Bowling Green bills its downtown as historic, complete with a picture-perfect town square ringed by quaint shops and restaurants. So it’s only natural that Bowling Green Ballpark, the new home of the Bowling Green Hot Rods, features a brick-clad design and a nice combination of the modern with a classic feel. It comes close in spirit to Fluor Field, the home of the Greenville Drive (Low Class A; Sally League) and one of the best facilities in all of baseball.
Capacity: 4,559 seats (4,128 in bowl). Crowds of over 6,000 are quite possible with lawn and SRO tickets.
Cost: $28 million (raised from establishment of TIF district in downtown Bowling Green)
Owner: City of Bowling Green
Architect: DLR Group
League: South Atlantic League (Low Class A)
Ticket Prices (2009); Box seats, $10; lawn seats, $5.
Phone Number: 270/901-2121, ext. 108.
Address/Directions: 300 8th Avenue, Bowling Green. Basically, the ballpark is on the east side of downtown Bowling Green. Follow the signs pointing to downtown Bowling Green and you’ll find the ballpark. If you’re coming in off the I-65 freeway, take either exit 26 or 28 and follow the signs to downtown.
But while the design of Bowling Green Ballpark lacks some of the more notable signature features found in Greenville — like a mini-Green Monster — it does a lot to please fans never exposed to professional baseball.(This is the first year for the Hot Rods, the former Columbus Catfish.) No coincidence; the DLR Group designed both.
In many respects Bowling Green Ballpark is a standard modern ballpark. Fans enter at street level on a concourse level, which doesn’t quite ring the playing field (the site design was altered in such a way from the original plans for a wraparound concourse). A suite level along with a large canopy rises over the grandstand section, with the press box shifted to the end on the third-base side. The exterior is all brick, while the suite level is clad in corrugated metal, which makes for a very large clang when it is struck by a foul ball.
The move of the press box to the end of the suite level allowed the ballpark designers to install a 200-plus-capacity Stadium Club behind home place. Fans buying Club-level tickets have access to the bar, which also serves food, as well as a padded seat behind home plate. These really are the best seats in the house; spring for them if you visit the ballpark.
The Stadium Club bar is two sided; one side is decidicated to Club patrons while the other is open to suite patrons who might want additional food and/or drinks for their consumption.
The outfield fence is a fascinating feature of this ballpark. It is anything but symmetrical, and the specific design was really dicated by the eight-acre ballpark site. Beyond right field a two-lane street runs next to the ballpark, and the curve of the wall and fence match the curve of the street; the height also matches the pitch of the land, so it seems to gently curve and undulate. In each corner the fence juts out from the ballpark wall to make room for bullpens. There’s no place for players to hide here; the concourses run beside and behind each.
In right field, the corner is occupied by a kids’ play area, along with a grass berm and picnic tables. Parent can feel comfortable heading out there and letting the kids run free while they watch the game. In left field, the concourse leads to a left-field picnic/group area. In a nice design touch, the brickwork out here looks like something lifted from a WPA-era facility, but not over the top. It adds a classic feel to the facility.
Clubhouses and groundskeeper facilities are located beyond left and center field; that’s where players enter the ballpark. These facilities include decent-sized clubhouses, batting cages and training rooms.
The large videoboard and a left-field LED ribbon board are from Daktronics.
Huge sections of the ballpark are not finished, as serious construction of the facility began less than a year ago. (A bit of background: a group of downtown organizers had been working for years on a ballpark-funding plan, and only last year did a tax-increment financing district be established. The ballpark is one part of a larger $250-million redevelopment district that will also include a new performing-arts center, and delays in selling bonds for the projecr resulted in a late start for ballpark construction.) A grand three-story entryway into the new team offices and gift shop is a vast expanse of sheetrock. The sections of the that building opening into the first-base concourse are not completed, either. A center-field berm is closed, the result of last-minute budget cuts. And a parking ramp next to the ballpark probably won’t open until next season.
These temporary shortcomings don’t detract from the classic and successful feel to the ballpark, however. We’ll be eager to see the ballpark again once it is finished.
Mutliple concession stands behind home plate serve the usual ballpark fare: hot dogs, sausages, hamburfers, soft drinks, beer. A temporary concession stand is located on the concourse. More concession stands will open when the right-field building is finished.
BEFORE/AFTER THE GAME
Downtown Bowling Green was crammed with cars during the afternoon of our visit. Now, there’s a lot to like about this quaint little downtown, but we’re guessing most of these folks were not shopping at the small boutiques and shops ringing the square; most of them were parked by fans walking over to the game. Which was the point behind the public financing of the ballpark: to bring fans into the downtown area.
So go ahead and drop by a local watering hole before or after the game; that’s the point of the ballpark location. Downtown features several notable bars and restaurants; you can find a list here.
Do not expect to stay downtown and walk to the game: there are no hotels in downtown Bowling Green.
Several lots next to the ballpark are run by the city and offer parking for $5. You could also park somewhere in downtown Bowling Green and walk to the game.