Recent trends in ballpark design have helped blend mixed-use developments with the facilities themselves. There are numerous examples of this trend playing out across Minor League Baseball, but the Lansing Lugnuts (Low A; Midwest League) took it a step further in 2016 by becoming the first team to add apartment units to their ballpark.
That upgrade, which resulted in The Outfield Apartments at Cooley Law School Stadium, has earned the Ballpark Digest Award for Best Ballpark Renovation (Over $10 Million).
Several years ago, the Lugnuts began mapping out plans to renovate Cooley Law School Stadium. The facility first opened in 1996 and lacked many of the amenities, including a 360-degree concourse and unique group seating options, that have become commonplace at ballparks. What Cooley Law School Stadium did offer, however, was a location in downtown Lansing that could tap into surrounding development.
“The genesis of this started a few years ago, when we decided that we needed to make some improvements to the ballpark,” said Lugnuts owner Tom Dickson. “At the same time, the apartment situation in downtown was kind of exploding. It was clear that there were still some opportunities. We figured, hey, there’s an opportunity to build apartments downtown and we need to improve the outfield.”
Partnering with Gillespie Group, with assistance from the City of Lansing and the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Lugnuts collaborated in mapping out The Outfield Apartments. The apartment project, which cost about $11 million, led to the creation of a first-floor area that serves Cooley Law School Stadium’s outfield concourse. That space is owned by the City of Lansing and leased by the Lugnuts, while the second through fourth floors—which are controlled by Gillespie—serve as residential units. This season marked the completion of the second through fourth floors of the space.
With the outfield concourse came The View, an indoor event space, along with the Chevrolet Home Run Terrace. According to Dickson, reaction was positive to the group areas and other amenities in the outfield, including new space for the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Fans love to be able to walk around the concourse,” he said. “It just completely transformed the ballpark from a 20-year-old ballpark into essentially a brand new one.”
With this renovation and other improvements in recent years, Cooley Law School Stadium and the Lugnuts are in a position to continue benefitting from ongoing trends in Lansing. Earlier this year, it was reported that Lansing has experienced three straight years of population growth and the downtown area has seen a continued influx of residential development.
It has taken time, but years after Cooley Law School Stadium’s opening, the ballpark is becoming one of the key pieces of downtown Lansing’s boom. “Twenty years ago, we (the city and the team) built the ballpark here with the purpose of bringing people back downtown. And that is exactly what it has done,” Dickson said. “We’re just further capitalizing on the renovation of downtown.”
Image courtesy Lansing Lugnuts