Ballpark Breakdown: Chase Field
Welcome back Brendon with another Ballpark Breakdown from his visit to Chase Field for the World Baseball Classic! - AB
By Brendon McGirr
Opening Date: 1998
Capacity: 48, 405 (as of 2020)
Visiting Date: Twice, most recent Mexico 11, USA 5 (2023 WBC)
My photo from Chase Field
Built during the Renaissance of ballpark designs of the late 90s, residents of Phoenix knew right away that in order to support a team in the desert heat, a roof would be a must. In 1994 Maracopia county approved a 0.25% tax hike to help fund a stadium and bring a team to the American Southwest. The tax was very unpopular at the time, with a Maracopia county supervisor actually being shot by a homeless citizen who viewed it as unjust. The initial construction cost went over budget by about $100 million dollars, with the Diamondback franchise responsible for the difference. This would hamper the financial situation of the franchise for their first few seasons.
Bank One Ballpark, as it was known, officially opened in 1998. At the time, it became the first stadium to have a retractable roof and natural grass. This started a new trend of ballparks in the early 2000s that would follow this model. As one fan pointed out while I was there, the dimensions of the stadium greatly resemble that of an aircraft hanger.
On March 31st, 1998, Andy Benes took the mound for the brand new Diamondbacks against the Colorado Rockies. There would be no happy housewarming though, with the Rockies pounding the Diamondbacks 9-2. This did not stop fans though, as over 3 million would attend games in the initial season.
Surrounding Area/Getting to the Stadium
During my time in Arizona, I stayed about 40 minutes from downtown in Apache Junction in the shadows of the Superstition Mountains. There are some really great views in the area for anyone who likes hiking.
When going down to Phoenix, we ended up taking the Valley Metro light rail system in Mesa. My only comparison to this is the light rail system in Baltimore, but I found the Valley Metro system actually very well run. The total ride time was 40 minutes from the farthest stop to the Stadium District of Phoenix, and goes through the towns of Mesa and Tempe, including straight through the campus of Arizona State University. I learned that the light rail is in sync with light changes through the line, so there were no unexpected stops.
The light rail drops you off right in front of the Footprint Center, home of the Phoenix Suns. Chase Field is about a 2 block walk, with several Mexican restaurants lining the walk. The energy in these restaurants before the US/Mexico game was very lively, with music and dancing happening in every single one. Directly across from Chase Field was Guy Fieri’s DTPHX Kitchen and Bar, a 2 story tall sports bar with a large outdoor patio area. We attempted to go in, but there was a two hour wait, but it looked like a great place to go before a game. We ended up walking two blocks to the Doghaus, a contemporary burger bar with artisan sliders. Every order came with 4 sliders, so it was a great option to share different sandwiches and get some drinks without a long wait.
In the Stadium
As stated before, walking towards Chase Field feels like you are going straight towards an aircraft hanger. During the games we went to, the roof was closed unfortunately. Walking around the concourse, there was nothing that really stood out compared to some other stadiums I have visited. There was a team museum located in centerfield, but it was closed for the WBC.
One thing that did stand out that I found unique was the kid’s playground, Baxter’s Hangout, which was located in the third level of the left field corner. Unlike most children’s area’s I have seen in other stadiums, this kids playground faced the field, so it would be possible to keep an eye on the ball game while younger kids played in the area. There were also several different STEM stations on the third level that combined baseball and science, which is a nice way of teaching kids while at the ballpark.
My biggest takeaway from the stadium is the sheer size of the stadium compared to other retractable roof/dome stadiums I have been to (Great American Family Field and Tropicana Field). Everything just felt bigger, from the glass facade behind centerfield, to the giant US and Arizona flags in Centerfield, to the large Diamondbacks logo hanging above home plate.
Food of Choice
While food options seemed a little limited for the WBC, there are two things I wanted to highlight in Chase Field on the food side. Down the first base line is Big Dawgs. Big Dawgs makes a unique dish for each visiting team in Arizona, including a unique hot dog for every National League team for their visit to the desert. For the WBC, they offered Fish and Chips (for team UK) and Chicken Enchilada nachos (for team Mexico). We got the nachos, and for ballpark food it was pretty good. It had great flavor and was a great upgrade from what you usually consider for ballpark nachos.
Also on the second level is Cold Beer and Cheeseburgers, a fully functioning restaurant that is built into Chase Field. The unique aspect of this restaurant is it is technically not part of Chase Field, so to get in you need to scan your ticket and rescan to reenter the stadium. However, this allows it to offer significantly cheaper food and drinks compared to the offering in the ballpark. There are about 8 tables that hang on a platform facing the field that you can reserve for any game. It is a $200 deposit, with that deposit being used for your food/drink orders while watching the game.
Chase Field had a lot of issues to overcome with its construction. Building in one of the hottest climates in the US in an area that had very little connection to baseball besides spring training, I think it has done a good job building a welcoming baseball facility to the desert. While it lacks some of the classical appeals of other ballparks I have visited and loved, it is a unique experience while also offering a lot of amenities in the downtown area. I will say the energy brought out by the WBC definitely showed how raucous the stadium can get when it is sold out. There was a lot of energy in the stadium, and I highly recommend that if you have a chance to attend a WBC game, definitely do it! I cannot think of a louder baseball environment I have been to personally than when Joey Meneses went deep.
Want more stuff to check out? How about my new video on YouTube where I check out some 2023 Topps Hangers, some Prizm Football, Manny Auto from Nick, and a COMC Mailday
Thanks for reading! Aaron and Brendon