06 August 2007

Column conundrum

Remember this?

It's from the original animation pack the A's released in November. I guessed (correctly) that the comparison showed Cisco Field (yellow/red) against AT&T Park (gray). To me, this has always been the most impressive part of the presentation. Unfortunately, it's not easy to visualize the advantage, and for two decades now fans in other cities have been accepting extremely set back second and third levels despite being told the experience was better just because, well, they were no longer sitting in a multi-purpose stadium. Or some rickety joint with 16-inch seats.

The 3-D nature of the graphic above sort of detracts from the message, as all of the visual elements make the comparison fade into the background. There is a better one shown recently, and it makes the contrast stark, as it should be. This came from the city council preso a couple of weeks ago:

That's better. Ah, but now there's a wrinkle, and it's smack dab in the middle of the pic above. A big, purposeful, and truly retro - column. Unlike any other recently built ballpark's main grandstand, this one dives right into the lower deck.

Before you react, I'm already ahead of you. The dreaded words obstructed view immediately come to mind. There's nothing about an obstructed view seat that says modern. A seat behind a column promises to be pretty crappy. There may be some back-and-forth about what fans consider an obstructed view and what the team considers an obstructed view. It may not even have a discount, although it most certainly should be cheaper. So I'm not going to make excuses for the A's out of respect for the poor souls who make be shocked when, upon getting to the seating bowl for the first time, are treated to a nice view of green painted steel. Yes, it is that bad.

Then again, it isn't really that bad. Why not? Consider this:
  • Look at the cross-section, dammit! Upper deck folks will be twice as close as anything built since WWII. Translated into an A's fan's current experience, it's the difference between sitting in 317 and sitting in 326. What, you say those sections don't exist? Ummm...
  • The not-so-ultimate sacrifice. Those 10,000 upper deck fans don't sit as close if not for the sacrifice of a few lower deck patrons. I'll make a rough estimate that less than 1% of seats qualify as obstructed view - defined as those with the hitter and catcher blocked. That's about 300 seats, or about 10 seats per lower deck section, which may be overestimating things a bit. The best way to deal with this would be to never sell these as advance seats - no season tickets, no phone/web/package sales. Instead, sell them as "day of game" only seats at an appreciable discount, say 20-25%. Chances are those fans won't spend too much time in those seats anyway, as they'll migrate over to one of the many standing room areas, or if the place is far less than packed, they'll "keep someone else's seat warm."
  • Intimacy invites noise. Having fans closer to the action should make the place more naturally noisy. That effect will be counteracted by the increased number of cell phone squawking, gameplay ignoring attendees. Still, the potential's there.
  • It's cheaper to build and run. Pulling the main grandstand about 25 feet conserves nearly 1/2 acre in terms of the ballpark's footprint. That should also translate into reduced overall use of concrete and steel, plus more efficient systems from field lighting to air conditioning. Best of all, the saved space could be used for other uses, such as landscaping or ancillary buildings such as a museum or some of the village structures.
  • Ready for expansion. Should the ballpark prove so popular that an extra 3,000 seats (4-5 rows) are needed, it shouldn't be too difficult to add to the back of the upper deck. All the designers have to do is build sufficient load bearing capacity into the skeleton and devise a method for adding rows. They could even use an aluminum upper deck (Stanford Stadium) that could be quickly torn down and replaced by a larger structure.
This doesn't mean that columns are guaranteed. In fact, I haven't seen a drawing that actually shows columns. However, that column isn't in the cross-section for show, so there must be something to it.

That brings us to this week's poll question. It's a pretty simple one, and there are only three choices. The question is: What do you think about columns at Cisco Field?
  • Works for me
  • Whatever
  • They suck
I was going to use "Panther" as the first option, but I realized over the weekend that the team that's supposed to use "Panther" should be using "Rat" instead.
Last week's poll question shows an overwhelming number of fans want more than 32,000 seats. I didn't vote myself, but I'd like to see at least 35,000.


Zonis said...

I didn't know you ready HH, ML?

FC said...


In not so sure whether current season ticketholder sitting the Infield Field Level seats will be happy when it comes time to select seats at Cisco.

It would appear (and I may be totally wrong) that the Infield Field Level seats will be non-existent at Cisco, as they will be replaced with the 4-person suites. As a result, anyone holding season tickets in the Field Level section will either have to move down into the more expensive MVP/Club seats (not to mention further down the baselines), or move upstairs to the second deck. So though the view from the second deck at Cisco may be better when compared to ATT, I question whether it will be better than sitting in the Field Level seats at the Colesium.

Am I seeing the diagram correctly?

Marine Layer said...

zonis - Only on occasion, and only when I need a chuckle. That Rev's a riot.

fc - I've seen different projections that have club seats run from dugout to dugout, with the remainder of down-the-line seats being non-club.

So the way to look at it is this: take the Coliseum field level and lop off the last 8 rows. Move the circulation aisle down 5 rows and put the minisuites in the middle. Club section runs dugout-to-dugout (a la MVP). Lower field level runs down the lines - 15 rows. Upper field level is the upper 15 rows. I don't consider upper field level (with the columns) the second deck because it's virtually the same elevation as the Coliseum upper field level and will have access to the field. Regardless, upper field level should automatically be better because there are fewer rows.

Does that answer your question?

anthony dominguez said...

Don't like the columns. Why not do what was done down at Petco Park; cantilevered upper decks. The second deck at Petco appears to jut way over the lower deck, without the use of old school columns! Hey, I thought Cisco Field was going to be a modern ballpark ala the Nationals new stadium...this thing is looking more and more retro every day.

anthony dominguez said...

Another question R.M.: Why is this park being designed as if it's being shoe horned into a 12 acre downtown site? C'mon...are the views from the upper deck at Cisco really going to be that much better than the upper deck at AT&T? It's not as if AT&T's upper deck views are on par with Mt. Davis. Why not design Cisco Field as if it were being built in a vast suburban field in Fremont? Now there's a thought!

Marine Layer said...

Tony - I think they could borrow from Petco. The trusses used for Petco's second/third decks are enormous and take up a lot of concourse space. That's a compromise that had to be made to ensure that there'd be no columns. Tradeoffs are everywhere.

When everything's built, it's not going to remotely resemble a vast suburban field. It's in their interest to efficiently plan out space, including the main element, the ballpark. And yes, the views of the field should be much, much better.

FC said...

Hey ML,

Did you receive a post which I sent this morning? It hasn't been published yet.

Marine Layer said...

Afraid not, fc. Feel free to comment again.

FC said...


I'm not sure I agree with your interpretation. I reviewed the artist's renderings on the A's website, and to me it looks as though the upper field level section has been eliminated. I see a Club level extending up from the field 15-20 rows. Then a row of suites. There doesn't appear to be any seats above the suites with access to the field.

Marine Layer said...

fc - I expressed those same concerns in November. The alternate version I've seen doesn't entirely split the upper and lower sections. The upper sections are still raised to give a "front row" appearance, but the field should still be accessible - at least down the lines. Vomitories provide access to the club sections from the club concourse.

It should be a more commonplace layout as a result. That's not to say that what I've seen is final, but at least they have considered something more traditional.

Devo said...

I very rarely sit in the first level -- so as a current Oakland A's fan -- I'm all for a few columns.

Anonymous said...

Having spent time in Boston, I can tell you that poles are terrible. But you cost-benefit analysis is sound, and the A's could sell the pole seats on game day at a discount.