year”.  The award was announced in the August 9th edition of USA TODAY Sports Weekly by Joe Mock, webmaster and founder of BaseballParks.com and frequent contributor to USA TODAY.

This prestigious honor has been awarded to new or substantially renovated ballparks for the last 18 years, and this year in particular featured formidable competition. Dunkin’ Donuts Park was selected from an all-star cast of facilities including SunTrust Park, the new home of the Atlanta Braves, and The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the spring training home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.

Jonathan Cole, founding principal of Kansas City, MO-based Pendulum, was Architect of Record for Dunkin’ Donuts Park.  He was joined by key members of the design team including Peter Newman, principal of Newman Architects and The S/L/A/M Collaborative’s Rick Bouchard, Chris Sziabowski, and Derek Czenczelewski on the pregame announcement with Joe Mock on the Yard Goats’ radio broadcast.

“As Architects and designers, we work diligently to make positive contributions to the built environment” said Cole.  “When our work is recognized as being significant in the sports marketplace, in the local community, and nationally by an institution like BaseballParks.com, it is incredibly meaningful. Joe Mock has visited 349 ballparks and counting, so when he and his distinguished panel say a ballpark is good, it carries a lot of weight. We are deeply appreciative of this honor.  It’s something we’ll never forget. It was even more special that we were able to be present with the team when it was announced.”

Joe Mock added “I actually visited the ballpark while it was still under construction. I could tell immediately that it was going to be something special.  When I came back to check out the finished product, I was blown away.  Not only is it supremely fun to attend a Yard Goats game, the design of the park itself is spectacular. It has the intimacy of small Minor League park, while providing all the amenities of a big-league stadium. From the YG Club behind home plate to the Budweiser Sky Bar high above center field, every inch of Dunkin’ Donuts Park is well-thought-out and expertly designed. This really sets the bar for any Minor League park to be built in the future.”

Dunkin’ Donuts Park now joins an elite list of award recipients, including Major League Baseball stadium icons like AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, and PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“The design of Dunkin’ Donuts Park is timeless, a generous mix of the baseball nostalgia, that people love coupled with forward thinking amenities that offer our fans a big-league experience in a very compact footprint,” added Josh Solomon, owner of the Yard Goats.  “The fact that the ballpark is creating the excitement that we hoped it would with the fans, which will lead to further transformation of the surrounding neighborhoods, is proof that the city of Hartford picked the right design team for the job.”

“Dunkin’ Donuts Park is a spectacular ballpark that combines the intimate, family-friendly feel of Minor League ball with the architectural quality of a big-league park,” according to Hartford’s Mayor Luke Bronin. “That’s one of the reasons Yard Goats games are selling out week after week and bringing thousands of fans and families to the downtown, which really adds to the City’s energy. It’s an honor to have BaseballParks.com recognize that the result truly stands out among parks across the country, including several Major League facilities.”

-end-

Contact:

  • Pendulum: Jonathan O’Neil Cole AIA, NCARB, NOMA
    • jonathan@Pendulumkc.com
    • (816) 399-5251
  • S/L/A/M Collaborative: Derek Czenczelewski
    • dczenczelewski@slamcoll.com
    • (860) 368-2371
  • Newman Architects: Howard Hebel
    • hhebel@newmanarchitects.com
    • (203) 772-1990

Pendulum’s 10 Year Anniversary Video – Part 02 “Time To Take A Swing”

We close out our 10 year anniversary celebration with one last look at our founding principals discussing entrepreneurship and life after it being “time to take a swing“.

Acknowledgements:

  • Carlos Lima Photography: Camera work and editing
  • Behr Productions: Original music and production
  • Steve Paul: KC Star article released September 2008
  • Competitors: Fuel

Hartford, CT Planning & Zoning Commission Votes In Favor of Special Use Permit For DoNo Stadium

Pendulum/Newman Architects/SLAM Collaborative were selected by the City of Hartford, CT to design the proposed new Class AA Eastern League ballpark for the New Britain Rock Cats who intend to relocate to the proposed new Downtown North Hartford Development (DoNo) for the 2016 season.  After several weeks of testimony and revisions to satisfy conditions of approval the commission unanimously voted this evening in favor of granting a special use permit allowing the proposed stadium to proceed as designed at the intersection of Main and Trumbull.  The following images illustrate our progress with the stadium design to date.

JC2_2

Aerial view at the corner of Trumbull and Windsor

JC3_2

View at the corner of Main and Trumbull

JC4_2

Main Street elevation at dusk

JC5_2

Home plate entry view at the corner of Main and Pleasant

JC1_2

Aerial view at the corner of Windsor and Pleasant

Incorporation Day – Seven Year Anniversary!

Project Collage

When Devan and I started Pendulum the industry standard was three years before you’d be considered a real business.  As the economic downturn reared its ugly head five years was the new normal…and now we hear ten is what it takes before the industry takes you seriously.  Well, 5/18/2014 made seven years in the game and the Pendulum is still swinging.  Are we real?  I guess that depends on who you talk to, but as the resident realist I will say that it has been an honor to contribute to the built environment with the projects featured in the collage above.  In behalf of our naysayers and despite our reputation for upsetting the apple cart I suppose we’ll hold off on having any major parties until year ten, but in the meantime we’ll keep grinding, hustling, competing, growing, and broadening our horizons…the next evolution for us is right around the corner.

Many thanks to all of our families, friends, staff, clients, and collaborators for inspiring us to keep it moving.

Rooftop Hospitality

Although “there’s no place like home” – the thought of using a public toilet facility doesn’t seem so bad when it’s in a smart design with clean lines surrounded by beautiful landscape.

10 East 13th Street Kansas City, MO 64106 - 6th Floor

Although “there’s no place like home” – the thought of using a public toilet facility doesn’t seem so bad when it’s in a smart design with clean lines surrounded by beautiful landscape.

Green roofs in Kansas City are impacting the economy as well as the environment in a positive way. In early 2009 the City of Kansas City, MO expressed interest in converting an existing green roof in the Power & Light District above Constantino’s Market parking garage into a revenue generating multi-purpose outdoor event space.  Although sedum fields and concrete walking paths were installed during the initial build, pedestrian lighting and public toilet facilities were not in the budget.  The lack of these features made the City’s proposed enhanced use of the green space difficult to achieve due to code regulated occupancy requirements.

Pendulum Studio was retained by the Cordish Company and tasked with developing several concepts that would comply with code requirements, accommodate heavy daily use, and be ready for occupancy by the spring of 2010.  Our initial design methodology was geared toward a partially off-grid modular solution – constructing the building in two pieces off site then hoisting them into place by crane.  Although this approach was intriguing to all parties involved, it was decided that a more traditional “bricks & mortar” approach was most appropriate for this application.  One of the keys to our design solution was the selection of materials and colors inside and out that would withstand public use but avoid looking institutional.  We achieved this by incorporating SIL-LEED cementitious board on the exterior.  It’s gold color contrasted by the adjacent dark metal cladding compliments the limestone and glass buildings in the background.  The use of soft colored subway tiles accented by charcoal banding and strategically placed lighting on the interior gives off a warm and inviting vibe.

Next Steps…
Although we did not implement our modular concept on this project, we have not given up on our quest.  In fact, this rooftop project is really a predecessor to our shipping container based modular toilet facility soon to be completed.  We are now working toward the delivery of four new off-grid modules equipped with solar cells, battery storage, and rain water collection for a municipal client at 50% of the hard construction cost of the traditional “bricks & mortar” method.  Stay tuned for more info in an upcoming issue of Pen & Ink.

Photographs by Iiams Images