Starting in the year 2000, we began honoring very special ballparks with an award. Our Ballpark of the Year was awarded to the best new or substantially rebuilt park for that year, and it is now a highly coveted honor, desired by both architects and teams that are proud of their new facilities. And rest assured that a fair amount of politicking takes place, as the park designers and front-office staffs lobby me to select their park.
But regardless of the lobbying efforts, I make my own assessment each year. And I make that assessment without any regard to which league or which architect won the previous year. I make no effort to “spread around” the award across geographic areas, levels or leagues. Each and every year, I look at the new or rebuilt ballparks in that year and make a selection based on which one has the best combination of superior design, desirable location and amenities for the fans. From a subjective perspective, I’m also always on the lookout for parks that are different or special, especially if they are particularly suited for the area in which they are located. If the park could’ve been dropped in a completely different part of the country and not seem out of place, then there’s something wrong.
Take for instance KeySpan Park, now called MCU Park. It has a fabulous amusement-park motif throughout: neon lights around the light standards, crazy blue and yellow fluorescent lights along the concourse, art of a roller coaster on its scoreboard, etc. This would be silly if dropped into downtown Denver, but since the park is right on the beach of Coney Island, it is positively perfect. Or consider Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The entire park looks like a big train station, right down to the concession stands. This is wonderfully appropriate because not only does the park resemble the area’s historic train station, North Little Rock was also one of the most important railroad hubs of the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Or read our review of 2010’s winner, BB&T Ballpark. Its classic beauty, acting as the “front door” to downtown Winston-Salem, is evident. Or stunning Salt River Fields, our 2011 winner, which uses desert vegetation and a perfect Southwest look to make it ideal for Arizona. But none of them made as big an impact on its market as our 2012 Ballpark of the Year, Pensacola Bayfront Stadium. And fans and media in both Birmingham (2013 winner) and El Paso (2014 honoree) went nuts over the award.
No wonder these parks won!!
And if you want the very embodiment of something different, consider our 2016 winner, Fort Bragg Field. It was built to host only one game, then the ballpark was dismantled. I know it sounds odd, but read our article on it to see just how special — and different — it is (or, more correctly, was).
So here is a listing of the parks — and their architects — who’ve won the award since its inception. Note that for the first two years, we gave out two awards per year, one for the Majors and one for the Minors. During those years, there were multiple new parks each year in the big leagues and the Minors, but most years only one (sometimes none) new Major League park opens, so there was no need to give out separate awards. We are going to continue to present a single award from now on. By the way, the ballpark name is a link to our full review of that park.
|2016||Fort Bragg Field||Braves vs. Marlins||Populous|
|2015||Monongalia County Ballpark||West Va Black Bears||Populous/DLA+|
|2014||Southwest University Park||El Paso Chihuahuas||Populous|
|2013||Regions Field||Birmingham Barons||HKS|
|2012||Pensacola Bayfront Stadium||Blue Wahoos||Populous|
|2011||Salt River Fields||D-backs and Rockies||HKS|
|2010||BB&T Ballpark||Winston-Salem Dash||360 Architecture/CJMW|
|2009||Huntington Park||Columbus Clippers||360 Architecture|
|2008||Arvest Ballpark||NW Arkansas Naturals||HOK (now Populous)|
|2007||Dickey-Stephens Park||Arkansas Travelers||HKS|
|2006||West End Field||Greenville Drive||DLR|
|2005||Hammons Field||Springfield Cardinals||Pellham-Phillips-Hagerman|
|2004||Petco Park||San Diego Padres||HOK (now Populous)|
|2003||Dr Pepper/7 Up Ballpark||Frisco RoughRiders||David M. Schwarz/HKS|
|2002||First American Bank Park||Midland RockHounds||HOK (now Populous)|
|2001||PNC Park||Pittsburgh Pirates||HOK (now Populous)|
|2001||KeySpan Park||Brooklyn Cyclones||Jack L. Gordon Architects|
|2000||Pac Bell Park||San Francisco Giants||HOK (now Populous)|
|2000||AutoZone Park||Memphis Redbirds||HOK (now Populous)|
NOTES: Pac Bell Park is now called AT&T Park; KeySpan Park is now called MCU Park; First American Bank Park is now called Citibank Ballpark; Dr Pepper/7 Up Ballpark is now called Dr Pepper Ballpark; West End Field is now called Fluor Field