SBC Park

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Template:Infobox Baseball Stadium

SBC Park (formerly Pacific Bell Park) is an open-air baseball stadium, home to the San Francisco Giants of the National League. 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.

History

Groundbreaking on the ballpark began on December 11, 1997 in the industrial waterfront area of San Francisco known as China Basin. The stadium cost $319 million to build and supplanted the Giants' former home, Candlestick Park, a multi-use stadium in southern San Francisco. Fans had shivered through 40 seasons at "The Stick". In contrast, this new ballpark was built in a sheltered and relatively warm area of the city's topography.


File:Old Glove.jpg
Close up of the old fashioned glove at SBC Park.

When it opened on March 31, 2000, the ballpark was the first Major League Baseball stadium built in the U.S. without public funds since the completion of Dodger Stadium in 1962 (though the Giants did receive a $10 million tax abatement from the city, which also paid for upgrades to the local infrastructure, including a connection to the Muni Metro). The park opened with a seating capacity of 40,800, but this has increased over time as seats have been added. The first Major League Baseball game took place on April 11, 2000 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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 5th 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 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. It has also hosted the 2002 World Series against the Angels, which the Giants lost 4 games to 3, and will host the 2007 All-Star Game.

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.

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 the stadium on days when the Giants do not play. The stadium was home to the XFL San Francisco Demons in 2001, was the home of the Shrine Bowl (until 2006) and college football's Emerald Bowl (since 2002). Numerous concerts are also held at the park.


File:Pacificbellpark.jpg
Photograph of the stadium when it was still named Pacific Bell Park in 2003

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.

The most prominent feature of the ballpark is the right field wall, which is 24 feet (7 m) high in honor of former Giant Willie Mays who wore number 24. Because of the proximity to San Francisco Bay, it is only 309 feet (94 m) to the right field foul pole. The fence angles quickly away from home plate; right-center field extends out to 421 feet (128 m) 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. 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" or "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.

Beyond right field is a section of the bay, dubbed McCovey Cove after famed Giants outfielder Willie McCovey, into which a number of home runs have been hit on the fly. As of September 18, 2005, 40 "Splash Hits" [1] have been knocked into the Bay by Giants players since the park opened; 32 of those were by Barry Bonds. Opponents had hit the Cove on the fly 11 times, Luis Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamondbacks being the only visiting player to do so twice. 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.

File:Pac Bell Park.jpg
The old fashioned glove and Coke Bottle at SBC Park.

The ballpark also features an 80 foot (24 m) Coca-Cola bottle with playground slides that will blow bubbles and light up with every Giants home run and miniature version of SBC Park behind the left field bleachers. Next to the Coke bottle is a giant baseball mitt, a replica of a vintage 1927 glove. Right-center field features a small cable car, with a label that states "No Dodgers Fans Allowed," and a fog horn that blows when a Giants player hits a home run.

The park has automated scoreboards, but in right-center field it also has enormous, manually operated boards which tell fans the results and scores from games elsewhere around the league. These are operated by three people, whose work on gamedays starts at least two hours prior to the first pitch of the Giants game - they pride themselves on making sure fans arriving at SBC Park early are immediately up-to-date with other scores, especially those from the East coast which are often concluded by the time play begins in the West.

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

Outside the ballpark are three statues 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 24 palm trees, in honor of his jersey number 24, retired by the Giants. Another statue is located at McCovey Point across McCovey Cove, and is dedicated to Willie McCovey. 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.

PETA has ranked SBC Park the top vegetarian-friendly ballpark.

Future Naming

On October 7, 2005, USA TODAY reported that SBC plans after their merger with AT&T that they would adopt the AT&T name if the FCC agreed to the merger in a meeting on October 28. What this means for the naming rights — which would be their third in six years as the stadium would possibly called "AT&T Park" — is still unclear.

External links

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Template:MLB Ballparks

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