Take me out to the ball game

I was out at AT&T Park yesterday for an exhibition game against the Oakland A’s and was reminded why this is one of my favorite parks in baseball. Although I’ve been to the park many times before, in its various incarnations of the Ma Bell reassembly, this was the first time I took in all the features.

(RSS readers, click to the blog to see the embedded slideshow or view it on flickr.)

Among the things I love about the park:

  • The stadium itself. There are great sightlines from most seats in the park. (I wouldn’t recommend the top of the lower deck, though.) You can walk all the way around. If you don’t like your seat, there are plenty of places around the park to stand and watch the game. AT&T Park offers a blend of old and new. In addition to the high definition JumboTron in center field, there’s a manually operated scoreboard in right field.
  • The setting. Of the parks I’ve been to, AT&T Park has the most picturesque setting. You get sweeping views of San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge.
  • The food. Purists may object, but you can get a wide range of food, including burgers, dogs, seafood, pizza, barbecue and Mexican. Among the more unusual items for a baseball stadium: Ghiradelli hot chocolate delivered to your seat. (Which can be important, see below.) You can get a hot dog for under $5 and a bad domestic beer for under $6.
  • The other activities. Again, purists may object, but there’s plenty to do at the park even if you aren’t a baseball fan. You can take a plunge down the 80-foot Coca-Cola slide, walk the promenade or just take in the great views. If you’re truly bored, use the parks WiFi or Internet kiosks. (But I’ll be rooting for your laptop screen to be shattered by a foul ball.)
  • The fan-friendly policies. You can bring in food and non-alcoholic drinks. You can also transfer your tickets electronically to someone else through the Giants’ Web site. Before Major League Baseball imposed StubHub on all its teams, you could also buy tickets from season ticketholders.
  • The fact that it was privately funded. The stadium is a true rarity among sports facilities these days: the public didn’t pay for it. Unlike the hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars that some parks get, taxpayer subsidies for Pac Bell were limited to improvements around the site for access.

With all that it has going for it, AT&T Park does have its challenges:

  • The team. Sure, it sold out quite frequently last year, but those stats were juiced with the Bonds draw. Don’t look for a winning team anytime soon.
  • The cold. San Francisco is a bit on the chilly side year around and the park’s location right on the water means you’ll probably be cold at some point. Bring your best football clothing and blankets.
  • The neighborhood. It’s not a bad neighborhood, but it’s a new one and still somewhat plastic. You won’t find the street vendors and party atmosphere that you see at Wrigley, Fenway or even Camden Yards.

About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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