Now 26 years old and in need of upgrades, the city of Buffalo and Buffalo Bisons (Class AAA; International League) ownership has started a conversation about the future of downtown Coca-Cola Field.
When then-Pilot Field opened in 1988, it was a groundbreaking ballpark for a few reasons: as a downtown success, it sparked the movement to bring MLB and MiLB ballparks back into the city, and it was designed as a retro ballpark, providing a blueprint for other new ballparks built since. Populous became closely associated with both trends after the success of Pilot Field.
But after 26 years, the ballpark needs to have basic needs addressed — the boiler system is living on borrowed time, for instance — and the baseball fan experience has changed over the team. The team and the city have done some things to spruce up Coca-Cola Field, but a bolder — and more expensive — approach is needed. From the Buffalo News:
“A ballpark needs to change,” architect Joseph E. Spear told The Buffalo News during a recent tour of the park, now called Coca-Cola Field. “It needs to be a living thing. It can’t be frozen in time that never changes.”
Spear was one of the architects who helped design the city-owned stadium, and he returned to Buffalo last month to tour the facility. Eventually, he and others will produce a list of proposed improvements likely to cost millions of dollars. The checklist is expected to range from costly infrastructure upgrades such as new boilers, to amenities that fans have come to expect, said Spear, now senior principal at Populous, a Kansas City-based architectural firm. One such example might be a Wi-Fi system.
“It needs to adjust to the marketplace,” Spear said. “And I think that’s part of what we’re talking about on this trip.”
There’s nothing formal on the table, and any proposal from the team probably won’t be made until this fall. City officials say they see value in a vibrant downtown ballpark, but until Rich Baseball puts a game plan in writing, it’s all conceptual.
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