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Volume 21 No. 1
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Martin Dinitto, Ballpark Design Associates

Sports architect Martin DiNitto is a hired gun. He started his own practice, Ballpark Design Associates, in 2010 after spending a combined 24 years working for Populous and HNTB, and he specializes in designing minor league ballparks, teaming with local firms to develop new facilities and renovate existing ones. His most recent project, BB&T Ballpark, opened last month in Charlotte for the Class AAA Knights. Now, he’s shifting his focus to New Orleans, where he is working on a study for upgrades to 17-year-old Zephyr Field, home of the Class AAA Zephyrs. All told, his portfolio covers more than 20 minor league parks.

Improving the fan experience is the primary focus, and giving a lot of diversity to the experience adds to that.

Filling a niche: Group sales is very important to these teams because those are advance sales and the per caps are higher, so the potential revenue-generation is much better than it is from a regular seat holder. You want diversity for groups to gather and a variety of different sizes. On top of that is the ability to hit a higher price range with fans willing to pay more and buy fewer games. Those fans, especially at the minor league level, we haven’t really catered enough to.

Designing for a social experience: The real aspect of people socializing can be a problem if you don’t provide the architectural means to accommodate that practice. In Charlotte, we have 702 drink rail positions around the park. ... I like the idea of going to the concession stand, and I have my hands full, but I’m not ready to go back to my seat yet and just want to stand there to watch the game. I can set my drink down and don’t have to sit on a trash can or balance [my drink] on a railing.

Ripe for renovations: I think you’re going to see that boom again that occurred in the late ’90s. As it turns the corner approaching 25 years, you’ll see more interest in renovation projects to update and create new fan amenities and, consequently, upgrade their revenue-stream production.

Other trends: There’s a great opportunity to make ballparks greener, and I really mean that in the true sense of green … really getting more lush texture, color and fabric from plants and trees back into the ballpark landscape internally. I don’t think we see enough of that. Ribbon boards are slowly making their way into these facilities. As minor league teams learn how to sell that [technology] to sponsors, that’s going to improve. I’m anxious to see more results from Minor League Baseball’s national marketing campaign to attract sponsors, people like Captain Morgan. I’m sure we’ll be developing more specialized areas as those things become familiar. We see it in MLB, but not quite in minor league parks.

— Don Muret