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Chase Field, Part 1

The baseball season is over for the Diamondbacks — but the stadium, located in downtown Phoenix, is still open for business. On Thursday, I went for the tour of Chase Field. The original naming rights were purchased by Bank One and when it opened in 1998 the stadium was officially named Bank One Ballpark although all the locals (and the local media) called it BOB. When Bank One merged with JP Morgan Chase, the name had to change — but somehow, Chase Field does not have that same ring. Regardless of its name, it is one of the most impressive stadiums in the country. It has a retractable roof — you can see the nested, telescoping segments atop the front of the stadium — with a matching set of three segments at the other end.

A huge banner is still displayed proclaiming the success of last year's team. This year they had a .500 record and were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs a week or so before the end of the season. Local fans had expected a better result after the team's success in 2011.

This marks the entrance to the stadium offices — these are used by the Maricopa County Stadium District Commission which helped organize the building of this stadium as well as the Cardinals' football stadium in Glendale and numerous spring training and neighborhood fields supported by the same taxing authority.

In the stadium lobby, stands a familiar fellow. He came here for the All-Star game which was played at Chase Field in 2011. He hasn't left yet.

Also, the lobby floors and walls are decorated to recognize the contribution of the local Native American tribes that have helped fund the local sports facilities.

The second stop on the tour is out in left field where Friday's Front Row Sports Grill is located. This photo was taken from the dining area outside the restaurant itself where the fortunate few can watch the game as they munch on their favorite T.G.I. Friday's meals. Note that Friday's is open year-round — in fact, you can eat your lunch there after finishing the tour.

You will notice the grass mowing tractor in the infield — yes, this "indoor stadium" has real grass. It is a special blend that can tolerate the heat of Phoenix and the reduced light levels caused by the stands. The roof is normally left open during the day so the grass can get as much sunlight as possible. It will be closed prior to most games and the giant air conditioning unit turned on. If the weather is pleasant during the evening, they may open the roof just prior to the start of a night game. Remember that cool air is heavier than warm air, and on such nights, it remains comfortable.

Out in right field is the swimming pool and Jacuzzi — the only one in a major league stadium (according to my guide). Whenever a Diamondback player hits a home run, the sprayers in the gravel strip at the bottom of the picture erupt in celebration.

The swimming pool can be rented as a suite holding up to 35 guests for $3,500 per game. Note that you have to make your reservation early — no later than the beginning of the season — the dates go fast.

My guide said that Chase Field entertains more non-baseball events than baseball games. I was aware of events such as a few football games, monster truck rallies and concerts but I was surprised to learn that they also entertain many corporate functions, weddings, parties, as well. This area, located below the stands, can be configured for corporate receptions or meetings by changing the furnishing to match the requirements.

We poor folk do not often get to visit the suites that are rented to corporations as well as the rich and famous — so the tour is the only way for me to visit. They typically hold 18 guests and cost $2,000 per game plus catering. Some can be reconfigured with the neighboring suite to provide a larger facility.

Just outside the suite one finds their reserved seats — larger than the seats that the unwashed masses occupy. Note that the next suite over (other side of the green bar) has a set of seats on wheels. That suite is owned by the stadium district and they loan it to United Way. That charity then invites member organizations to share a game in relative luxury — usually inviting the folks that the charity serves. The moveable seats can be removed to allow wheelchair access for those guests who not ambulatory.

And this is the view from the suite I was able to tour. Not bad. Not bad at all. Note that you can see Friday's Front Row Sports Grill that we visited earlier. Above it is a playground and batting cage for the kids.

Here my tour guide, Walt, standing in the press box. He's been doing this for eight years. BTW, I have been using the first person singular to describe my tour — because I was the only person who signed up for this particular date and time. It was great getting a personal tour — I felt free to ask any question and Walt was extremely knowledgeable and happy to answer all of my questions.

One of the interesting attributes of the press box is that every reporter is assigned a particular spot. The small labels under the windows list the name of the reporter and his/her media company. The ones visible here are for the Arizona Republic, our major newspaper in Phoenix.

I know that a job in which you sit and watch every baseball game (or, at least every home game) sounds like a sweet assignment, however you still have certain risks that you have to be aware of. Here is a hole in the wall made by a foul ball that came into the press box (note the windows are open during the games). Looks like the reporters were able to dodge that bullet.

To be continued...


Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com