A preview of the Poodles’ palace


Following the first-class, festive announcement that Amarillo’s team will be called the Sod Poodles, I was given an exclusive tour of the ballpark they’ll occupy starting in April. Even though it was covered in snow that day, I could clearly tell it will be a winner, as several novel design elements will no doubt capture the fancy of the fans in the Texas Panhandle.

My tourguides were Brian Simpson of Populous (architects) and Brandon Robertson of Western | Hunt (contractors), and we battled the elements to examine everything.

Check out my preview of the ballpark that includes 13 photos you won’t see anywhere else!


Fort Bragg Field is Ballpark of the Year


This is the 17th straight year that we’ve named a Ballpark of the Year, but it’s most definitely the first time the award has gone to a park where only one game was played.

Used for only one game, Fort Bragg Field is the 2016 BaseballParks.com Ballpark of the Year.  It was announced in an article in USA TODAY Sports Weekly (see photo). Pick up a copy on a newsstand near you to see our article on the three finalists: Jimmy John’s Field in Utica, Michigan; Spirit Communications Park in Columbia, South Carolina and the winner, Fort Bragg Field in North Carolina.

You can also read all about the award — with reaction from MLB headquarters, the architect, the man behind the playing field itself and even the commanding general at Fort Bragg — in our press release.

Here’s what the plaque looks like. Copies of this will go to Fort Bragg, Populous and MLB headquarters:

2016plaqueSmall

Feel free to add your comments about the park and/or the award below.


In-depth review of Fort Bragg Field


My in-depth review of Fort Bragg Field is now available. It features 25 photos and all of my behind-the-scenes observations of the impressive ballpark that was built for only one game, then was dismantled. Click here to read it.

You’ll learn what Major League Baseball had to go through to get approval, and then to pull off this herculean undertaking at the world’s largest military base. You’ll read what soldiers at the installation thought, and what the game-day experience was for them. And you’ll learn why a chair was left empty.

And perhaps most importantly, you’ll come to understand why MLB did this (short answer: to show appreciation to our military). After all, they sunk millions of dollars into building a temporary ballpark and then uprooting a game that was supposed to be played in Atlanta, all so our servicemen and women and their families could attend a Major League game for free.

It’s a great story, one that I’m honored to be able to share with you, since I got to see it all myself.

After reading both pages, please leave a comment at the bottom of the second page with your thoughts on the event, the park or the review.


The story behind the “100% temporary” ballpark for Fort Bragg game


This is part two of our series on the upcoming MLB game at Fort Bragg, NC

The Major League game between the Braves and Marlins on July 3 will be played at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in a once-in-a-lifetime ballpark. Literally. That’s because the 12,500-capacity facility will be used only once. It will then be torn down, leaving only the playing field behind to be used by the recreation program for the service men and women and their families.

When Major League Baseball needed this unique facility designed, they went to the architects who are entirely or partially responsible for the majority of the big league parks in use today: Populous. For several reasons, this was no ordinary project for arguably the largest sports-architecture firm in the world. As a consequence, Populous didn’t rely on the team of architects in Kansas City that typically designs baseball stadiums. Instead, they turned to the firm’s Special Events Group.

“We’re actually serving as architects and event planners” for the upcoming game, explained Todd Barnes, a Principal at Populous. The relationship between Populous and MLB in event planning dates back to the 1999 All Star Game in Fenway, when the park’s cramped quarters caused the folks in MLB headquarters to question how they were going to pull off the Mid-Summer Classic there. Populous (back when it was called HOK) was called in to help.

Similarly, Populous worked with MLB on the All Star Game at Citi Field in 2013. For that, the firm’s Special Events Group “looked at all of the existing facilities and how to re-use different spaces for other All Star Game functions,” Barnes revealed. But since all of the facilities there were already in place, that makes the Fort Bragg project quite another story. “The difference with this project is that it’s a ground-up, design-and-build project, so we are the designer and architect on the project, as well as working on the event-planning side. Everything that’s being put in this ballpark right now is from the ground up. (And) it’s 100% temporary except for the playing field.”

You would think the one-time-use nature of the facility would make the design process radically different than Populous’ typical project, which is being built to last decades. Not so, says Barnes. Read More