SBJ/April 16-22, 2012/Facilities

Dugout suites highlight ballpark renovation at Texas A&M

Don Muret
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The new dugout suites at Texas A&M’s ballpark bring a major league touch to the school’s baseball program.

The two suites, part of a $24.3 million renovation of Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park, are bunker-style lounges tucked beneath the stands behind the first base and third base lines, with no views to the field. The seats associated with the suites are at field level, adjacent to the coaches’ boxes by first and third base. A net provides protection from foul balls, said Kevin Hurley, Texas A&M’s associate athletic director of facilities.

Fans in the dugout suites have seats near the coaches’ boxes.
Photo by: GLEN JOHNSON / TEXAS A&M ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
Each dugout suite sold for $35,000 annually over a seven-year term plus the cost of $350 season tickets for 14. Both units include the option to buy four standing-room tickets for each game. Texas A&M has 40 home games this season.
The 600-square-foot lounges are air-conditioned with bars, couches, televisions, rest rooms and alcohol service, said Kacey Conley, Blue Bell Park’s operations manager. Food and beverage is a separate cost.

The dugout suites were part of the school’s plan to reduce foul territory and shrink the park’s dimensions to make it a livelier place to play, said Byron Chambers, design director for HKS, the architect that designed the renovation.

The dugouts and the field wall behind home plate were squeezed closer together to provide space for the dugout suites. Those seats put patrons in a spot where “you feel like you are the first-base coach,” Chambers said. “It is a unique place to watch the game.”

Eight suites are part of a new press box level at the 34-year-old building, which did not previously have a dedicated space for media, Hurley said. Those suites all sold for three-year terms at $27,500 annually, plus the cost of season tickets.

In addition, 121 Field Club and 183 Stadium Club seats were built behind home plate supported by a lounge beneath the stands. Club-seat fees range from $475 to $1,000 a year on top of season tickets.

The addition of suites and club seats has reduced the park’s total capacity to about 6,100 with berm seating, a loss of about 1,000 seats. But in doing so, Texas A&M now has a facility on par with college baseball’s best stadiums, including LSU and South Carolina, according to Chambers.

Both of those schools are in the Southeastern Conference, where Texas A&M becomes a new member this fall for all sports.

Skanska USA was the project’s general contractor.

TAKING ROOT: The Boston Red Sox had no trouble selling out their new premium club at Fenway Park.

The Royal Rooters Club: Home of the “Nation’s Archives” replaced the old Players Club on the ballpark’s second level behind the right-field seats. Long-standing season-ticket holders got the first opportunity to join the club, paying a $250 membership fee per seat.

The Red Sox capped membership at 1,200 and reached out to about 8,000 full and partial season-ticket holders before hitting that number, said team spokeswoman Zineb Curran. The club doubles as Fenway’s unofficial museum, showcasing memorabilia from the park’s 100 years.

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

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