Name: Oracle Park
Location: San Francisco, CA
Opened: 11 April 2000
Architect: HOK Sport (now Populous)
Cost: $357 Million
Capacity: 40,930 (original)
Surface: Tifway 419 Bermuda grass
I know I've been a bit enthusiastic with the park reviews recently. Yes, I'm a baseball fan, and anyplace you can sit down and watch baseball being played is going to be a pretty good place to be in my opinion. But with Oracle/AT&T/PacBell Park in San Francisco, you're going to be extremely hard-pressed to find anyone who will disagree that this is one of the great sporting venues in the world.
From the stunning bay views to the quirky outfield dimensions to the overall excellent sightlines and top-notch food options, I am hard-pressed to think of a down side to AT&T P-- I mean Oracle Park.
True, some old-school baseball fans don't like the giant Coke bottle slide and old-timey glove (and miniature ballfield) out beyond left field, but I'm generally for anything that will help grow a new generation of baseball fans, and if you don't want to be in a "kiddie park", you can simply not go out there.
One of the most distinguishing features of the park is the extremely short right field distance, just 309 feet down the line. The right-field wall is 24 feet high (a tip of the cap to Giants legend Willie Mays, who wore No. 24), and just on the other side is a sidewalk where passers-by can look into the park via portals in the brick wall. And just beyond that is McCovey Cove, part of San Francisco Bay, leading to the not-infrequent occurrences of home runs being hit not just over the wall, but out of the park and into the bay. There will frequently be kayakers and other boaters out in the cove waiting for splashdown.
All that being said, there are a few things that keep Oracle Park from being the perfect ballpark. First, for having a prime waterfront spot in arguably the most beautiful American city, the view out into the bay is just about the least-inspiring waterfront view in San Francisco (right up there with Candlestick Park, which this park replaced.) Looking out into the southern arm of San Francisco Bay, you can vaguely make out Oakland/Alameda on the far side, but there is no view of downtown San Fransisco, any of the iconic bridges, or even the hills and surrounding geography. This all has to do with the location of the site (former dockyards south of the bay bridge and the necessity of utilizing a small and irregular footprint. Still, it's a shame to not get to exploit this picturesque city.
Also, the small area leads to some cramped concourses; certainly nothing like the old parks, but in the modern generation of ballpark architecture, Oracle can feel a bit cramped. (I personally don't mind this, however, as it's a centuries-long side effect of an intimate ballpark.)
It's also an easy (and sometimes fun) ballpark to get to: there is a myriad of public transportation options, including old-time trolley cars that run down from the Embarcadero, and you can even take a ferry to the game, with a dock out past center field.
All in all, Oracle Park is a gem of Major League Baseball. I can think of a few parks I'd put in front of it personally, but it is an absolute must on any baseball fan's bucket list.
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