Design & Development

Historic ballpark enjoys major league upgrade

Featured image credit: BrightView

Rickwood Field, the oldest ballpark in the United States, hosted its first-ever Major League Baseball (MLB) regular-season game yesterday following a $5m (£4m/€4.7m) upgrade for the special occasion.

The game, in which the St Louis Cardinals beat the San Francisco Giants 6-5, was organised to pay homage to the 114-year-old facility in Birmingham, Alabama, and its prominent role in the country’s former Negro Leagues, as well as Willie Mays, who started his career at the ballpark before playing in the major leagues for more than two decades.

Mays’ sudden death at the age of 93 on Tuesday made the special event an even more poignant occasion.

The City of Birmingham provided the bulk of the funding for the facility’s upgrade, while MLB also contributed financially to the one-off contest at the venue, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

BrightView, which was brought in as the official field consultant of MLB for the game, worked alongside BaAM Productions and Populous to bring the ballpark up to scratch. The three parties also worked together on MLB’s Field of Dreams concept.

BrightView renovated the playing surface at Rickwood Field and will continue to maintain the field, although there are no other regular-season games currently scheduled for the ballpark. Brightview removed 5,000 tonnes of material from the original field and excavated a 10-inch thick mass of chalk from both foul lines.

Todd Barnes, principal at Populous, told the Associated Press: “We were handed a stadium that is very old and doesn’t meet code in many ways… We had to fit Major League Baseball into a place that was never intended to have it.”

Whilst no additional structures were built, the facility – which had previously fallen into disrepair more than three decades ago – required a major facelift, with new spaces designed for the teams and media, as well as the venue operations team. Additionally, some seating was taken out to accommodate wheelchair access.