An abbreviated Major League Baseball season with no fans means that teams must wait to show off the improvements they made to their ballparks in the offseason. But some teams are still ﬁnding ways to make use of those renovations.
Before the pandemic, Joey Nevin, vice president of Giants Enterprises — the San Francisco Giants’ arm focused on developing new ventures — was set to debut the Cloud Club, an Oracle Park event venue and an all-inclusive, premium lounge with a membership cost of $20,000 to $50,000 per year.
But the pandemic has given the Giants an opportunity to create virtual programming that will showcase the Oracle Park event venue and more time to sell it to prospective club members.
Nevin characterized the Giants’ approach to these events as “using 2020 to build a bridge to 2021 and the future.”
“We can’t get people there, but how can we still create programming around it, and kind of build on that excitement of it?” he added.
Giants Enterprises is planning virtual events for college alumni groups with C-level executive speakers and virtual cocktail demonstrations prior to some scheduled ballgames, Nevin added.
The Giants would not disclose the cost to develop the club. As San Francisco and California move to the next phase of reopening the economy, and local and state regulations allow for how many people can gather for events, the Giants plan on taking a hybrid approach to hosting events at their newly improved Oracle Park event venues.
“So if you have a hundred people, you might have 30 people in person and 70 people streaming it,” Nevin said. “Maybe you have a CEO giving a speech, and he’s standing on second base, and it’s being streamed to thousands of people.”
At Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, the Reds this season were set to join the trend of venues creating spaces that are geared toward families and children with special needs.
TriHealth Family Zone, a 400-square-foot area in the ballpark’s right ﬁeld corner, will feature activities for children, a playground, batting cages, nursing suite, sensory room, reading room and a lounge area. The Reds did not disclose the cost to develop the new space.
“I know throughout Major League Baseball and the industry, [teams] are moving quickly and it’s very much an on-trend thing, where sport as an industry is trying to evolve to the needs and expectations of modern-day fans,” said Aaron Ruef, director and project manager at Nelson Worldwide, who worked on the project.
This past offseason, the Reds also added the Boone County Bourbon Press Club, a premium bourbon-themed seating area behind home plate that was previously reserved for members of the media. Press Club packages feature all-inclusive food and beverages including a fully stocked bar, in-seat service and access to a private locker for personal liquor and wine storage. Pricing was not available.
Here are some of the other MLB ballpark renovations that originally were to debut this season:
- Dodger Stadium: The Los Angeles Dodgers spent $100 million this past offseason upgrading MLB’s third-oldest ballpark. Improvements include a new center ﬁeld plaza that will serve as the front door to the stadium. The plaza will have two acres of food offerings, a craft beer garden, entertainment and kids areas, retail locations and sponsor activations. The Dodgers installed six elevators and four escalators for greater vertical access to the rest of the ballpark. The left and right ﬁeld pavilions were refreshed and the Dodgers replaced the stadium’s speaker tower with a new sound system.
- Minute Maid Park: The Houston Astros spent $25 million upgrading their 20-year-old ballpark with a new club for season-ticket holders on the suite level and changes in the right ﬁeld corner resembling the stadium’s recent centerﬁeld renovations.
- Yankee Stadium: In the days prior to social distancing, the Yankees were set to build on the trend of adding social gathering areas by creating two more such spaces on the main level of the ballpark. The Stella Artois Landing in left ﬁeld and the Michelob Ultra Clubhouse in right ﬁeld will be accessible to fans with game-day tickets anywhere in the stadium.
- T-Mobile Park: The Seattle Mariners spent $21 million on various improvements that include replacing the venue’s original sound system, replacing the point-of-sale system and improving stadium access for people with disabilities.
- Busch Stadium: This past offseason the St. Louis Cardinals committed to a multimillion-dollar revamp of the ballpark’s 21 party suites along the right ﬁeld line, adding updated sports-themed décor and equipping each suite with a personal bartender serving cocktails, beer and wine.
- Miller Park: The Milwaukee Brewers tore out 418 bleacher seats to install a viewing deck for 300 fans and a bar with tables and rails for food and beverages.