Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Warner Park Renovation

All photos of Warner Park available on Flickr.

The turning of the calendar to June marked the beginning of another collegiate summer ball season, and like every year, I was very eager to see my local Northwoods League teams play. My patience was wearing thin as this season approached, as I could not wait to see the $1.8 million renovation the Mallards and the city of Madison invested into The Duck Pond. This renovation was Phase 2 of a 3-phase project, with Phase 1 being last year's addition of the TDS Triple Play Club and a new children's area along the left field line. This series of renovations was developed as a contingency plan for demolishing the entire stadium and starting over, for which the money just wasn't in the budget. Despite the fact that the ballpark is improperly oriented southwest instead of east, I'm glad they decided to renovate instead of rebuild.

This year's effort was actually more of a remodel than merely a renovation, as the entire grandstand was torn out and built again from scratch. The bleachers may have been at the end of their functional life as their designed use, but the bleachers live on in the new team store located behind home plate. This beautiful building was constructed out of 85% reclaimed material from the grandstand demolition, including re-purposing the bleachers as siding, the old press box canopy as its roof, and the wooden posts as part of the structure. Pretty much the entire building uses reclaimed and recycled materials except the glazing. To go along with the "green" concept, every single seat in the new seating bowl is reused from another major league park, the majority being from Camden Yards. This new seating bowl was wisely designed to have a second tier of seats on the 1st base side while the 3rd base side has only one, in response to the the fact that Warner Park is one of the only ballparks in America that faces the setting sun. This should not be too much of a problem for the remaining 3rd base seating however, as the canopy has more than doubled in size. Fans in general are now far more connected to the game, as all the seating sections in the main grandstand are now continuous and are up to 6 rows closer to the field in some areas. Lauren and I sat about 5 rows from the top of the 200 level along 1st, and Erik sat in the 1st row with his 10-pack tickets, and both offered equally stellar views of the action. Some more subtle changes include a new food stand layout in the pavilion that now features more food & beer choices, and an additional vendor in the seating bowl behind home plate. The only thing that kind of put a damper on the evening was that we arrived too late to receive a bobblehead, but we still got caps featuring the new logo. Pair that with a Mallards victory and a couple of cold Magic Hat beers, it doesn't get much better on a Friday night in Madison.

I'm not sure what Phase 3 holds in store, but over the past decade of Mallards baseball I've come to expect a lot of Vern Stenman and the gang and I'm sure the front office will not disappoint. Warner Park has changed exponentially since the team moved into Warner Park in 2001, yet has managed to maintain the same atmosphere, quality level of entertainment and competition, and affordability that fans associate with the Mallards. Warner Park was already my favorite ballpark in America to watch a ballgame before the huge renovation. Now that the aesthetics of the ballpark have finally caught up with its aura and activity, I think it rivals just about any minor league or independent league stadium in the country.

park rankings and statistics
(see also 06/21/07 original post):

aesthetics - improves to 7
views from park - 2
view to field - 10
surrounding area - 2
food variety - 7
nachos - 5
beer - improves to 9
vendor price - 9
ticket price - 8
atmosphere - 10
walk to park - 3
parking proximity - declines to 7 (lot is not big enough)
concourses - improves to 6
team shop - improves to 9

"best" items - same; ballpark now has jumbotron

field dimensions - 308/380/295 (shorter down the lines than in 2007)
starters - Chase Stevens (WAT) v. Cash Collins (MAD)
opponent - Waterloo Bucks
time of game - 2:17
attendance - 6750
score - 7-2 W
Brewers score that day - 8-0 W

Brewers 38-29, -- (4 @ Cubs, 3 @ Red Sox)
Reds 35-33, -3.5 (3 @ Dodgers, 3 v. Blue Jays)
Twins 26-39, -9.5 (3 v. White Sox, 3 v. Padres)

Erik - 7
Peter - 22

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