by Jody Reese
If you havenít been to a game at the new Fisher Cats stadium, youíre missing something new and special in the city. And Iím not necessarily talking about the team, whose second season has been off to a rainy start.
Itís the stadium itself ó or specifically, how you enter it. To get inside, everyone first must climb a wide staircase that takes you up to the concourse level. At the top of the stairs, youíre not in yet ó the bulk of the stadium is still some distance ahead.
To get to your seat in the ballpark, you need to cross a wide open area. I have to believe this is no accident and, as a design plan to create a ďgrand entrance,Ē it works really, really well.
As you head for your seat, you canít help but stop and look around. To your left, the Merrimack River rushes by below you.
Turn around ó through some quirk of geometry the cityís skyline, such as it is, looms impressively in the near distance.
And ahead is the new stadium and its ballfields, stretching out and to the left in all its green glory.
Surprise! This upper level promenade into the stadium is easily one of the cityís best public spaces, in the way it brings together the river and the skyline. It gives you a great sense of being in Manchester and nowhere else.
Who would have thought that this was possible on the site of the old Singer Family Park, which before that was home to the cityís old railroad yards?
The stadiumís designers recognized the great potential for the riverbank site. And by elevating the entrance, they created a dramatic space thatís a memorable way to both enter and leave the ballpark.
Yes, itís too bad the stadium was built on a penny-pinching budget and some corners had to be cut.
Most obviously, instead of sporting a handsome brick exterior that would have matched the cityís millyard look, the stadium is instead covered with metal sheathing that gives parts of it all the ambiance of an overgrown tool shed. (Maybe Home Depot will buy the naming rights.)
But overall, the stadium is a home run in terms of how it uses the site. And looking ahead, itíll be a fantastic anchor to all the plans to develop the riverside area south of the mills.
Letís hope the bricks can be added later, when itís clear to everyone that the stadium benefits from a solid design concept ó one that makes clever use of the site and adds an important dimension to Manchesterís status as a destination city.
Thursday, June 2 is Hippo night at the ballpark. Hope to see you there.
2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH