Snow Kreilich Architects as the leading design architect created a green space on what was one of the most contaminated sites in the Twin Cities. The CHS Field Ballpark is conceived first as a park and a public space, and then as a sports venue. The goal was to create the greenest ballpark in America. Which they accomplished by incorporating an aggressive storm water management system, installing a record-sized solar array and building the new structure on crushed concrete made from the demolition of the existing building.
“In a project like this one, where you need to be very strategic about where you put the dollars, they kept the enclosures minimal and spent a lot on the cedar soffits. I bet those soffits just give a huge aura to the place. This is the best small ballpark I’ve ever seen, and then you see how it’s knitted into the community around it. This is what architecture can do, and it’s very powerful.” – Juror Comments / AIA Minnesota Award
The 7,210-seat CHS Field in the Lowertown district of Saint Paul, Minnesota, which opened in 2015 after three years of design and construction, is many things to many people. For sports fans, it is the new home to the St. Paul Saints, with unique design elements that include a seating bowl built into the natural topography of the site.
For local residents, it is a revitalized green space in an area where one of the ten most contaminated sites in the Twin Cities once sat. And from an environmental standpoint, CHS Field is designed to be the greenest ballpark in America, with a rainwater harvesting system, solar panels, and many other energy-savings features. While a host of diverse elements attract people to CHS Field (about 450,000 guests are expected yearly), one element stands out as a universally pleasing eye-catcher: the ballpark’s extensive use of Western Red Cedar.
“By far and away, the Western Red Cedar ceilings at the ballpark are the most talked about aspect of the park,” says Andrew Dull, lead designer of CHS Field. “Most ballparks have a utilitarian expression: exposed structural steel, metal decks or concrete is the typical experience. So using Western Red Cedar for the entire ceiling brings an intimacy and warmth that is unique to ballparks.”
“CHS Field in Lowertown forms a transitional use from St Paul’s vibrant arts district of 19th century warehouses into the natural amenities of riverfront parks and trails. With just 7,000 seats, the ballpark is conceived as first a park, a green space. The seating bowl and playing field are located below street level allowing a street level walkway all around the field. The suites, club and press box hover above the concourse in a light steel frame pavilion with a warm wood canopy. Concourse amenities are pushed back, carving into the hillside. The enclosed spaces of the ballpark are intentionally minimized in order to allow a connection to the Lowertown district, the skyline and the river from within the park. The design strategy is evocative of the district’s steel fire escapes as light and porous counterpoints to the weight and massing of the surrounding warehouses. The neighborhood’s cultural identity is built on the creativity of its artists, its population’s diversity, its social energy built on its events, restaurants, market and active public places. This energy and creativity erupts in some of the tucked away corners of the district. Similarly the ballpark is conceived to appeal to a diverse population with a variety of seating types, encouraging social encounters and movement throughout the park. A level 360 degree concourse surrounds the park with multiple seating options, and event locations.” – Snow Kreilich Architects
The new field has plenty of the amenities that Midway Stadium lacked: ample concessions, a clubhouse, a media facility, and neon signage in a fetching Dutch font. There’s also a 360-degree path around the field, allowing restless fans to take in the game (and the antics) from all angles. On a recent night, some fans with standing-room-only passes leaned over the metal railing overlooking right field while others sipped craft beers on a grassy berm behind left field.
“The 360-degree concourse fosters a sense of community,” says Snow. “Everybody at the game can see everybody else. I think that’s really important to creating an intimate experience with the game.”
Snow Kreilich Architects:
CHS Field is conceived first as a park and a public space, and then as a sports venue. Working with the City of Saint Paul and the St. Paul Saints, an independent league franchise committed to providing a unique fan experience, the design team slipped a 7,000 seat ballpark into a remnant site between an interstate highway, an elevated bridge, a light rail operations facility and the historic Lowertown District on the edge of the City’s business district.
The architecture is low and compact, with the ballpark structures surrounding the seating bowl and playing field. A light suite level structure floats above the grounded seating bowl and masonry concourse amenity buildings. The main entrance frames the termination of Fifth Street, creating an important connection with the city core. Large open volumes at the concourse and the suite level combined with the elevate suite level create a space that is porous to its surroundings and a park that is visible from adjacent spaces.
The material palette is restrained, using wood on the underside of the canopy and suite level, combined with dark steel and masonry. The design’s restraint becomes a foil and a framework for the energetic promotions and events for which the ballclub is so well known.
The ballpark operates as a public space; it offers social engagement opportunities as well as a civic and district identity. The design maximizes the social opportunity of the site. It is accessible physically with a level concourse surrounding the field and seating bowl, and economically with its low ticket prices. Captured spaces off the concourse offer social engagement opportunities as fans walk around the park while enjoying the game. These are sometimes programmed, for example, with the Ballpark Barber or Sister Rosalind’s chair massage station, and sometime left for casual encounters. The identity of the ballpark is closely aligned with a sense of place, connecting the ballpark experience with the district and the City skyline through the porosity of structure. The ballpark’s lightness, openness and material welcome visitors of all abilities. By providing ample revenue generating spaces, the design assists the team in creating affordable entertainment for all income levels.
Located adjacent to, but not in, Saint Paul’s historic Lowertown District, a collection of early 1800 warehouse structures, the ballpark sought to change historic design discourse beyond the compatibility or differentiation debate to a more critical assessment of contextual relationships, needs and opportunities. The sleek low ballpark offers powerful views to the surrounding historic structures, locating the experience within the district. While the entry plaza frames a view up Fifth Street to the historic Saint Paul Hotel, the city skyline animates the view from grass berm seating in the outfield. Detailed views of historic warehouses are framed along the concourse by the elevated suite level. The ballpark materials, wood steel and masonry, refer indirectly to the robust timber and iron structures of the warehouse interiors. The porosity, lightness, and openness of the ballpark architecture adjacent to the district’s massive formidable warehouses create a memorable contrast.
Project name: CHS Field
Location: 360 N Broadway St, St Paul, Minnesota 55101, United States
Coordinates: 44.950643, -93.084463
Site area: n/a
Project Area: 347,000 sq.ft (63,414 enclosed)
- Left Field – 330 feet (100 m)
- Center Field – 405 feet (123 m)
- Right Field – 320 feet (98 m)
Cost/Budget: $63 million
Completion: May 2015
Opening Date: 21 May 2015
Client / Owner / Developer: City of Saint Paul
- Snow Kreilich Architects – 219 N 2nd St #120, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401, United States
- Cameron Bence, Associate AIA, Michael Heller, Associate AIA, Kai Salmela, Matt Rain
Architect of record: Ryan A+E
Sports architect: AECOM
Design-builder: Ryan Companies US
Landscape Architect: Bob Close Studio
Landscape architect of record: Ryan A+E
Text Description: © Courtesy of Snow Kreilich Architects, AIA Minnesota Award
Images: © Snow Kreilich Architects, Paul Crosby