News: Mixed Reviews of Reds Stadium Designs

Fans Warm up, Architects Have Questions

The new Reds facility, as envisioned by HOK Sport, features a modern stadium behind brick administrative buildings.

While fans generally welcomed the Reds' ballpark designs unveiled May 11 to the press and public, several local architects were a little more skeptical about what they saw.

The latest drawings and models revealed more intimate seating and more seats in general on the field level, a brick Reds Hall of Fame and administrative buildings surrounding the ballpark, a main entrance/plaza re-creating sections of Crosley Field's infield, plus two Union Terminal-style mosaics of the Big Red Machine and an older team.

The stadium itself will have a skeleton of painted steel, probably white or close to white, with left field bleachers and an opening, or "notch," lined up with Sycamore Street to provide a window into the ballpark. Forty-foot wide plazas will provide views inside and outside the ballpark, and a picnic area will grace center field.

On May 11, several drawings and one model were placed under a tent outside of Cinergy Field for public inspection from those attending the day's game. Project manager Michael Hand, vice president of ballpark designers HOK Sport of Kansas City, answered questions.

Although generally positive, the citizen response often focused on the benefits of having a traditional stadium downtown rather than critiquing the ballpark's design. Architects reached by CityBeat, on the other hand, were more specific with their praise and criticism.

"I'm thrilled," said Shirley Love, a Finneytown resident who works in finance.

A Cincinnati native who lived in Boston for 20 years, Love likes the possibility of a home run reaching the Ohio River, which could happen with a very good bounce off Mehring Way, located 468 feet from home plate.

Her only concern is that 42,000 seats won't be enough, which she said is becoming an issue with historic Fenway Park in Boston.

"It definitely has a lot more character than (Cinergy) does," said Ian Hennessey of Bridgetown, a St. Xavier High School student.

Hennessey said the seats look like they're a lot closer to the field, which is true — the bottom row of seats are at field level, compared to several feet off the ground at Cinergy.

"You go in (the new stadium) and you feel like you're in a ballpark," Hennessey said. "You don't feel like you're in a concrete jungle."

"I'm not really crazy about the notch thing," said Andy Blum, a credit and office manager from Western Hills. That space could have been filled with prime seats, he said.

Blum did like the administration buildings and hall of fame on the outside. "The Reds, obviously, need a hall of fame," he said, adding one final piece of advice for the project managers: "Just keep the costs down."

"I like it," said Dan Jenkins, who lived in Denver — home of widely respected Coors Field — for four years. The Mariemont resident specifically liked that a fan could watch the game from the wide plazas, now difficult at Cinergy's 20-foot-wide walkway behind the seats. His main question is how parking would fit into the picture.

James Houston of Montgomery was "a little disappointed" by the design because it didn't fully embrace a retro style, like Camden Yards in Baltimore.

"From the exterior, it seems to look a little too much like Cinergy" because of the white painted steel, said the recent law graduate from the University of Dayton. Houston believes the ballpark connects well with the western riverfront but not with the Firstar Center, which sits behind the new stadium's scoreboard.

Despite his concerns, Houston said he would pay to see the Reds in any stadium.

"They can tear (Cinergy Field) down and build the same stadium again, and I'd still come," he said, adding that the Reds still should have the best baseball stadium in the country.

Rob Busch, an Oakley resident and architect with eight years of experience, wondered what the ballpark will look like to pedestrians. Most of the drawings present views that are at least 60 feet above the ground, he said, and people are falling in love with views that they won't see.

"If you have a helicopter, it will look good," he said.

Busch suspects that HOK hasn't provided street-level views yet because they haven't decided exactly what the details — such as lighting and facades — will look like. Project manager Hand confirmed that many details are works in progress but said that some pedestrian-level drawings exist, although they weren't part of the May 11 press kit.

Busch liked the ballpark itself but wondered if the narrow main entrance could handle 65 percent of ticketholders, as estimated by HOK. He also wondered about the few open spaces around the ballpark, such as Crosley Terrace.

"I guess I sort of wonder what part is public and what part is private," Busch said. "Or do they know yet?"

Crosley Terrace will be open every hour of every day, Hand said. The future of the sponsorship zone, on the plaza adjacent to the terrace, is subject to negotiation, he said.

Overall, judging by the drawings, Busch rated the entire design "in the middle" of the several ballparks built in the last decade.

HOK did a pretty good job of integrating a fan-shaped park into an urban grid the way many old stadiums were situated, said Gordon Simmons, president of University of Cincinnati School of Architecture and Interior Design.

"One problem with Cinergy is that it's been a big flying saucer sitting on a parking garage," he said.

Simmons also didn't object to the location of the administration buildings along Main and Second streets.

"Even though there's quite a bit of it ... it doesn't make a kind of wall," he said. "From what I can tell, they have responded to the Urban Design Review Board's concerns (about the small amount of public space at the entrance)."

But Simmons acknowledged that he hasn't seen what the ballpark will look like from the street or from a seat inside. The exterior materials can change that experience dramatically, he said.

"A lot of things can happen yet," Simmons said.

For example, he said, the darker brick pavers at Fountain Square provide a warm feeling and there's lots of space to sit. But the Fifth-Third Bank tower and the four-story building on the square's north side are bleak and could be more inviting.

Simmons also was concerned that budget crunches might lead Hamilton County to build surface parking near the stadium or to cut back on the ballpark's exterior details. He doesn't mind parking downtown and walking a few blocks, but not everyone can do that.

Eric Inglert, a partner in Inglert and Kolber architects of Newport, was less impressed by the warehouselike hall of fame and administration buildings.

"They remind me so much of suburban malls," he said, adding that the buildings don't seem to stand out on their own or are visually integrated with the rest of the stadium.

Inglert also didn't care for the combination of retro and modern styles in the ballpark and outside buildings.

"It doesn't make a move in any one particular direction," he said. "Any strong design I can think of doesn't try to please everybody."

Inglert said he did like Crosley Terrace, which could be the focal point of a future celebration, and the ballpark lighting, which could dramatically unite the design. He also saw possibilities for the notch, possibly providing some dramatic views.

Inglert wishes there was a way to provide stadium visitors a view of something other than the Newport on the Levee development visible over the left and center field walls, which he also compared to mall architecture. ©

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