The A’s released initial renderings of the ballpark they’re planning to build at the Tropicana on the south Strip. As I’ve seen plenty of ballpark renderings, especially A’s ballpark renderings, I was prepared to be unimpressed. And I was at first, looking at low-res versions. I called these renderings “placeholders” with the proportions wrong and some details seemingly missing or unfinished. When I got home after work, I found high-res versions and started studying. What I found shedded much more light on what the A’s are attempting to accomplish.
First, we’ll start off with the view from behind and slightly to the first base side of home plate. It looks roughly north as I predicted. No big deal there, as that was the most practical orientation available. The backdrop features a high “waist” of the outfield decks. This should’ve tipped me off to how the retractable roof worked, but it didn’t at the time. I had to look at another image to figure that out.
The backdrop includes MGM Grand in RF, with the other MGM properties visible across the Strip (New York New York, Park MGM/Mirage, Cosmopolitan, Bellagio). MGM must be thrilled to get all the free advertising this ballpark will provide with the ballpark’s orientation. Unfortunately for them, much of that view across the Strip will be obscured by new buildings built by Bally’s on the Tropicana site. Another rendering shows a fairly clear space between the ballpark and the Strip, which will only last 1-2 years as ancillary development is phased in. Bally’s CEO Soo Kim suggested the new resort on the property will be sports-themed. In my last post I questioned the separation of the ballpark from the new casino, partly because of the gambling controversy and because of the desire to separate the revenue streams between Bally’s, the A’s, and any other entities that may get involved.
An elevated view from above New York New York presents a ballpark that at a glance appears much larger than the nine acres allocated by Bally’s. The angle showcases a large lighted arch from which the fixed roof is suspended, much like Wembley Stadium. The arch helps to give the appearance of much greater displacement for the ballpark, though there is also an ample buffer area surrounding the circular ballpark’s outer walls that may be misleading. One option that may be available is to make the ballpark part of the entire resort on game days or during events, which will open up the entire complex’s facilities to fans. Little Caesars Arena in Detroit was built in this fashion with multi-use development integrated with it. The arena was also architected by HOK. If this sounds familiar, it should. Lew Wolff wanted this concept going back to the Fremont days.
Now, you might be asking, “Fixed roof, I thought there was a retractable roof?” How about both? The retractable roof doesn’t appear in two of the renderings. A third rendering shows the roof fully enclosing the outfield of the ballpark. The retractable portion is motorized and runs on tracks atop the waist. The roof appears to be made of transparent or translucent ETFE material as was done in sections at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis and nearby Allegiant Stadium. ETFE promises to allow light in while reflecting heat due to its layered construction, unlike glass which tends to transmit heat. The material can’t be completely transparent, so the view through it may have a somewhat frosted glass appearance depending on how much transparency is involved in the actual fabric used.
Milwaukee’s American Family Field uses a fan-style roof discussed in the last post. The roof sits above the upper decks along the baselines and closes in sections. That roof is extremely complex and prone to failure so it’s unlikely the A’s and HOK (architect) will attempt a similar roof design. Instead, they may are back to the first successful retractable roof stadium for inspiration.
Rogers Centre (née SkyDome) has been operating a hulking retractable roof for over 30 years. If you’ve never been there, you may not notice that it’s a two part roof. The top portion slides back and forth from the outfield towards home plate, which is what you normally see in videos. The lower part of the roof sits behind main grandstand and tucks itself away underneath the top portion for good weather games. The picture below shows what the grandstand looks like when the roof is stowed away.
For mechanical simplicity, I would expect the A’s retractable roof to move as a single unit like Rogers Centre’s lower section. During mild/spring games or night games, the movable part could tuck into the fixed roof area. It could also be a split roof like Milwaukee, but I wouldn’t expect that. When I started piecing this together, I didn’t immediately think of SkyDome. Instead, I thought of the old Pittsburgh Civic Arena, known as the “Igloo” or by its corporate name, Mellon Arena. I got to see a game there sometime in 2002, during the Penguins’ fallow period between the Jagr and Crosby eras. The arena was famous for its partially retractable roof, which used a similar mechanism to what HOK is aiming for, though the movable portion was actually quite small and turned the arena into an amphitheater with a large bandshell.
By designing a retractable roof to be a part of the structure instead of a canopy on top of the structure, the A’s are effectively limiting the ballpark’s footprint. For that reason, and because the normal construction budget concerns, I expect the ballpark to really be nine acres in size. It’s rather pointless to use the other post-SkyDome retractables comparisons because they’re designed much differently.
There’s no rendering of the ballpark from inside with the roof closed. And that, friends, is the true test of how good this design is. The retractable section looks to be covered by the aforementioned ETFE, which was how Globe Life Field was intended to built. That ballpark instead had one-third of its roof covered in partly transparent ETFE. Whether or not you believe that change was made to reign in costs of an expensive new material, the fact is that’s what the Rangers went with it, making Globe Life Field look like a huge shed. The A’s really want to avoid putting a drab shed among the garish edifices of the Strip, so they would be wise to invest to ensure their facade is not just distinctive, but also cool. The reality is that working with huge HVAC systems and their ductwork is going to clutter up any roofed ballpark, so HOK has its work cut out for them.
- The upper deck for this four-deck ballpark is ridiculously huge. That’s probably because the lower deck is quite small, and undoubtedly quite exclusive.
- Bullpens are in left field in fair territory beyond the fence.
- The video board in right field is noticeable. Less noticeable are the ribbon boards on three levels of the outfield. Are any of them large enough to function as more than auxiliary displays?
- The image with the open roof shows that the roof itself is hiding another large display board. Which is interesting, but why is it facing the outfield and away from most of the fans inside the ballpark?
- The retractable roof has a pitch to it, similar to how Tropicana Field’s roof is tilted down towards the outfield fence.
- The first rendering shows a grass field, which is unlikely because of how much this ballpark will be used during the other six months of the year and during road trips.
- If you think these renderings are ugly or not worthy of a future A’s ballpark versus Howard Terminal, I’ve got bad news for you: they all come from the same architecture firm, HOK.