Temporary loge boxes find audience at minor league ballparks

The trend of developing flexible group spaces where fans can hang out at the ballpark has not been lost on sports architect Jonathan Cole.

Cole, a principal with Pendulum Studio in Kansas City, started his own company in January 2008 after working 16 years for 360 Architecture, Populous and HNTB, three of the larger sports design firms in town.

At the same time, Cole formed a company called Modular Products that designs temporary loge boxes for outdoor stadiums at a fraction of the cost to produce permanent suites. It’s finding a niche at the minor league level, where stadium construction costs average $25 million.

One aluminum structure packaged with 15 swivel chairs, drink rail, buffet space, mini-refrigerator and roof cover costs $35,000, according to Cole. He works with a fabricator to build the loge boxes, drink rails and several other affordably priced products for arenas and stadiums.

By comparison, Cole said, a standard enclosed suite made of steel and elevated above the concourse traditionally costs $150,000 to $175,000 a unit.

Modular Products’ first installation of loge boxes was midway through the 2009 season at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits. Cole was familiar with the facility after serving as lead designer for a 2004 renovation when he worked for Populous.

One full season later, four loge boxes with room for up to 60 people are filled for almost every game after the River Bandits took out 1,000 bench seats at the top of the bleacher section on the third-base side, said Kirk Goodman, general manager for the River Bandits, Class A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The loges have hit the mark for firms that need smaller group spaces to entertain customers, Goodman said.

Loge box seats cost $20 a person and include food and non-alcoholic drinks for a seat that would otherwise cost $5 to $8, Goodman said. The River Bandits sell small and large kegs of beer for $125 and $225, respectively, that slide into the mini-fridge.

Modular Products put four loge boxes in
the Quad Cities River Bandits’ ballpark.

Cole said the refrigerators can also be connected to the stadium’s point-of-sale system, allowing the ballpark operator to monitor consumption and bill the customer by the ounce.

Separately, Modern Woodmen Park installed 300 feet of Modular Products’ drink rail space at the top of the outfield berm, and BB&T Field, a new park in Winston-Salem, N.C., installed its drink rails in the facility’s premium club.

Cole’s innovations have caught the eyes of MLB. Last week, he had a meeting scheduled with one major league team to talk about a potential installation but he declined to identify the club until a deal is signed.

“We’ve seen with Target Field and all of its standing-room positions and drink rail space that the interest is there,” Cole said.

 STARTING TIME: Sports designer Ron Smith recently visited with Carolina Panthers President Danny Morrison at the NFL team’s training camp to discuss developing an embankment overseeing a practice field into a fan amenity space.

The Panthers have held summer camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., since 1995, when they entered the league as an expansion team, and Smith has designed several upgrades to the school’s athletic facilities to meet the Panthers’ needs.

Separately, Smith and his firm, McMillan Pazdan Smith in Spartanburg, has carved a niche designing small football stadiums for startup NCAA programs at Benedict College, Campbell University, Coastal Carolina and UNC Pembroke.

McMillan Pazdan Smith also designed E. Claiborne Robins Stadium, the University of Richmond’s new $27 million facility. The Spiders open their 9,000-seat building Sept. 18 against Elon.

Wofford’s Gibbs Stadium, a project Smith helped design, opened in 1996 in conjunction with the Terriers’ move from NAIA to NCAA Division I-AA. Morrison was the school’s athletic director at the time.

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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