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AT&T Park

AT&T Park is an open-air ballpark, home to the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball. The park also hosts the Emerald Bowl, a college football bowl game, every year. The park is located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, at the corner of 3rd Street and King Street in the South Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, California.

Formerly known as SBC Park and Pacific Bell Park, the stadium was officially renamed AT&T Park on March 3 2006, just two years after it adopted the SBC Park name. SBC Communications, the flagship sponsor of the park, merged with AT&T Corp. in 2005 and the new AT&T Inc. took the more iconic name for their company. This marked the third official name for the park since its opening in 2000.

History

Design and construction

Groundbreaking on the ballpark began on December 11 1997 in the industrial waterfront area of San Francisco known as China Basin and South Beach. The stadium cost $319 million to build and supplanted the Giants' former home, Candlestick Park, a multi-use stadium in southern San Francisco. A team of engineers from UC Davis was consulted in the design process of the park resulting in wind levels that are approximately half those at Candlestick. Fans had shivered through 40 seasons at "The Stick" and looked forward to warmer temperatures at the new ballpark. But because AT&T Park, like its predecessor, is built right on San Francisco Bay, cold summer fog and winter jackets in July are still not unusual at Giants games, despite the higher average temperature.

When it opened on March 31 2000, the ballpark was the first Major League park built without public funds since the completion of Dodger Stadium in 1962. However, the Giants did receive a $10 million tax abatement from the city and $80 million for upgrades to the local infrastructure (including a connection to the Muni Metro). The Giants have a 66-year lease on the ballpark site, paying $1.2 million in rent annually to the San Francisco Port Commission. The park opened with a seating capacity of 40,800, but this has increased over time as seats have been added.

Notable events

The opening series took place from April 11-13, 2000 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Giants were swept in three games. In the first game of that series, the Giants lost 6-5, highlighted by three home runs from the Dodgers' Kevin Elster.

In just its first few years of existence, the ballpark has seen its share of historic events primarily due to veteran Giants outfielder Barry Bonds. On April 17, 2001, Bonds hit his 500th career home run at then Pacific Bell Park. Later that year, he set the single season home run record when he hit home runs number 71, 72, and 73 over the weekend of October 5 to close the season. On August 9, 2002, Bonds hit his 600th career home run at the park. On April 12, 2004, Bonds hit career home run 660 at SBC Park to tie Willie Mays for third on the all-time list and on the next night, he hit number 661 to move into sole possession of third place. On September 17 2004, Bonds hit his 700th career home run at the park to become just the third member of baseball's 700 club. On May 28, 2006, Bonds hit his 715th home run at the park to pass Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time list. On August 7, 2007, Bonds hit his 756th home run, breaking Hank Aaron's record.

The park hosted the 2002 World Series against the Anaheim Angels, which the Giants lost four games to three. It also hosted the 2007 MLB All-Star Game, which the American League won 5-4 over the National League.

Naming rights

Pacific Bell, a local telephone company in the San Francisco Bay Area, purchased the naming rights for the park for $50 million over 24 years when the park opened. Pacific Bell's parent SBC Communications eventually dropped the Pacific Bell name and reached an agreement with the Giants to change the park's name on January 1 2004. The name change upset some fans, leaving them in the awkward position of desiring the park's former corporate name.

After SBC merged with AT&T on November 18 2005, the name of the merged company became AT&T, Inc. As a result, the stadium was given its third name in six years: "AT&T Park." Fans still refer to the stadium as "Pac Bell Park", as it was the first name given to the stadium. Others have named the stadium "The Phone Booth" or "Telephone Park", for the constant name changes, as well as "Mays Field" in honor of Giants great Willie Mays or simply "The Bell". Many also refer to the stadium as "China Basin" after its location, which would be immune to changes in sponsorship naming. The city and Caltrans required PacBell/SBC/AT&T to reimburse them for costs associated with changing signs on streets, freeways and public transport vehicles.

Other uses

Giants Enterprises, a wholly owned subsidiary of the San Francisco Giants created and headed by longtime team executive and marketing legend Pat Gallagher, brings non-baseball events to AT&T Park on days when the Giants do not play. The park was home to the XFL's San Francisco Demons in 2001, was the home of the East-West Shrine Game (until 2006) and is the current home of college football's Emerald Bowl (since 2002). In 2006 the park hosted ICER AIR the first ever stadium big-air ski and snowboard competition to be held in the United States. The park has also hosted several concerts from big name musical acts, including Kenny Chesney, Green Day, The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews, and Bruce Springsteen. A virtual recreation of the park, has been announced from the Activision and Neversoft, the current creators of Guitar Hero, will be created for Guitar Hero World Tour.

Features

The stadium contains 68 luxury suites, 5,200 club seats on the club level and an additional 1,500 club seats at the field level behind home plate.

On the facing of the upper deck along the left field line are the retired numbers of Bill Terry, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Jackie Robinson, Willie McCovey, and Gaylord Perry as well as the retired uniforms, denoted "NY", of Christy Mathewson and John McGraw who played or managed in the pre-number era. These two pre-number era retired uniforms are among only six such retired uniforms in all of the Major Leagues.

Right field and McCovey Cove

The most prominent feature of the ballpark is the right field wall, which is high in honor of former Giant Willie Mays, who wore number 24. Because of the proximity to the San Francisco Bay, the right field foul pole is only from home plate. The wall is made of brick, with fenced off archways opening to the Cove beyond, above which are several rows of arcade seating. The fence angles quickly away from home plate; right-center field extends out to from home plate. Atop the fence are four pillars with fountains atop. These four pillars will burst jets of water when a Giant hits a home run or win a game.

Lining the foul portion of the wall are rubber chickens, which are put up by fans whenever a Giants player (especially Barry Bonds) is intentionally walked. The fans do this to show that the opposing team is "chicken" for not pitching right to the Giants players. To some old-timers, the right field area vaguely suggests the layout at the Polo Grounds. This deep corner of the ballpark has been dubbed "Death Valley" and "Triples' Alley." Like its Polo Grounds counterpart, it is very difficult to hit a home run to this area, and a batted ball that finds its way into this corner often results in a triple. Triples' Alley is also infamous for bad bounces, most notably when Ichiro Suzuki hit the first-ever inside the park home run in an All-Star Game by lining the ball off one of the archways and sideways past the outfielders.

Beyond right field is a section of the bay, dubbed McCovey Cove after famed Giants first baseman Willie McCovey, into which a number of home runs have been hit on the fly. As of July 2, 2008, 47 "Splash Hits" had been knocked into the Cove by Giants players since the park opened; 35 of those were by Barry Bonds. Opponents had hit the water on the fly 17 times; Todd Hundley of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the first visitor to do so on June 30, 2000. Luis Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cliff Floyd of the Chicago Cubs are the only visiting players to do so twice, while Carlos Delgado of the New York Mets has performed the feat three times. Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros became the first Astro to hit a "Splash Hit" on May 15, 2008. Barry Bonds is the Giant who has hit the most home runs into "The Cove" as Giants fans call it.

Behind the scoreboard in center field there is a pier where ferries can tie up and let off fans right at the park. On game days, fans take to the water of McCovey Cove in boats and even in kayaks, often with fishing nets in the hope of collecting a home run ball. (This echoes what used to happen during McCovey's playing days. Before Candlestick Park's upper deck was extended, the area behind right field was occupied by three small bleacher sections and a lot of open space. Kids in those bleachers would gather behind the right field fence when "Stretch" would come to the plate). Just beyond the wall is a public waterfront promenade, where fans can watch three innings of a game through the wall's archways, free of charge, albeit with a somewhat obstructed view. Across the cove from the ballpark is McCovey Point and China Basin Park, featuring monuments to past Giants legends.

Rusty, the Coke bottle, and the glove

When the park opened in 2000, taking residence on the right field wall was Rusty, the Mechanical Man. Rusty is a two-dimensional robotic ballplayer who stands tall and weighs a hefty 11,000 pounds. Technifex (a Valencia, California company) engineered, fabricated and programmed Rusty to appear after every Giants win in 14 different poses. After experiencing technical difficulties, Rusty was removed, though the enclosure that housed him remained for years. In 2008, the enclosure was removed as that area of the right field wall was partially removed and renovated for a new luxury suite.

Behind the left field bleachers, the ballpark features an long Coca-Cola bottle with playground slides that will blow bubbles and light up with every Giants home run, and a miniature version of the stadium. If one were viewing the outfield promenade from home plate, directly to the bottle's right is another oversized representation of a ballpark stalwart, the baseball mitt—this particular one being a detailed replica of a vintage 1927 glove. Behind and further to the left is a miniature baseball diamond—sort of a minor league tryout for Pee-Wee Ball.

To the right of the glove sculpture is the elevator and large plaza area for functions and parties to be held during games. Right-center field features a real San Francisco cable car (retired cable car #4, formerly #504), with a label that states "No Dodgers Fans Allowed", and a fog horn—a feature transferred from Candlestick Park—that blows when a Giants player hits a home run. Continuing right takes one to the promenade above the cove, so that one can make a completely uninterrupted circuit of the park at that concourse level. Both levels of the concourse, inside the stadium, feature not only concession stands of all sorts, but other attractions as well.

Scoreboards

In addition to the automated scoreboards, which now include a new high-definition video board by Mitsubishi, the park has enormous, manually operated boards on the right field wall, which display the scores of Major League games played elsewhere. These manual scoreboards are operated by three employees, whose work on game days starts at least two hours before the first pitch.

Wireless internet

Starting in 2004, the Giants installed one hundred and twenty-two 802.11b wireless internet access points, covering all concourses and seating areas, creating one of the largest public hotspots in the world. The stadium could thus be said to be one of the largest Internet Cafes.

Statues

Outside the ballpark are five statues, four of which are dedicated to San Francisco Giants all-time greats. The Willie Mays statue is located in front of the ballpark entrance at Willie Mays Plaza and is surrounded with 24 palm trees, in honor of his number 24 uniform, retired by the Giants. Another statue is located at McCovey Point across McCovey Cove, and is dedicated to Willie McCovey. Around McCovey's statue are a number of plaques that celebrate the winners of the Willie Mac Award. A third statue, dedicated in 2005, honors former Giants pitcher Juan Marichal, and is located outside the ballpark at its Lefty O'Doul gate entrance. The fourth statue is located at the park's ferry plaza, also known as Seals Plaza; a statue of a seal bobbing a baseball on its nose honors the memory of the San Francisco Seals, the minor league baseball club that played before the arrival of the Giants in 1958. On September 6, 2008, during a series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a fifth statue depicting former Giants great Orlando Cepeda was dedicated at the corner of 2nd and King Streets next to the ballpark. All four statues of Giants Hall of Fame players were created by sculptor William Behrends.

See also

References

External links

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