At the All-Star Break, A Look at 2013’s Biggest MLB Venue Stories
Major League Baseball’s midsummer classic has come and gone, and as its All Stars return home for the second-half sprint towards the postseason, SVG takes a look at some of the biggest MLB venue stories from 2013.
Arguably this season’s most anticipated venue change, Dodger Stadium unveiled its $100 million makeover in April. Two hexagonal 1080p-capable video boards now stand in left and right field, with a completely revamped video control room contracted by Sony and integrated by Diversified Systems. Although the Los Angeles Dodgers have encountered several issues with activating their in-venue WiFi network, the team hopes to do so this season.
Not to be outdone, the Seattle Mariners installed the largest HD video board in Major League Baseball, measuring over 200 feet wide. To support the board, among the largest in American professional sports, the Mariners gutted and reconstructed the video control room at Safeco Field.
In the Lone Star State, Rangers Park unveiled $12 million in renovations this season, including wider concourses, new camera bays, and upgraded concessions. Over the past three seasons, the Texas Rangers have added a new video board and center-field fan area for a total of $35 million in upgrades.
Petco Park, following Citi Field’s lead (the New York Mets moved in portions of their outfield wall prior to the 2012 season), unveiled new dimensions this season. The Padres moved in their left-center, right-center, and right field walls; relocated the out-of-town scoreboard; and moved the visiting bullpen to center field.
North of the border, the Toronto Blue Jays have added a new center-field porch and restaurant at Rogers Centre. According to blogger Andrew Stoeten, the team recently announced $250 million in retrofits and renovations, but no timetable yet.
Marlins Park, battling low attendance, has been closing its upper deck during select midweek games.
Keeping Fans Connected
Major League Baseball continues to push for wireless connectivity, tapping Qualcomm to help boost wireless coverage. According to the company, Qualcomm will work with Major League Baseball Advanced Media to assess connectivity needs over the next two years.
Often ahead of the technological curve (AT&T Park was one of the first WiFi hot-spots in sports), the San Francisco Giants increased the amount of wireless access points in the venue to 760. The Giants recently unveiled the @Cafe, its social-media headquarters, located in the Fan Lot behind the centerfield bleachers.
After inking a long-term deal with Verizon to upgrade 4G and WiFi coverage last year, Petco Park is currently providing free WiFi to San Diego Padres fans.
According to Mobile Sports Report, at least 11 MLB stadiums currently have WiFi connectivity, with the Dodgers slated to boost that number to 12 some time this season. Wireless networks that debuted this season include Nationals Park (Washington Nationals), Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies), and Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs).
Citi Field (not included in the 11) had free WiFi available for fans during the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game; however, it is unclear whether the network will be a permanent fixture at Mets games.
Around the league, several teams have announced their intention to install distributed antenna systems and WiFi networks in the immediate future. The Maryland Stadium Authority, which owns Camden Yards, plans to install a DAS system for Orioles fans prior to the 2014 season.
MLB Upgrades On Deck
It appears that Wrigley Field will enter the 21st century, if the Ricketts’ proposed upgrades go according to plan. Chairman Tom Ricketts recently unveiled $300 million in renovations to the 99-year-old landmark, including a 6,000-square-foot video board in left field and additional digital advertising. However, the plans have faced opposition from those, including Alderman Tom Tunney, looking for smaller screens.
The Oakland Athletics, who recently endured a sewage back-up at the outdated O.co Coliseum, hope that the recent embarrassment will help the team get a new address. The A’s have been pursuing plans for a new stadium in San Jose, but have thus far been held back by the Giants’ territorial rights. San Jose has since filed an antitrust lawsuit with MLB.
In Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays continue to push for a new stadium – citing the location of Tropicana Field as a contributor to the Rays’ low attendance – but the issue remains partially dependent on St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who has blocked the team from leaving the city.
Next season, the Minnesota Twins will host the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field, followed by the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark in 2015.