One need not look far to see the most dynamic change to Chase Field.
Towering high above center field is the newest, widest and most magnificent video board in Major League Baseball, a 136-feet-by-46-feet high definition LED board, made by Daktronics.
Based in Brookings, S.D., Daktronics is one of the world's leading manufacturers of electronic video boards and other large display systems. The company also worked with the Diamondbacks and the Maricopa Stadium District on installing Chase Field's now-outdated incandescent and cathode ray tube boards, the sound system which was updated in 2006, and the LED ribbon display installed prior to the 2007 season that rings the second deck of the stadium. The ribbon runs 1,119 feet and is the largest of its kind in Major League Baseball.
The LED (light-emitting diode) board is so wide that it is capable of displaying two true high-definition 16:9 images side by side. It will also provide the D-backs video crew with many display options, including using it to show one gigantic video display, or to segment into multiple windows showing a video, animation, still images, a scoreboard and more.
The board has 880 native lines of resolution and provides video in up to 4.4 trillion colors. Though it will be attached to the existing structure in the "batter's eye" in center field, the board is eight times bigger than the existing CRT video board that was used for the D-backs' first 10 years.
The project consumed Chase Field for much of the 2007-2008 offseason in order to be finished in time for the D-backs' home opener April 7 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With the changes in signage and appearance that occurred concurrent with the D-backs' re-branding in 2007, the new LED video board is helping to keep Chase Field among the world's most innovative and technology-driven stadiums.
It's not the first time Chase Field has been considered innovative, however.
Nestled among Jefferson Street to the north, Fourth Street to the south and Seventh Street to the east, Chase Field is the epicenter of the downtown Phoenix sports experience. When ground first broke on the building in November of 1995, it was always intended to be among baseball's most unique parks. Then-named Bank One Ballpark was the first to feature a pool, which sits just beyond the right-center field fence. The facility is also air-conditioned and features a retractable roof.
The pool sits 415 feet from home plate and has been the recipient of many home run balls. The first was hit by Mark Grace, though not during his three years as a D-backs first baseman. He hit it prior to coming to Arizona, as a member of the Chicago Cubs, on May 12, 1998.
With all of the amenities and unique facets of the facility, one can easily imagine that it took significant time to build. The project began more than two years before the D-backs ever played a game, but it took all of that time - 28 months in total - to complete the structure, at a cost of $354 million. The park was designed by Ellerbe Beckett, with Bill Johnson serving as the design principal, John Watson as project manager and the Huber Hunt & Nichols company working as the managing contractor.
The designers borrowed from the downtown Phoenix warehouse district in their concepts, using red brick and exposed green structural steel. They even borrowed a real warehouse, in fact, incorporating the former Arizona Citrus Growers' Packing House as the south façade of the building, currently used as a commissary for Chase Field's concession stands.
On Sept. 23, 2005, the stadium name was changed to Chase Field (from the previous Bank One Ballpark) after the merger between Chase and Bank One.
The ballpark was officially opened when the D-backs took on the Colorado Rockies on March 31, 1998, though it has since been used for many events other than baseball. During the 2004 elections, President George W. Bush held a rally for supporters at the stadium.
But the park is more known for its sports-related uses, of course. Arizona State University and the University of Arizona played two "Challenge at Chase" games at the park in 2006 and 2007, with the Arizona Wildcats winning both times. The stadium hosted the first-ever outdoor college basketball game, when the ASU women's team hosted Tennessee Dec. 27, 2000. The Sun Devils played at the stadium again on Dec. 18 2006, though the basketball game was cut short with just over four minutes to go because rain began to fall through the opened roof. Chase Field was also the former home of the Insight Bowl, part of college football's yearly bowl series. The final Insight Bowl played at Chase Field was won by ASU 45-40 over Rutgers.
The field has also been used to host the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series, AMA Supercross, several international soccer matches and monster truck competition in the Monster Jam series.
One of the signature non-D-backs events that Chase Field has hosted was indeed baseball, though. Prior to the 2006 season, Major League Baseball and the International Baseball Federation used the facility to host the opening round of the first World Baseball Classic. The United States defeated Mexico, 2-0, in the first game played at Chase.
One of the main reasons Chase Field is considered such a desirable host for sporting events is, of course, its retractable roof. Made with nine million pounds of structural steel and operating with similar technology as draw bridges and overhead traveling cranes, the roof is opened and closed with a pair of 200-horsepower motors taking a little more than four minutes. It also incorporates more than four miles of cable strung through a pulley system. It opens from the middle, so the two segments of the roof can be opened or closed either in unison or independently, depending on need.
The roof opens and closes to its own music, which was composed to time out at exactly the four and a half minutes needed to move it.
On game days, the roof is left open to help grow the natural grass that is used on the playing field. The surface consists of Bull's Eye Bermuda, which is considered the most suitable grass for a retractable-roof stadium. Should sunlight prove to be insufficient, requiring more light on some days, large incandescent lights provide a substitute.
A decision is then made on a day-to-day basis of whether the roof will remain open or closed at game time. The main factor is, of course, the weather. If there is inclement weather, or the threat of inclement weather, the roof will be closed, as it will during day games in the summer when Phoenix temperatures are regularly well over 100 degrees. Because Chase Field is positioned directly north-south, the roof is rarely open during day games even in comfortable weather because of the effect that the afternoon sunlight has on fans along the first-base line.
For those hot summer games, Chase Field is air conditioned using the Northwinds cooling system, which was designed to cool down the highly populated facilities in Downtown Phoenix in 2001. The system cools the ballpark in less time than the prior air conditioning system did, which allows for the roof to remain open longer during the day time.
The air conditioning, along with the LED board and pool area, is all part of the overall Chase Field experience, along with the food and in-game entertainment, of course.
In nearly a quarter mile of concession stand area, fans can order nearly any kind of food imaginable. In addition to standard ballpark fare offered at many stands, fans can order from Peter Piper Pizza, SUBWAY®, Macayo's, Panda Express Chinese cuisine and more. One of the more unique stands is Big Dawgs, where fans can order grilled foot-long hot dogs topped with all sorts of items, such as French fries, chili and cole slaw.
Like the combination of a dirt strip to the mound and a retractable roof, the in-game entertainment is a blend of old and new. While the game operations crew plays current hits with the state-of-the-art sound system, the D-backs also incorporate organ music by Bobby Freeman, who has been with the organization since its inception.
With a hot dog in hand, singing along to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" played on the stadium organ, and all sorts of video playing on the new high-definition board all in air-conditioned comfort, the Chase Field experience is second-to-none.