Photo Blog: A look back at the Ballparks of the Year

Over the past several decades, Populous has been key to molding and refining the ballpark experience on the collegiate, minor league and major league levels.  It’s interesting when looking at the body of work is to see drastic differences from site to site, city to city, team to team. With each design you can see a key moment, idea or culture and how it completely changed the vision for the ballpark. One of our founders often talks about how in baseball, the only thing that remains the same from park to park is the distance between the bases. What this means that for designers like myself is that there is a unique flexibility and creativity that comes along with just about every aspect of ballpark design.

I think this range of creativity is apparent when we revisit some of the nation’s best ballparks over the last decade and a half, as determined by Joe Mock of through his annual Ballpark of the Year Award and Kevin Reichard of Ballpark Digest.

Southwest University Park (; Ballpark Digest)

Home of the AAA El Paso Chihuahuas, the new ballpark captures El Paso’s diverse culture and urban renaissance. It’s just a stone’s throw from Juarez, Mexico so public art depicting the history of the city and region was incorporated throughout, as well as authentic branding and views into the ballpark from outside – speaking to the draw the ballpark has had to folks near and far. Joe Mock of says “It’s not overstating things to say that it is a masterpiece.”

Curtis Granderson Stadium at the University of Illinois Chicago (Ballpark Digest)

This $10 million ballpark has arguably the best view in college baseball – with the Chicago skyline just beyond centerfield. It was selected as Editor’s Choice for 2014 because of the design’s focus on community impact and impressive views – which drove the design process.


Pensacola Bayfront Stadium (; Ballpark Digest)

Pensacola Bayfront Stadium is home of the Blue Wahoos and is about as close to the water as you can get. The design of this award-winning ballpark aimed to capture a minor league team’s attention with a facility that was part city park, part ballpark, enhancing the city’s natural beauty with connectivity to a neglected waterfront site. As Mock puts it “Sometimes big ideas start off as small ones. And sometimes those ideas can transform an entire city.” He goes on to say “Truly you have to see it to appreciate the site’s possibilities… possibilities that go beyond the ballpark.”

Target Field (Ballpark Digest)

Target Field opened in 2010 as the key component for a grand vision to extend Minneapolis’ downtown and embrace open air baseball on the tightest, most urban site in MLB. The ballpark has since become the centerpiece for the redevelopment of downtown and is alive on gamedays and non-gamedays alike.

Coca-Cola Park, Lehigh Valley IronPigs  (Ballpark Digest)

Walking through Coca Cola Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania is like getting a tour of Lehigh County and its history. It captures the beauty of the surrounding area and combines it with a fan-friendly environment, one Kevin Reichard of Ballpark Digest calls “a place where every fan can have a fulfilling game-day experience.”

Arvest Ballpark (

Having been involved with quite a few minor league ballparks, what I think is most interesting about Arvest Ballpark is the canopy detail which is tension fabric and has lighting underneath the curving roof to illuminate the panels at night. The materiality is really unique… especially in a minor league ballpark, and changes the entire feel of the seating bowl.

Dow Diamond, Great Lakes Loons (Ballpark Digest)

Dow Diamond is interesting programmatically because of the multi-functionality of the ballpark. In addition to having game-day amenities and unique sustainable design elements, like photovoltaic solar panels on the site to operate the scoreboard, the ballpark also includes 20,000 square feet of exhibition space for 365-day a year use.

PETCO Park (

PETCO Park is one of the nation’s great ballparks, in part because of its location and in part because of the unique architectural elements. The white steel used at PETCO Park is rarely seen in ballparks, but it’s so authentic to the place, the water and the nautical environment of San Diego.  It’s no wonder it has become an icon in its own right.

Check out some of our other ballpark work here:

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