Focused Off-season Upgrades to MiLB Facilities Possible with Populous Design Build Service

February 8, 2021 / Jason Michael Ford

As 2020 came to an end, so too did the previous Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) and the relationship between Major League and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) as we knew it. The new landscape has Major League Baseball (MLB) leading all levels of Professional Baseball, implementing their vision for “One Baseball,” the organization’s plan to recruit and develop elite players and build the next generation of baseball fans.

Through MLB, updated Minor League facility standards were issued, a mandate with new guidelines primarily focused on player areas designed to take MiLB ballparks into the 2020s and beyond. These guidelines include a grading system used by MLB to confirm facility compliance. The last time facility standards saw a major overhaul was in 1990. Since then, the Minor Leagues have seen quite a bit of change. More organizations have added enhanced nutrition guidelines, requiring food preparation areas for both home and visiting clubhouses. Additionally, staffs are becoming more diverse, including more female staff members who require separate locker rooms as part of the new mandates. Also required under the new grading system is better field lighting, larger clubhouses for both home and visiting teams, and improved training facilities, including new minimum requirements for weight rooms and covered hitting and pitching tunnels. Aside from facility improvements, cleaning and sanitation protocols were also added requiring all Minor League clubs to submit written procedures and establish a schedule for sanitizing certain areas. The protocols must be approved by MLB prior to the start of the season. These mandates come at a time when teams are looking to generate or restore lost revenue, following the cancellation of the 2020 season.

The new requirements can impose budget and scheduling challenges to teams and municipalities. Limited funds and tight timelines generally do not play well with multiple points-of-contact, scope changes, financing options and the inevitable scheduling delays. In addition to these concerns, there is also a need to ensure whatever concepts are decided on will resonate with fans and drive revenue. Throughout Populous’ 40-year history, we have worked on 135 baseball projects, including 54 MiLB ballparks, and have encountered these exact situations many times, with the same questions and concerns expressed from owners and operators across the country. As a result, in 2017, we introduced a new standalone service in the Americas to specifically address this situation.

Populous Design Build is a design-led design-build approach to quickly complete facility renovations during the off-season. The idea for this industry-exclusive service was born from a recurring need we saw for off-season renovations requiring design and construction completion within a short amount of time while adhering to a strict budget. Populous Design Build was created to meet tight timelines and budgets, it’s a perfect solution for addressing the new MiLB facility updates during the off-season.

“Ballpark renovations like the ones minor league baseball are needing is exactly why we created the Design-Led Design Build service line – to fill a hole that existed in the market. With one point of contact and an alignment of the design team and general contractor from day one, the whole project team is able to focus on execution of the design story at the highest level,” notes Populous Senior Principal Adam Stover.

With Populous Design Build, we lead the process and can contract directly with the owner and the general contractor to provide one point of contact for easier, efficient communication and expedited pricing. Unlike the traditional design-build process, Populous’ design-led design-build process follows a designer-driven schedule, allowing for earlier pricing and controlled budgets. The architect and general contractor are aligned from day one to create one voice and one team to stay on budget and on schedule.

Since launching the design-led design-build service, we’ve been successful at completing numerous off-season or expedited renovations at a variety of venues. Over the course of just three and a half months in 2019, the Populous Design Build team completed the design, permitting and construction for the renovation of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, with actual construction completed in less than three weeks. This project’s scope of work included re-branding the entire Main Concourse and Eutaw Street.

On the Main Concourse, we refreshed the entire concourse and re-branded all storefronts, concessions, and mobile concessions. Brightening up the concourse brought the space to life, making it more inviting to fans who previously wanted to get in and out as soon as possible.

On iconic Eutaw Street, we added a new structure to be the permanent home of Boog’s BBQ, a tower structure, festoon lighting, and new graphics and branding for concessions and storefronts. These additions create a magical entrance for fans at the ballpark, evoking feelings of wonder and excitement.

Regardless of whether the renovations are part of required upgrades, updating facilities to meet the new standards also presents great opportunities for teams to create new revenue generators by adding a variety of experiences, amenities and seating types. With MiLB, these opportunities could be realized sooner rather than later, as the new grading system takes effect and teams must start planning for renovations. Populous Design Build addresses the needs and wants of an organization to deliver off-season renovations on brand, on budget and on time.

For more information on the Populous Design Build service and to see our design-led design-build projects, visit

Meet the author

Jason Michael Ford

Principal, Senior Architect / Kansas City


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