An 8' bronze statue of Willie Mays stands at the entrance to Pacific Bell Park, the new home of the Giants that opened at 24 Willie Mays Plaza in San Francisco in April. The first privately financed sports venue in the US since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, the $319-million new ballpark is the result of some ingenious dealmaking, indirectly inspired by the voters - who refused four times at the polls to approve public financing for a new stadium. About 20 minutes from downtown on foot, it covers 13 acres and sits on San Francisco Bay. The architect was HOK Sport. With some 41,000 seats, capacity is slightly over half that of its predecessor, 3Com Park (nee Candlestick Park). This is in keeping with a trend toward smaller ballparks: the last five built specifically for major league baseball seat about 50,000 or fewer.
The new ballpark, with a spectacular waterfront setting, strives for an old-time feeling with an intimate layout that brings guests close to the action, a brick facade to fit the post-industrial neighborhood, and a peekaboo right-field wall through which anyone can watch the game for free. In modern fashion, it contains a number of corporate-sponsored themed elements and effects - in this case, courtesy of Coca-Cola and Old Navy - several of which function as family attractions during game and non-game times, and furnish a setting for extracurricular events. These include a giant Coke bottle, a giant baseball mitt, a mini-ballpark, and Rusty, the mechanical man.
Concept design and management of the themed features was provided by the Ford/Howland Company, a partnership of designer Gerard Howland and project manager Richard Ford.
In Coca-Cola Fanlot Fields, the giant Coke bottle doubles as a slide, the mammoth mitt looks like real leather, and the mini-ballpark lets children play ball in a setting that replicates the big park. Design development for this area was by Scientific Art Studio (SAS), headed by Ron Holthuysen. Old Navy Splash Landing features a 100' walkway with water elements and the animated tintype-style ballplayer, Rusty. Design development, engineering, fabrication, and installation for this area were provided by Technifex, Inc.
The 80'-long, 25'-wide soft drink icon had to showcase the trademark bottle shape and logo while satisfying the city's mandate that Coca-Cola's contribution to the skyline be unobtrusive. The design solution was to create a wooden framework rather than a solid bottle. Made using church beam construction techniques, the 130,000lb result is of rot-, termite-, and salt-resistant Alaskan cedar. Attraction and Entertainment Design (AED) engineered the design and created the CAD file from which the pieces were cut by computer-controlled router. Standard Structures built the bottle on the riverbank in Petaluma, north of San Francisco. It traveled to the ballpark by barge and was hauled into place with cranes.
The bottle is lit with neon tubes enclosed in custom-designed plastic raceways that follow its contours, engineered and installed by Ad Art. The lighting designer, Norm Schwab of LightSwitch, held out for neon. "It was the right thing for both the bottle and the label. We were able to come very close to the actual bottle color, and neon cuts through the bright stadium lighting with incredibly low wattage. For the label, we used red and white neon sticks on 9" centers, with a frosted Lexan cover. It diffuses the light and makes the letters appear to glow from behind. It's like a backlit sign, but sexier," he says. The lights are on circuits and go into animated sequences when the Giants hit a home run or win a game. People wait in long lines to descend the two stainless-steel slides that run the length of the bottle.
Huge Lexan bubbles at the mouth of the bottle are lit with industrial strobes from Edwards Technologies. Notes Schwab, "It was hard to find strobes that were UL-approved and would last outdoors. The Edwards strobes are used on police cars and for signal warnings." Designing the mound of bubbles turned out to be one of those instances where computer modeling was not the fastest or best way to start. Holthuysen saved the day with a handful of acrylic marbles, glued together.
The model for the 26'-high, 20,000lb baseball mitt was a 1920s-era four-fingered glove that Holthuysen picked up for $15 at his favorite haunt, the Urban Ore salvage yard in Berkeley, CA. SAS made a mold of the mitt and two casts: one for structural engineering by AED and another for digitizing by Cyber Effects. The information from each was combined to a single file for Cyber Effects' computer-controlled router to cut the shape in foam, from which was cast a fiberglass shell. The same file was used to fabricate the internal steel structure, to which the fiberglass was bolted. Fabricators textured the exterior to simulate leather, working in sections. "We applied a thin layer of specially formulated modeling epoxy colored like leather," explains Holthuysen. "We mixed it in a pizza dough mixer, rolled it out into slabs, applied the slabs to the fiberglass and sculpted textures using sponges, brushes, stamps and other tools. We had about one hour before a slab hardened." Laces and knots were hand-sculpted with separate molds cast in epoxy, and threaded into brass grommets. Stitching was done by hand with heavy, marine-quality rope. Acrylic paint with U/V blockers finished it off. Holthuysen accompanied the mitt as it sailed from the Performance Structures fabrication house in Oakland to the ballpark by barge.
Lightswitch lit the mitt with incandescents to bring out the warm tones of the leather, using PAR-64 1,000W lamps. These were overlaid with four High End Systems EC1 architectural lights, for changing colors to celebrate high points in the game. "They have the ability to mix color, fade, or pop color in and out," says Schwab. All the lights in this area are controlled by a Rosco/ET Horizon system.
Few would dispute that Pacific Bell Park is a significant improvement over its predecessor in many ways. But Candlestick Park was as traditional as it was windy, and people are still adjusting to the change. All the thematic elements of this park have received their share of local criticism, and the the 14'-tall, 2,000lb Rusty is the most controversial. Some don't like his mustache, some don't like his moves, but his greatest sin, at least in the eyes of sportswriters, is that the storage shed in which he lives restricts the view from a number of seats. "Our installation was a retrofit situation, even though the stadium was new, because HOK had already designed the stadium by the time we were on board," remarks Monty Lunde of Technifex, the company that brought Rusty to life as well as the water features and two custom elongated penny presses for Old Navy Splash Landing. "The architect had to integrate the new elements with the stadium."
With Ford/Howland in the designer's seat, Technifex joined in the conceptual process, helping to determine Rusty's characteristics and moves, and developing the water features that adorn the Old Navy walkway. "We had only six months. It couldn't have worked if we weren't part of the process," says Lunde. The water columns, made of stainless steel with brick cladding, can fire together or in sequence, and each includes a cannon that shoots about two gallons of water at 150psi, with smaller jets and waterfalls as well. The columns are internally lit. Everything is computer-controlled by an Anitech Media Pro 2000 system, with a manual operator at the button.
Custom built from the ground up, Rusty is fully computer-controlled and hydraulically powered. He has 18 animated functions, including wrist, arms, shoulders, knees, and eyebrows. He moves from a central pivot point, supported by a single rod off his main carriage, enabling him to slide head first or feet first. His pivot range is about 160ø. Rusty's no-rust steel structure and skins conceal an array of hydraulic valves and actuators. His carriage, also steel, is attached to a 100' track along the right field wall. He can move 10' per second. He's not painted, but adorned with a computer photo transfer at 600dpi. Although he looks very two-dimensional, Rusty is 30" thick. He has 12 sets of moves (including air guitar) and is re-programmable.
When he's not entertaining fans, Rusty retires to his shed. "He's definitely a personality," says Lunde. "Fans will pour $6 beers on him when the Giants are losing. Fortunately, he's pure stainless steel and rustproof."