After a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, I drove the 2+ hours southwest to Columbus to catch a game at Huntington Park. Traffic and a late start made it so that I didn’t get there until the 4th inning. Nevertheless, there was sufficient time to take the whole scene in.
Joe Mock wrote a particularly glowing, exhaustive review of Huntington Park back when it opened in 2009. If you want the full scoop, read that. I prefer to highlight a few things I saw during my brief visit.
First, it should be noted that Huntington Park (named after an Ohio bank) is one of the first ballparks done by 360 Architecture, the same firm working on the Earthquakes Stadium and Cisco Field. 360 is known more for its work on several indoor arenas, including Nationwide Arena across the street from the ballpark and Sprint Center in Kansas City. With 360 and not Populous (HOK) doing this venue, there was a question about how much the architects would stray from the script. While it doesn’t look all that different from a Populous design from the outside, on the inside there’s plenty of new and innovative thinking.
Like many urban parks, Huntington Park uses all available space within its city block. The brick facade along the right field fence runs up against into Nationwide Drive, a small street running through Columbus’s arena district. Instead of a complete wall, there are openings approximately every 20 feet, allowing for numerous places to view into the park. Near the right field corner this area is a short, double-deck walkway that’s also 20 feet wide. Beyond right-center the walkway ends. The sidewalk on Nationwide Drive ramps up to the concourse level and carries the theme further, providing “portholes” for spectators along the street. Many minor league parks have a Knothole Gang-type feature, but Huntington Park is perhaps the most innovative in how to design it. It’s very reminiscent of AT&T Park’s arcade/promenade feature, yet very unique on its own. Visually, the stadium’s two-story design means the colonnade has little impact. The impact would be much greater on a taller stadium such as Cisco Field.
The setup dictates that there’s no 360-degree concourse, which is ironic given the architecture firm’s name. This apparently was a conscious choice, since the team and architects figured that the wandering around the concourse novelty effect would wear off over time as fans got used to the venue. This was an apt decision, as fans seemed to have settled into spaces they like the most. A $7 ticket is good for the bleachers, berm, or standing areas, most of which have drink rails. Families may like the bleachers or the small berm in left. Fans wanting good views of the game might choose the drink rails down either line. And if you get there early enough, you and your friends can hang out in that right field colonnade, where there are stools and extra side rails that allow you to “claim” your own space. If there ever was an effective argument against the wraparound concourse, this is as close as it gets.
Along the main bowl, the benefit is an enormously wide concourse, which I estimated to be 66 feet not including the wheelchair row. That’s over twice the width of the Oakland Coliseum’s lower concourse. With all that space, 360 broke up the concourse, similar to the way part of the lower concourse at Jacobs Field* is split. They even took it a step further by including a completely open-air concession stand that serves from three sides. It’s a particular ingenious way of using the space while also providing views of the action. The concession stands are full service, with taps, soda fountains, grills, and deep fryers. It’s not a design that should ever be attempted if the concourse is not sufficiently wide enough since it could cause severe congestion. Even with the 66-foot width, congestion has been reported at Huntington Park, though I didn’t see it when I went and there should be easy ways to manage it when it happens. Restrooms and other services are set into buildings along the concourse.
Behind the plate in the seating bowl are the club seats and loge boxes. Loge boxes, while de rigueur in 2014, weren’t so commonplace in 2007 when Huntington Park was being built. With 4 chairs each, tables and full service, loges fit the gap between individual club seats and luxury suites. I can see why they were incorporated into the Cisco Field design and Dodger Stadium.
I had heard and read many recommendations about Huntington Park, and was pleased to find out that they were very much on target in their assessments. I haven’t even gone over several other features, or discussed the general niceness of the crowd. For now, it’s good enough that Huntington Park is a solid evolutionary step of ballpark design, and I hope that they’re allowed to evolve it even more at some point.