Pendulum gives back to Gastonia Community Kids & Local Heroes
Gastonia Honey Hunters
Gastonia, NC – June 10, 2021– The Gastonia Honey Hunters Baseball Team announced a new initiative that will positively impact communities in Gastonia. Jonathan Cole, Founding Principal of Pendulum Studio, and architect of the CaroMont Ballpark in the FUSE District has entered into an agreement with the Team to purchase season tickets, which will be donated to deserving students or local heroes in the City.
The initiative titled, “Mayor’s Choice Presented by Pendulum” is a three-year commitment for four (4) season tickets to Honey Hunters home games. The seats are located on the front row directly behind home plate, which will provide attendees with the ultimate baseball game experience. In partnership with the City of Gastonia, deserving youth and local residents will be selected to attend each game.
“I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Cole for this substantial contribution to the Gaston community,” said Gastonia’s Mayor Walker E. Reid, III. “Our residents are a precious resource, and it is important that we work together as a community to help them see that they have our support.”
One of the leading minds in the sports facility design world, Jonathan Cole has led design efforts on over 28 minor league ballparks across the nation in the past 25 years.
“We are thrilled to announce our newest community-based initiative and we are delighted to assist the underserved in our community,” said Team Owner Brandon Bellamy. “Through this partnership, we are grateful to Jonathan Cole and Pendulum to be able to provide local residents and youth with this incredible experience.”
Mr. Cole said that the partnership between the City, Brandon Bellamy, and the Honey Hunters inspired him to invest in Gastonia’s future that starts with the youth, specifically youth that may never have had the opportunity to experience a professional sporting event from the front row.
“During the past three years Pendulum has worked with the City of Gastonia, I’ve been impressed with Mayor’s Reid’s consistent vision for the city’s growth and development,” said Jonathan Cole, Pendulum Founding Principal. “The Mayor and Brandon Bellamy have always put emphasis on the fact that the ballpark is for everyone. It is my commitment to build bridges and develop emotional muscle memory that encourages the community to give back to others when they can.”
The donation represents an ongoing commitment by Pendulum Studio to provide support that assists vulnerable populations, which has historically included financial assistance toward disaster relief and recovery, promoting positive relationship skills, and building mental health resiliency.
To nominate a deserving youth or recognize a local hero in the Gaston community, click here.
About Gastonia Honey Hunters Baseball: Located in Gastonia, NC, just minutes west of Charlotte, the Gastonia Honey Hunters is one of the newest teams in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB). The Atlantic League is the first Professional Partner League of Major League Baseball, a leader in baseball innovation, and a player gateway to Major League Baseball. Led by team owner, Brandon Bellamy, a passionate and purpose-driven real estate entrepreneur and CEO of The Velocity Companies, Honey Hunters Baseball aims to provide Gaston County with family-friendly entertainment and first-rate baseball, taking the field for its inaugural season in 2021. The newly-constructed 5,000-seat FUSE ballpark is the team’s home field, offering fans an intimate and memorable experience, as well as a year-long calendar of exciting events, including concerts, sporting events and community celebrations. For more information on Honey Hunters Baseball, please visit www.GoHoneyHunters.com. To sign up for Honey Hunters announcements, please join our mailing list here. Instagram: @GoHoneyHunters; Twitter: @GoHoneyHunters; Facebook: /GoHoneyHunters
About Jonathan O’Neil Cole AIA, NCARB, NOMA: Jonathan O’Neil Cole is the founding principal of Pendulum Studio, a Kansas City, MO based architectural practice that specializes in the design and documentation of civic structures, multi-family housing, and sports facilities. Cole is responsible for national business development, design, and management of sports projects. He has an eye for design that is complimented by his ability to realize in every project the potential to deliver long-term value to his clients and their stakeholders. Cole has developed an expertise in the development of community-oriented designs that foster environmental and economic sustainability. It is for this reason that Cole is considered one of the leading minds in the sports facility design world. For more information, please visit www.pendulumkc.com.
Jonathan Coles auction items to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters KC 2020 “Most Wanted” Auction go live November 12, 2020
The Big Brothers Big Sisters Kansas City (@BBBSKC) 2020 “Most Wanted” Auction opens to the public on November 12th, 2020. As a 2020 “Most Wanted” honoree, Jonathan O’Neil Cole has assembled a collection of sports legend memorabilia for bid that are second to none. Be sure to register to bid on the BBBSKC site by clicking the button below:
Jonathan’s roots in stadium design inspired his collection of auction items that honor sports, music, and creative legends. These legends are from Kansas City and beyond. All items highlight 25 years of nurtured relationships.
Mitchell Bat Company Custom 2015 Royals Painted Baseball Bat
2015 Custom Bat from Pendulum’s Private Collection
In 2015 the Kansas City Royals won the Word Series. In honor of the win Nashville, TN based Mitchell Bat Company – http://mitchellbatco.com – released a series of custom painted baseball bats in the Royals color way. Pendulum’s Jonathan Cole jumped on the opportunity to commission one of the custom bats for his personal collection. This auction is for the custom bat and leather bat hanger.
Sports Legend Clayton Kershaw Autographed Baseball & Los Angeles Dodgers Memorabilia
World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers Memorabilia
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been crowned 2020 Major League Baseball World Series Champions. Clayton Kershaw was a key contributor to the Dodgers’ historic advance to the World Series win.
Pendulum’s Jonathan Cole has nurtured a relationship with the Dodgers’ organization over the years through Janet Marie Smith – current Senior Vice President, Planning and Development. Janet’s career in the sports architecture world is well documented with one of her most famous projects being Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. Janet was very kind in her willingness to facilitate the donation of this authentic autographed Sports Legend Kershaw baseball, Dodgers Stadium 3D model & Jackie Robinson statue on behalf of the Dodgers organization.
Sean Kane Painted Glove – Wood Plank Wall Art: Sports Legend Buck O’Neil
Wood Plank Wall Art – Buck O’Neil Custom Painted Glove
Canadian artist Sean Kane is famous for his period correct custom painted baseball gloves – www.paintedgloves.com. Pendulum’s Jonathan Cole commissioned Kane to paint two custom gloves that are closely linked to two career milestones. The items for auction are photographs of each commissioned glove printed and laminated on wood planks. Each come with certificates of authenticity from the artist.
In 2005, Cole spent time with Mr. O’Neil at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas, TX. Cole was struck by how Mr. O’Neil’s personality lit up the room – “he was just magnetic, there’s not one person that could resist wanting to be around him” said Cole. Cole was inspired to commission a custom Sports Legend Buck O’Neil glove currently on display at the Pendulum headquarters.
Regarding the Buck O’Neil glove Cole stated, “It is especially meaningful to me because Buck is a Kansas City sports legend. I feel the challenges he overcame in baseball are very similar to the challenges I’ve experienced in the profession of architecture. His example inspired me to keep challenging the market, and to keep sharpening my skills. As such we’ve had the privilege of designing a number of amazing ballparks and look forward to more in the future.”
Sean Kane Painted Glove – Wood Plank Wall Art: Sports Legend Hank Greenberg
Wood Plank Wall Art – Hank Greenberg Custom Painted Glove
Sports Legend Hank Greenberg, nicknamed “Hammerin’ Hank” was best known for his tenure with the Detroit Tigers in the 1930s and 40s. As he designed historic Tiger Stadium renovations Cole learned a great deal about Greenberg’s legacy.
Cole was selected to design Dunkin’ Donuts Park in downtown Hartford, CT where Greenberg’s career began. Cole learned that the owner of the Hartford Yard Goats, Josh Solomon, was a huge fan of Greenberg. Upon completion of the construction of the ballpark in 2017, Cole presented Mr. Solomon with a custom painted glove of Hank Greenberg as an opening day gift. This auction item includes a photograph of the painted glove printed and laminated on wood plank for display.
Sports Legend Jimmie Johnson Autographed NASCAR Hat
Jimmie Johnson Autographed Hat – Michigan International Speedway
Rick Brenner, President, Michigan International Speedway, has a long career history in Minor League Baseball. Baseball is where Pendulum’s Jonathan Cole began a relationship with him. As an executive in Minor League Baseball, Brenner led his respective organizations to many prestigious awards throughout his career. In 2010, the Fisher Cats were awarded the Larry MacPhail Award, which recognizes the nation’s best in promotional effort.
Brenner invited Cole to conduct a design study at Michigan International Speedway in 2019. Pendulum completed the installation of a new modular seating solution. Cole attended a race after project completion on June 9 and witnessed Jimmie Johnson compete. Sports Legend Jimmie Johnson is the only race car driver in history to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. He is a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, sharing the all-time record with stock car racing icons Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Johnson is the author of one of the greatest championship runs in sports.
Brenner was kind enough to donate this Jimmie Johnson Autographed Hat for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Most Wanted silent auction.
Sports Legend Marcus Allen Autographed & Framed Jersey with Newspaper
Marcus Allen Autographed Jersey
Bobby & Karen Schumacher, Owners of Vintage Fabrication LLC, an Independence, MO-based classic car customization legend, forged a bond with Pendulum’s Jonathan Cole. This bond began with a commission to design a custom interior for a 1986 Porsche 911 Carrera Targa.
Schumacher, a member of the Kansas City Automotive Museum Executive Board, nominated Cole for a board seat and they now serve on that board together as the museum prepares to embark on a capital campaign for the design and construction of a brand new home in downtown Kansas City. The Schumachers were kind enough to donate this framed and autographed Sports Legend Marcus Allen jersey [including a newspaper from this career era] for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Most Wanted silent auction.
Sports Legend Muhammed Ali Autographed Boxing Gloves
Scott Samson & Ali Autographed Boxing Gloves
The Muhammad Ali autographed boxing gloves are a special donation from Scott Samson; a dear friend, amazing acoustical engineer, and design collaborator. Mr. Samson and Pendulum’s Jonathan Cole forged a friendship beginning with their design collaboration on Fifth Third Field – home of the Class A Dayton Dragons.
In addition to Fifth Third Field, Jonathan and Scott worked together on the design of Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Class AAA Louisville Bats in Louisville, KY. Sports Legend Muhammad Ali was born and raised in Louisville; Mr. Samson’s donation essentially brings the relationship with Cole full circle.
‘Plush Friends’ Mega-Bundle
Plush Friends Mega-Bundle
These soft and huggable 12” furry friends are ready for adventure! They are a perfect gift for the young or young at heart in your life. Chris Evans, executive creative director/partner of Kansas City, MO based SPIRIT! has had a long collaborative relationship with Pendulum’s Jonathan Cole. They’ve worked together on a number of local and national projects. SPIRIT! Is a creative marketing agency dedicated to making kids and families your biggest fans.
Kansas City Music Legend Bobby Watson – Five Autographed Compact Disks
A saxophonist, composer, arranger and educator, Bobby Watson grew up in Kansas City, Kan. He trained formally at the University of Miami, a school with a distinguished and well-respected jazz program. After graduating, he proceeded to earn his “doctorate” on the bandstand – as musical director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.
For more than three decades now Watson has contributed consistently intelligent, and sensitive music to the modern-day jazz lexicon. All told, Watson, the immensely talented and now-seasoned veteran, has issued some 30 recordings as a leader and appeared on 100-plus other recordings, performing as either co-leader or in support of other like-minded musicians. Not simply a performer, the saxophonist has recorded more than 100 original compositions including the music for the soundtrack of A Bronx Tale, which marked Robert DeNiro’s 1993 directorial debut. Numerous Watson compositions have become classics such as his “Time Will Tell,” “In Case You Missed It” and “Wheel within a Wheel,” each now oft-recorded titles that are interpreted by his fellow musicians both on the bandstand and on other recordings.
Pendulum’s Jonathan Cole commissions local jazz musician, producer, and composer Joshua Williams of Behr Productions to arrange custom tracks for various lifestyle and videos releases. Josh has performed with Bobby on numerous occasions and was gracious enough to provide Jonathan with these autographed albums to add to the fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters Kanas City.
Help Jonathan’s campaign for Big Brothers Big Sisters KC
2020 marks the 15th year that Big Brothers Big Sisters Kansas City will host the “Most Wanted Auction” that recognizes 25 Honorees from the Kansas City business community. They have been asked to raise funds and awareness for the benefit local youth. Our CEO, Jonathan O’Neil Cole was recently announced as one of the selected honorees. The video above provides insight on a few of his passions in life and why charitable giving for this very worthy cause is important.
We are challenging all of our friends, collaborators, clients and colleagues to assist us in supporting @BBBSKC. Although we are all negatively impacted by the current COVID19 pandemic we can’t overlook the heightened support needed by our youth…especially now.
November 12, 2020 – Silent Auction Items Available For bid
In the upcoming weeks we’ll start posting digital shorts honoring some of our friends that have already donated funds or silent auction items for the cause – don’t get left out…we’d love to tell your story too!
The Grill Nation Show featuring Jason Grill and Jonathan Cole will air on Saturday July 11, 2020 on KMBZ 980AM and on iTunes. In this clip Cole answers the question “what is your favorite stadium (that you didn’t work on) and why?” It is just a sneak peek of the full conversation that goes into detail about Pendulum’s history, inspirations, emotional muscle memory, and design methodology.
Be sure to tune in on Saturday…this will be a lot of fun!
As founding principal, Jonathan O’Neil Cole has served as managing member and 51% owner of Pendulum, a Kansas City-based architecture firm, since its launch in 2007.As of July 1, 2020 Cole has acquired the remaining 49% balance of company shares and shall continue serving in his role as practice leader and CEO.
“I am honored to be in the position to continue to lead Pendulum in the direction of growth and innovation.While this acquisition is more of a formality, I do believe it will provide a great deal of clarity for our employees, collaborators, and past, present, and future clients.While there are very few things I’d change about our history, we’ve certainly got an extremely bright future ahead of us,” Cole said.
Founded in 2007 in Kansas City, Missouri, Pendulum has gained notoriety in the sports architecture marketplace with the design of thirteen built sports facilities and counting. Of recent note Pendulum teamed with Florida based Fawley Bryant Architecture to complete the design of Cool Today Park, spring training home of the Atlanta Braves. The completion of Cool Today Park in March of 2019 was quickly followed by the two firms being selected to design the renovation of Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, spring training home of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.In addition to sports architecture Pendulum has developed a reputation for the design of unique Kansas City, Missouri commercial buildings including The Guild, RW/2 Studios, and Crosstown Substation.
About Jonathan O’Neil Cole, AIA, NCARB, NOMA
1990 – 1995 California Polytechnic University Pomona, Bachelor of Architecture
1995 HNTB Corporation – Irvine, CA – Design Staff Member
2001 HOK Sport S+V+E – Associate Staff Member
2006 360 Architecture – Architect/Market Leader
2007 Pendulum – Principal
2020 Rethinking The Future Awards – Future Stadia
2019 CSI Award, Innovative Design + Function – Wyco Vintage Broadway Kansas City, Missouri
2019 CSI Award, Visionary Design – Cool Today Park North Port, Florida
2018 CSI Award, Community Investment – The Corner Ballpark Detroit, Michigan
2018 CSI Award, Excellence in Craftsmanship – Dunkin’ Donuts Park Hartford, Connecticut
2018 Hartford Magazine Best Sports Venue – Dunkin’ Donuts Park Hartford, Connecticut
2018 Kansas City Business Journal Coolest Office Award – Pendulum Headquarters Kansas City, Missouri
2017 Ballpark Digest Best Ballpark Award – Dunkin’ Donuts Park Hartford, CT
2017 Baseballparks.com Ballpark of the Year – Dunkin’ Donuts Park Hartford, CT
2017 ACEC Michigan Engineering Eminent Connector Award – Jimmy John’s Field Utica, Michigan
2017 Phoenix Community Impact Award Excellence in Brownfield Redevelopment – Jimmy John’s Field Utica, Michigan
2017 IIDA Mid America Design Silver Award for Renovation & Restoration – Pendulum Headquarters Kansas City, Missouri
2017 NOMA Honor Award, Built Category – Dunkin’ Donuts Park Hartford, Connecticut
2016 Ballpark Digest Best Renovation – AutoZone Park Memphis, Tennessee
2014 EDC Cornerstone Award – Crosstown Substation Kansas City, Missouri
2013 NOMA Design Excellence Citation – RW/2 Studio & The Guild Kansas City, Missouri
2013 EDC Cornerstone Award for Residential Building – East Village Apartments Kansas City, Missouri
Our first award goes to Wyco Vintage located at 3535 Broadway Blvd Unit R104 Kansas City, MO 64111. Wyco Vintage owner Pat Klima is well known for having the largest curated collection of vintage tees in the world. His team’s resourcefulness and passion for the culture grew into an assembly of collectible art, clothing, sneakers, and brands that include Supreme New York, Off-White, and Nike Air Jordan just to name a few. When Pat and partner Adam Compo reached out to Pendulum with an idea to move from their storefront in Merriam, KS to the new Broadway Blvd location just a few blocks from downtown we started with a sit down at our studio (see image below…discussion and deep thought) – “we immediately vibed off of each other’s energy and critical eye” said Pendulum founding principal Jonathan Cole. There’s a lot that could be said about the process and journey from conversation to lines on paper, to virtual reality model, to the final built product. The entire process took about six weeks; yes…we hustled.
Cole commented further, “one of the cool things about this project was being exposed to Pat’s breadth of knowledge of the vintage culture, he’s plugged in beyond trends, the entire team has a nose for authenticity that is refreshing. We got on a wavelength rather quickly that resulted in us finishing each other’s sentences…Pat is ten years ahead…which is exactly where I like to think I am.”
Wyco Vintage is hands down the rightful recipient of the “Hustler of the Year Award”. Since opening their doors October 17, 2019, they’ve brought a new energy to the vintage and sneaker culture in Kansas City – we can’t think of a storefront like it. As Wyco’s notoriety has increased there’s been notable celebrity foot traffic in the store from NFL stars to internationally recognized musicians. As far as we are concerned Wyco Vintage needs to be on everyone’s radar, not as up and comers but real hustlers and movers and shakers in the game.
When asked to comment on the award, Wyco Vintage owner Pat Klima stated “I Appreciate Pendulum for recognizing the work our team has been putting in. The last year was our best yet and 2020 is already off to an insane start. This acceleration wouldn’t be possible without the design and expertise Pendulum provided in building out the store. The number one compliment we get at the shop is “you guys have the nicest store”. We can’t wait to start working on the next location with the Pendulum squad!”
As designers, awards are highly coveted in recognition of our vision and as acknowledgment from our peers and colleagues for a job well done. When our projects win our clients win – they share in the bragging rights, but we’ve decided to take that sentiment a step further. Pendulum is pleased to announce the launch of the “Pendulum Client Awards”. We will nominate and select three clients from the previous year for their accomplishments in their individual market segments, their vision, and overall willingness to collaborate with us on the execution of designs that we believe in.
We’ll announce the first of three awards on January 30, 2020 at 10 AM CST.
Brewery Emperial is one of those projects that is best described by experiencing it. The next time you’re in the Kansas City Creative Crossroads be sure to stop in a grab a pint, let it all soak in. In fact…call us we’ll meet you there and have a pint of that good brew too.
Click the rotating image above to take the virtual tour of the project. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements, more projects will be added.
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!