When the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies decided to move their spring-training operations from Tucson and share a new facility in the Phoenix metropolitan area, the teams wanted more than a state-of-the-art ballpark. For the hundreds of thousands of supporters who come out each spring to watch practice games, picnic on the stadium lawn, and cut loose before the baseball season begins, the Diamondbacks and Rockies (who are otherwise unaffiliated) set out to create the best fan experience in the major leagues.
The teams found a home in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa County Indian Community, which invested in creating just such an off-season venue called Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, designed by HKS. Unlike a traditional stage-managed sports arena, Salt River Fields invites fans to choose how they experience the game. Visitors enter via ramped sidewalks with views that clarify the logic of the site. To encourage them to explore Salt River as they would a regular park, the architects organized the site in an organic circular pattern around the concrete-and-steel-structure stadium. If the fans don't want to sit in the 11,000-seat stadium or on its large lawn, they can walk around to see the activity at the dugouts, batting cages, and practice fields. “Rather than have one or two places to watch, we probably have 25 ways you can see a game,” says HKS principal Morris Stein.