For Immediate Release – The Pendulum Conversation Continues

 

The Fuse District Vision – Gastonia, NC

As we progress closer to the completion of the Fuse District Sports Complex scheduled to open in 2021, Our CEO pauses for a moment to look forward.  We applaud the City of Gastonia, NC for their ability to “see the finish line before the race ever started.”

 Thank you for your willingness to trust the process and collaborate with us on your personal version of the  “Small Big Idea.”

Acknowledgements:

Behr Productions – Original Music Score

City of Gastonia – Vision

 

Pendulum Celebrates 13 Year Anniversary!

May 18, 2020 was the 13th anniversary of the launch of Pendulum.  Under normal circumstances we’d be gearing up for an amazing party with friends and close collaborators but these aren’t normal times with COVID-19 forcing the globe to proceed with caution.

Even though we can’t gather together in one place, our CEO Jonathan O’Neil Cole shared a few words about what this year means to him.

Many thanks to our staff, clients, close collaborators for fueling our ability to keep swinging.

Shout outs:

Behr Productions – music score

 

Public Assembly Spaces Post COVID-19, Brief Thoughts on a Path Forward

Published April 17, 2020

“What if we don’t get public assembly back, i.e. live sports…I’m not sure a virtual experience can replace the real thing.  Is there/should there be a middle ground between negativity, caution, optimism, and gaslighting as we move forward?”

I posed this question to fifteen of my most trusted colleagues, mentors, and friends with experience, expertise, and varying ages within industries that include the following:

  • Minor League Baseball (MiLB) operations
  • Minor League Baseball (MiLB) executives
  • Minor League Baseball (MiLB) ownership
  • Art/Fabrication 
  • National Football League (NFL) Season Ticket Holder/Rabid Fan
  • Retired Police Officer/Private Security 
  • Chef/Restauranteur/Hospitality 
  • NASCAR Executive
  • Manufacturing/Modular Construction
  • Corporate Executive
  • Data Analyst
  • Marketing/Sponsorship & Sales 
  • Private Equity Management 
  • Luxury Retail
  • Four Time NCAA Soccer Champion

For those that are not aware, the term “gaslighting” is defined as: “a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgement.”  

There are certainly some that believe “gaslighting” with the goal of getting things “back to normal” for the purposes of boosting the economy, even at the risk of encouraging the public to act as if COVID-19 never happened, is hazardous.  I tend to agree that if municipal and government authorities say tomorrow, it’s now safe to leave our homes, we shouldn’t just throw caution to the wind and go back to life as we knew it thirty days ago.  The real question from a public assembly perspective, and as designers of public assembly spaces, i.e. ballparks, stadiums, and arenas; what is the most reasonable path forward?

Question Answered

Let’s start with the responses I received:

  • “We will get public assembly back some day – humans crave it.  My guess is that things will be almost normal from that perspective sometime in or around October.”
  • We will get it back.  It’s basic human nature.  Eventually we will sacrifice a few to maintain the herd!  It may seem cruel but we need each other.  We’re stronger as a collective.”
  • “Great question.  I think the answer lies in the questions that are being asked.  We are asking, how can we entertain our fans in different ways?  What are the frustrations our fans are going through and how can we solve them?  How can we deliver fun and entertainment by looking at ourselves as a media company instead of just a live entertainment company?  People will get back together in large gatherings at some point.  The key will be not just who survives right now but who thrives now by dramatically increasing their social presence and their entertainment for their fans. Our entire team is producing now and contributing ideas and content for our fans.  New shows are being launched, new platforms, and new ideas we’ve never considered. Ballparks may have to open 50% capacity and change how they do lines, concessions and seating.  I want to think about not necessarily lowering people but spreading them out and using the stadium differently.  Thinking temporary seating options, using outfield, etc.”
  • “I would first like to know what the NFL will do with my season ticket money!  My thought would first be that independent sports (like golf), or one on one events (like tennis and boxing), will make the first rebound.  Before the pandemic, television productions had gotten so good that many people would bypass the live event for the comfort of home.  I think they can creatively produce a TV product worth watching without crowds.  I don’t think video games will ever replace the real thing.  Things like Madden are only good because it uses the names of the real people we love to watch.”
  • “Too much money being lost by super rich folks for that to not happen.  I expect when things open up there will be an initial requirement for face covering.”
  • “I think there’s kinda three ways to go about this whole thing…one is hoping and praying that things go back to normal sometime soon based ONLY on the fact that the government wants to get things back open.  People that either don’t know or don’t care if they get sick or are willing to risk it will just go about life as normal….those people are out there, believe me.  If I open up tomorrow we’d be full.  The second option is to go super small…if new mandates and social distancing orders continue to be a thing then new micro businesses will open because people like me aren’t trying to make food in hazmat suits and drop them off in no contact car drive ups.  To me I do this because the connection is the juice.  I thoroughly enjoy the interaction of cooking and dining and the experience, that’s why I do this.”  
  • “A huge worry of the food and beverage industry is that people are going to be home for like three months and realize they don’t need to go out to eat all the time.”
  • “It will drive us to reevaluate our physical closeness.  We live in a nation with very high anxiety and invisible contagions will exist long after COVID-19.  There will be personal space and comfort levels.  Our new stadiums must keep some form of social distancing in mind during our design phases.  New stadiums will have more open room with live bigger screen TVs and areas where smaller groups can gather.  Egress will also have to change and seat spacing will get wider.  Sanitation will also jump to a new level.  We see a time coming that will include automated self washing stadiums.  Airflow will become very important and we can ventilate and filter air through the seating decks.  Hand washing outside stations will be the new norm (prison style sinks).”
  • “I think public assembly will come back, but not on the size and scale we’ve become accustomed to for a very long time.”
  • “The first response will be socially distanced seating.  Reconfigure the social and sharing aspect of facilities to accommodate.  Less attendance, greater experimental opportunities.  Smaller venues generate the same revenues with higher end offerings.  In other words, the demand curve will change so the supply needs to change as well.  The real question is, which will be first?”
  • “Your question is intriguing, but I believe the reality is that live sports will resume, but with modifications.”
  • “I can’t imagine we will let an entire industry die, or even lose a full year of play.  Every day is a different prognosis.  I do believe there will be new stadium cleaning techniques and new concessions needs for a while until scientists fully understand this virus and can protect us.  That won’t take years.  Odds are that fans will also be more inclined to hang out in ‘social areas’ like beer gardens and decks instead of packed in seating bowls.”
  • “I think we are an ‘everything generation’, a mix of online, TV, and hand held devices incorporated with live event attendees.”
  • “Nothing will replace the smells, sights, and feels of a ballpark.  A ballpark is more than baseball, it’s a place where people come to relax, enjoy themselves, spend time with friends and family and enjoy America’s pastime.  It will return.”
  • “Sports are about fan engagement and the experience of being able to say, I was at that game when they broke the record.  Sports can survive without public assembly, but it will take creative people and new technology to make it happen.  The die-hard fan will still show up to watch their team regardless of what’s going on, but to the fair weather fan, sports need to become a new have-to watch phenomenon.  This can be accomplished with 360 seating views, virtual tickets and Uber eats dropping off food.  Give the fan the experience of the game without actually having to go to the game.  Merchandise can be sold during the game and ordered with a click of a button.  If you have the right person modeling the team gear then you will get more impulse buys.  When you make people feel like they are a part of the game in the comfort of their own homes you can capture more engagement.  Maybe they get to vote on activities that will happen before, during, and/or after the game.  Keep a chat screen open for fans to comment (although this could get ugly).  Allow fans to vote on lineup changes and have the vote go to the coach.  More fan engagement means more ads sold via TV as well as more product being purchased.  Again, sports are best viewed in person, but we have to think proactively and look past how it used to be played and viewed.”
  • “I won’t be attending another public assembly event until we have a readily available and working vaccine.”
  • “I think public gatherings will come back but there will be forced immunization.  If not, streaming and live services will be the new entertainment such as movie premiers in living rooms.  I think sports will be fine but no crowds for a while like they’ve been talking about for the NBA playoffs.”

The Look Ahead

The common thread from almost every response across the board is one of optimism…”we will get public assembly back”  The gaslighting point of view was pretty clear as well, to paraphrase – ‘there’s too much money involved to let it fail’.  Honestly, both of those perspectives were pretty easily anticipated.  I was actually more shocked by the overall lack of a negative perspective, which likely speaks to our tendency as people to “default to truth” which really is our natural human tendency to default to hope, our desire for something better.  

As designers of public assembly spaces I think the most intriguing responses came from those that default to caution, i.e. “I won’t be attending another public assembly event until we have a readily available working vaccine.”  I’m projecting that individuals with this mindset are likely in an age group that is 60 years of age or older.  Interestingly, those in the 60 and older age group are likely the individuals that represent a high percentage of pre COVID-19 consumers of premium inventory at live sporting events, i.e. premium club spaces, suites, etc.  Business savvy organizations pre COVID-19 were already looking to redirect group sales and marketing dollars a generation back while targeting five year plans and packages that look ahead 10 to 15 years.  

The real juice for me are the individuals with the mindset that looks toward innovation.  How do we influence the game to look ahead?  There are studies in the hospitality sector that suggest business markets normalizing the second quarter of 2023 – meaning, back to full operations.  This tells me that between now and then we as innovators and operators have work to do to assist in gaining the trust of the public with a tangible strategy for enjoying sports in public and in a crowd.  

With food and beverage representing approximately 25% of gross revenues
for facility operators I think it will be at the center of every conversation moving forward.  In the last five years we’ve seen growth in the popularity of the “grab and go” concept in stadiums.  The Atlanta Braves
have incorporated grab & go at Truist Park, perhaps you’ve even seen the concept
developing in popularity at some of the more modern airports, like Detroit
(DTW), St. Paul (MSP), and Atlanta (ATL).  We think we’ll see more of this in the future as the next wave of post COVID-19 concessions in public assembly spaces take shape.  For lack of a better term it’s like walking into a very nice gas station or convenience store and quickly grabbing prepackaged food.  From an operations perspective it reduces staff requirements because there’s a need for only one or two attendants versus the traditional model of one point of sale (POS) for every five linear feet of counter space.  This model also allows for patrons to enjoy an expanded menu of items and brands in a fairly compact area.  Most importantly it reduces the amount of product handling that we think will be required to ease the minds of patrons that default to caution.  Pendulum is currently working with James Beard nominated Chef/Owner Patrick Q. Ryan of Kansas City based Port Fonda and Quinton VanTonder of SPS Technology to develop a modular approach to the grab and go offering.

With sponsorship representing approximately 20%, and ticketing 50% of gross revenues for facility operators, the thought of an innovative approach to social distancing and sponsor brand exposure is paramount moving forward.  If social distancing remains 6’-0” between individuals, that will mean seating bowls will be reduced by approximately two-thirds the current capacity.  

It is not likely that we’ll be removing fixed armchair seats with a view to the future when social distancing is no longer required, but in the meantime perhaps a simple solution could be to add branded inventory inserts in-between fixed seating in the interim. In the diagram at the upper right, the blue seats represent inventory available for use post COVID-19, the red represent inventory that will no longer be available.  The image at the lower right shows sponsor panels inserted over ineligible seating inventory.

Perhaps the traditional revenue model is inverted and sponsorship becomes the 50% share and ticketed seating becomes 20%.  I think this means the value of TV broadcast infrastructure, contracts, and field lighting will need to be improved at facilities that don’t currently have broadcast ready systems in place.  No matter how you look at it this leads us right back to the previously mentioned path of food and beverage.  If social distancing reduces crowds by two-thirds we can only imagine the good old days of $13 per capita for food and beverage and $2.50 per capita for on site merchandise sales are in jeopardy.  

More Questions

Will we see a shift in baseball (MLB and MiLB) and football (NFL) to more dominant sponsor branding on uniforms as we see in Major League Soccer (MLS)?  Time will only tell but I’ll say this, one of the brightest things I heard from those that responded to my quick question was from a four time NCAA Women’s Soccer Champion who stated: “More fan engagement means more ads sold via TV as well as more product being purchased.  Again, sports are best viewed in person, but we have to think proactively and look past how it used to be played and viewed.”  I think there will be many that try to force a square peg through a round hole, hoping to just go back to the way we’ve always done it.  The market is going to demand something different.

I’ve worked hard to avoid writing a book for this first installment of my thoughts on this subject.  This is the beginning of many quick reads that Pendulum will be releasing on this and related topics in the months ahead.  Stay tuned….

 

Jonathan O’Neil Cole AIA, NCARB, NOMA is the founding principal of Pendulum Studio, a Kansas City based firm that specializes in the design of sports facilities with an emphasis on Minor League Baseball, MiLB.  Jonathan is regarded by many as a thought-leader in the sports architecture industry. 

 

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Pendulum Launches New Web Interactive Project Feature!

Pendulum is pleased to announce a new website feature now live in our portfolio.  We are kicking things of with the multi-award wining Dunkin’ Donuts Park, home of the Hartford Yard Goats.

Visitors are welcome to drag their mouse or finger across their computer screen or smart device and rotate the digital model in a walking tour of the ballpark.  There are hot spots that can be clicked to launch enraged images and brief descriptions of featured areas.

Jonathan Cole, founding principal of Kansas City, MO based Pendulum stated “virtual reality and 3D visualization is an important part of our daily process from the very beginning stages of design.  We communicate the sometimes crazy ideas rolling around in our head in real time and in a human scale which in my mind is a great advantage over the historic use of scaled physical models.  Our clients no longer have to interpret our drawings because we are placing them in our models at every meeting, it’s an environment that feels very real.  This new web feature also allows us to engage the public/fan and experience the ballpark before they arrive at a game…they’ll know what to expect; we think that’s powerful.”

Click the rotating image above to launch our new interactive feature.  Stay tuned for upcoming announcements, more ballparks will be added.

Pendulum’s 2019 Design Journal Release

Every year for the last nine years Pendulum has completed a new or substantially renovated ballpark in addition to other civic and/or boutique projects.  In the last three years we’ve made a conscious effort to shift our focus from a traditional architectural delivery methodology to a process that encourages a curating of the built environment.

Most of our clients as well as the users of our buildings are heavily influenced by art, fashion, food, music, environment, and automobiles just to name a few.   The combination of these elements in interior and exterior spaces fosters enhanced user experiences.  There is a certain vibe that people are looking for when they attend events in or around our facilities.  Most people don’t spend much time thinking about why something is cool or why it feels right, but they immediately know when something is off, when the vibe is not authentic.

Our job as curators of the built environment is to design experiences that feel effortlessly appropriate and ahead of the curve.  This design journal exposes you to some of our triumphs as well as our process.  It is evidence that we not only talk the talk…we live it.

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