For vacation this summer, I decided to visit my older sister in the Bay Area; needless to say, I'm looking there (pretty exclusively, actually) for future employment. The only sports-related portion of the trip featured an annual family tradition: going to a new baseball park. Since I didn't have much desire to cross the bay to pay McAfee Coliseum a visit, we paced Diamondbacks/Giants at AT&T Park on July 27.
AT&T and Safeco are generally regarded as the crown jewels of parks out west, so my expectations were pretty high. I'll highlight some criteria for grading the park, then venture to compare it with the 20-or-so others I've been to.
Sadly, my flight arrived too late to make the CalTrain, so making the 40-minute drive from Palo Alto was necessary. The park's conveniently located in a gentrifying part of town (southeast from Pier 39) right off the interstate. At this point, San Francisco resembled more Detroit than anything.
Costs: Parking, Tickets, Concessions, etc.
Parking was $30 and was probably a half-mile from the stadium entrance. Upper-deck baseline seats were $28-- pretty much standard when factoring in Bay Area cost of living. 12 oz. beers were $5.50, which wasn't ludicrous.
Stunning, novel, unique. The park's eight years old and still looks like it did when the Giants were competing for pennants. McCovey Cove might be the most unique feature of any park built in the last ten years, and that's quite an accomplishment. Red brick and dark green steel/seats give it a classic feel, while the gigantic Coca-Cola glove is something out of a cartoon. The subtle brick arches in right center field were probably my favorite underrated feature.
Though old enough to be obsolete, the scoreboard is comparable with newer stadiums like Citizens Bank Park and Nationals Park. Its green steel framework is kind of bland (I'm thinking of Jacobs Field's board, which is my favorite); then again, AT&T knows its most valuable feature is the bay view.
Any ballpark built in the last fifteen years-- especially ones with a "classic" feel (actually, every park but Houston's, Arizona's, and Tampa's)-- should have impeccable sight lines everywhere. This doesn't always happen, though; two months ago I endured Giants/Nationals in DC behind a two-foot panel of plexiglas. Needless to say, Nationals Park is not getting TANBR-reviewed. AT&T not only checked out with the sight lines, but seemed to place its seats as close to the action as possible. It's always fun to watch a game below you rather than away from you.
I'm not one to circumnavigate half the stadium in order to get a park's signature item, so I didn't see typical SF fare like sushi, clam chowder, or mussels anywhere. But apparently their signature item, in homage to nearby Gilroy, CA, The Garlic Capital of the World, is the garlic fries. I had a couple of my sister's; they were marginal. I had the deluxe nachos, which was probably the best value of anything ($6). Locally-brewed Widmer Hefeweizen was at our nearby stand as well.
It's been hard to withstand the hype about PacBell/AT&T Park for eight years without making a trip. But it's legitimate. The park still looks brand new, is probably the most relaxing stadium I've ever been to, and has a surprisingly brisk mood despite its post-Bonds future. Most importantly, McCovey Cove inherently provides a constant added excitement: this next pitch could be hit into water, and people kayaking will fight for the ball.