Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tour 2011: Goodyear Ballpark

All photos of Goodyear Ballpark available on Flickr.

Day 3 of the trip took us into the western suburb of Goodyear to see the Reds battle the A's. The Brewers are actually only 1 of 2 teams that still plays in Phoenix proper, because the surrounding area has so much open land that teams can build new ballparks pretty much wherever they want. This fact, and a lucrative offer from the city, was enough to entice the Reds and Indians away from Florida in 2009 into a brand new $33 million facility in Arizona. The drive was about a half-hour to the edge of the Phoenix metro area.

Exiting off I-10, the city of Goodyear seemed sparkling new, as if it had formed overnight. The sprawl of Phoenix into the Sonoran Desert knows no bounds, and this small town that was once just a plot of land that housed a Goodyear tire plant is now a city of over 65,000 people, and is one of the fastest growing cities in Arizona. It kind of reminds me of how my hometown of Oak Creek, WI was nothing more than a couple of big box retailers 20 years ago but is now one of the biggest Milwaukee suburbs. A definite drawback of this wild growth is that Goodyear definitely does not have the character or charm of suburbs like Glendale and Scottsdale, and that is also evident at the Reds & Indians' training facility. While it is a nice facility, it was a little disconcerting entering an empty parking lot in a barren nothingness, only to find a brand new building arising from the sand in the distance. Goodyear looks like it just sort of "arrived" on the site, much like the city itself. Perhaps this was a conscious acknowledgement by the design team or perhaps not, but either way Goodyear makes absolutely no attempt to relate to its surroundings. There were even palm trees in the outfield, which I don't really associate with an arid climate. There is also no paved path from the parking lot to the stadium and the park was surrounded acres of empty land, making the whole project seem unfinished and, again, as if it just appeared on site.

I don't want to make it sound as if I didn't like the ballpark though. Other than the practice fields being about a 20 minute walk away, I thought it was pretty nice. I honestly appreciated the unapologetic use of materials, and it was refreshing to go somewhere that was not done in the same Southwest color palette and forms as almost every other building I saw that week. The exterior is very rigid, boxy, and vertically oriented, and uses materials like precast concrete, metal, and glass curtainwall - none of which you rarely seen in Phoenix. Aside from the use of some locally trendy weathered copper, you'd never know this ballpark was in Arizona. This was one of the few parks we saw this week with a delineated major entry, and although atrocious, the tall statue in the entry pavilion was a nice subtle touch as a vertical marker amidst the expansive landscape. Architecturally speaking, this park was my favorite exterior of the trip.

As I mentioned, the practice facilities are kind of a hoof from the main ballpark. After we bought tickets and hit the huge team store, we walked what was probably 3/4 mile down some backroads, past the Goodyear airport to the Indians practice facility. The Reds' facilities wer even further away, so we just watched a few minutes of an Indians minor league game before walking back. Each club has its own facility of 6-7 practice fields, a clubhouse, and a team office, and all are designed to reflect similar colors and forms of the main ballpark. We got back to the main yard a little after noon and took our standard lap around the concourse to find our food & drink spoils for the afternoon. Goodyear features mostly hot dogs on the menu, as well as a pizza stand and an all-you-can-eat covered pavilion in right field, and a decent beer & alcohol selection as well. I was extremely pleased to find Skyline Coneys and PBR silos right by our lawn seats in left, but it was a warmer day so I went with a refreshing margarita. The interior probably seats about 10,000 and had the look and amenities of a AAA ballpark. The inside was kind of plain compared to the outside, but I did enjoy the park being appropriately very open for its site; it didn't try to feel "closed in" like so many parks do.

The game itself was a 10-8 win for the Athletics. 2010 rookie sensation Mike Leake - who famously skipped the minor leagues altogether and went right into the rotation - was roughed up by a revamped Oakland lineup that now features Josh Willingham, Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, Coco Crisp, Andy LaRoche, and Kevin Kouzmanoff. Leake gave up 7 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks and didn't make it out of the 3rd. I'm really hoping that Dusty Baker doesn't run this kid into the ground like he did last year, because he already looked tired and it's March. Coco Crisp was 2-3 with a homer and was impressive in the outfield, and top prospects Chris Carter and Landon Powell also saw time in the game. Joey Votto had a standard MVP-like game for the Reds, going 3-5 with a HR and 4 RBI. We got to see Aroldis Chapman pitch again, as well as former Brewers closer Francisco Cordero.

After the game, we drove over an hour in traffic from one end of the city to the other to meet up with our friends Frank and Rob in Old Town Scottsdale, which was totally night-and-day compared to Goodyear. We had baskets of pizza rolls for $3 and beers for $2, pretty outstanding. I was starting to feel under the weather on this day, so we called it a night at about 8 and watched the new Robin Hood movie for about the 2nd of 4 times back at the hotel room.

park rankings and statistics:
aesthetics - 8 (most of these points come from the exterior aesthetics)
views from park - 2
view to field - 6
surrounding area - 3 (Goodyear Airport and residential)
food variety - 4
nachos - 5 (standard)
beer - 7 (similar prices, greater variety than Maryvale)
vendor price - 7
ticket price - 7
atmosphere - 4
walk to park - 2 (partially not paved)
parking proximity - 9 (adjacent lot for free, get there early)
concourses - 6 (open, wide, full circumference, but not much activity)
team shop - 8
complex - 3 (major points deducted for being so far away)

best food - Cleveland Dog or Cincinnati Dog
most unique stadium feature - right field pavilion, materials
jumbotron - yes
best between-inning feature - condiment race

field dimensions - 345/410/345
starters - Brett Andreson (OAK) v. Mike Leake (CIN)
opponent - Oakland Athletics
time of game - 3:03
attendance - 3540
score - 10-8 L
Brewers score that day - 7-0 W

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