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Chase Field / Arizona Diamondbacks

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There is simply no escaping an air-conditioned existence if you spend any time in Phoenix in the summer: the desert atmosphere so welcome for spring training in March becomes rather tiresome by the beginning of June, when it’s just too damn hot to be outside. At the end of the day, air conditioning is perhaps America’s greatest contribution to the world. And air conditioning makes Chase Field an oasis.


FAST FACTS

Year Opened: 1998
Capacity: 49,075
Architect: Ellerbe Becket; renovations overseen by HKS
Dimensions: 328L, 402C, 335R
Playing Surface: Grass
Website: mlb.com
Phone: 602/514-8400, 888/777-4664
League: National League
Original Name: Bank One Ballpark
Parking: Numerous ramps are close but expensive.
Address/Directions: 401 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix. If you're looking at a downtown Phoenix map, Chase Field is bounded by 7th Street to the east, 4th Street to the west, Jefferson Street to the north and the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks to the south. Two freeways ring downtown Phoenix, and both provide access: exit I-10 at 7th Street and turn south, or exit I-17 at 7th Street and turn north. In addition, there's alternate routes provided by freeway signs, which bring you to the ballpark via Washington Street (which runs parallel to Jefferson Street). The Diamondbacks advise against using the 7th Street exit on busy nights.


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There is simply no escaping an air-conditioned existence if you spend any time in Phoenix in the summer: the desert atmosphere so welcome for spring training in March becomes rather tiresome by the beginning of June, when it’s just too damn hot to be outside.

At the end of the day, air conditioning is perhaps America’s greatest contribution to the world. And air conditioning makes Chase Field an oasis. Yes, we know the real Phoenix natives aren’t afraid of being outside in the hot summertime, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to spend three hours outside on an August evening, either. Major-league baseball couldn’t exist in Phoenix without an air-conditioned ballpark like Chase Field – which is good news for the rest of us.

Chase Field is built for comfort, not flashiness, engineered by the kind of folks who sought to solve a slew of problems and then didn’t have the energy left to address issues like ornamentation. In other words, Chase Field feels like it was designed by engineers, not architects. Not that this is a bad thing: it took a lot of engineering to solve the many challenges of bringing major-league baseball to the Valley of the Sun.

Chase Field features a retractable roof, air conditioning, and a grass playing field, the first such combo in major-league history. (The original Astrodome design sported natural grass under a translucent roof, but the experiment was a huge failure when not enough sunlight pierced the roof. Hence Astroturf.) The air-conditioning system provides 8,000 tones of cooling, and it takes about four hours to cool down the stands and concourses (the playing area is not cooled) from 110 degrees to 72 degrees.

That’s not the only engineering feat at the ballpark. Growing decent grass in Arizona in the summertime is hard enough, especially when it’s partially shaded much of the time. Even when opening the roof during the day to allow in sunshine, it took a few months for the grounds crew to come up with the right grass – in this case, a blend of Bull’s Eye Bermuda, Kentucky blue grass, and rye grass – to withstand the scorching sun and the extremes between hot days and cool nights. (Sections of turf that don’t get enough sun get their own special treatment when incandescent growth lights are used.) Since then, Seattle and Houston have successfully combined a retractable roof with natural grass.

Speaking of the roof: Despite the scale, the 9-million-pound roof is a fairly simple mechanism. Two halves – made up of three trusses – are opened or closed by four miles of cable pulled by two 200-horsepower motors. It takes only four minutes to open or close the roof (because the roof is so light, it costs the team only $2 in electricity to open or close it), and the Diamondbacks do it in style: they hold a countdown to the opening of the roof, performed to special theme music. (Alas, the roof remains closed for most of the season; if you want to see it open be sure to head to Phoenix in April or May.) Technically, the roof doesn’t seal: one side fits on top of the other, and there’s enough of a gap to allow air to flow through. (There’s also enough space to allow rain to fall through, which happens from time to time.) During the day it’s not uncommon to see only half of the roof opened to allow sunlight on the field but not in the stands. The Diamondbacks control sole authority on whether the roof will be opened (at other ballparks, such as Rogers Centre, the umpires and opposing managers are notified when a roof is to be opened and closed, with the umpires able to overrule the decision if a protest is lodged by the opposing manager), and they usually map out several days in advance whether the roof will be opened. (You can check the team’s Web site at www.mlb.com for the roof-opening status or call 602/379-7663). On hot nights the roof is not opened; in the past Diamondbacks pitchers (especially Randy Johnson) were vociferous in their belief the roof should be closed for almost every game. When the roof opens, six large screens in left field open as well. While you never feel like you’re at an outdoor event at Chase Field, you can get a decent approximation of it when the roof and windows are open.