Text by Ian Volner
As if Minneapolis-based Snow Kreilich Architects’ design for CHS Field weren’t cool enough on its own merits, just think: The independent-league baseball team that plays there, the St. Paul Saints, is partly owned by actor Bill Murray; the facility occupies a former Gillette razor factory; and it set a record last year for the world’s largest ever pillow fight, featuring some 6,000-plus combatants. To contain all this hipness, the design team (which also included AECOM as sports architect and contractor/architect-of-record Ryan A+E) have made the building an integral part of the artsy St. Paul, Minn., enclave of Lowerton. The surrounding concourse is tied into the neighborhood’s bike trail, dog owners can watch games gratis from a nearby municipal dog run, and the entrance plaza doubles as a connection to a farmers market directly opposite, whose customers have access to the stadium’s bathrooms through streetside entrances. The whole complex, in fact—with its low roofs, its wooden ceilings over the stands, its glass-enclosed boxes in elegant steel frames—seems surprisingly domestic, welcoming, and open to the city around it. It’s an approach that harks back to the grand tradition of early 20th century ballparks like Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field, but in a decidedly modernist idiom that eschews historicist tropes like the grand arches or fake bunting that have been trending in stadium design since the ’90s. And as an instance of adaptive reuse, it’s practically sui generis, avoiding the demolitions and displacements (to say nothing of the sometimes outrageous cost overruns, usually at public expense) that are practically synonymous with big-time sports stadiums.
This article appeared in the May 2016 issue of ARCHITECT magazine.
Text by Thomas Fisher, Assoc. AIA (August 24, 2015)
When the real estate analysis firm RealtyTrac ranked the Lowertown neighborhood of St. Paul, Minn., as the “hippest zip code in America,” it surprised everyone but those living there, who have watched the former warehouse district become a flourishing arts community—a transformation capped by the recent completion of CHS Field, home to the minor league St. Paul Saints. Designed by Minneapolis-based Snow Kreilich Architects, with AECOM as the sports architect and Ryan Cos. as the architect-of-record and contractor, the 7,000-seat, 13-acre ballpark has become an irreverent baseball-watching venue. (The Saints, partly owned by actor Bill Murray, set a world record during a recent game with a 6,261-person pillow fight.)
The new park provides a perfect place for such hijinks. “We nestled the ballpark into the site,” says design principal Matthew Kreilich, AIA, “and opened it up to the city,” with the main concourse visually connected to the street. Low, flat-roofed structures clad in dark masonry contain ticketing and concession areas with a steel-framed, wood-ceilinged, clubhouse-and-suites level that appears to float above. “The western red cedar ceiling glows at night and turns the surrounding heavy timber warehouses inside out,” Kreilich adds. “Rather than mimic those buildings, we made them part of the experience.”
That experience recalls baseball’s 19th century origins as an urban game played in open fields and public parks. “We wanted to transform Lowertown,” says Ryan Cos. senior director Mike Ryan, AIA, “and make it a neighborhood park,” treating the playing field as one of several public open spaces along Fifth Street in downtown St. Paul, with the plaza in front of the ballpark serving as an extension of the open-air farmer’s market across the street. Restrooms, for example, open to both the concourse and the street, serving marketgoers and baseball fans.
The stadium is one of the greenest ballparks in America. “We reused 99 percent of the Gillette plant that stood on the site,” Ryan says, “recycling its concrete and reusing the floor of the factory for the service areas and offices.” A large tank collects runoff from the adjacent garage roof for watering the grass, and solar panels occupy an earthen berm and the roof of a left field picnic pavilion. The stadium-wrapping concourse also connects the downtown to the regional bike trail system, and the adjacent city-owned dog park enables dog owners to watch games for free.
Interior Designer: Snow Kreilich Architects