CHS Field is conceived first as a park and a public space, and then as a sports venue. Working with the City of Saint Paul and the St. Paul Saints, an independent league franchise committed to providing a unique fan experience, the design team slipped a 7,000 seat ballpark into a remnant site between an interstate highway, an elevated bridge, a light rail operations facility and the historic Lowertown District on the edge of the City’s business district.
The architecture is low and compact, with the ballpark structures surrounding the seating bowl and playing field. A light suite level structure floats above the grounded seating bowl and masonry concourse amenity buildings. The main entrance frames the termination of Fifth Street, creating an important connection with the city core. Large open volumes at the concourse and the suite level combined with the elevate suite level create a space that is porous to its surroundings and a park that is visible from adjacent spaces.
The material palette is restrained, using wood on the underside of the canopy and suite level, combined with dark steel and masonry. The design’s restraint becomes a foil and a framework for the energetic promotions and events for which the ballclub is so well known.
The ballpark operates as a public space; it offers social engagement opportunities as well as a civic and district identity. The design maximizes the social opportunity of the site. It is accessible physically with a level concourse which surrounds the playing field and the seating bowl, and economically with its low ticket prices. Captured spaces off the concourse offer social engagement opportunities as fans walk around the park while enjoying the game. These are sometimes programmed, for example, with the Ballpark Barber or Sister Rosalind’s chair massage station, and sometime left for u-nprogrammed encounters. The identity of the ballpark is closely aligned with a sense of place, connecting the ballpark experience with the district and the City skyline through the porosity of structure. The ballpark’s lightness, openness and material welcome visitors of all abilities. By providing ample revenue generating spaces, the design assists the team in creating affordable entertainment for all income levels.
Located adjacent to, but not in, Saint Paul’s historic Lowertown District, a collection of early 1800 warehouse structures, the ballpark sought to change historic design discourse beyond the compatibility or differentiation debate to a more critical assessment of contextual relationships, needs and opportunities. The sleek low ballpark offers powerful views to the surrounding truly historic structures, locating the experience within the district. While the entry plaza frames a view up Fifth Street to the historic Saint Paul Hotel, the city skyline animates the view from grass berm seating in the outfield. Detailed views of historic warehouses are framed along the concourse by the elevated suite level. The ballpark materials, wood steel and masonry, refer indirectly to the robust timber and iron structures of the warehouse interiors. The porosity, lightness, and openness of the ballpark architecture adjacent to the district’s massive formidable warehouses create a memorable contrast.