A visit to Oracle Park at FanFest in early February revealed one thing about the changes to the stadium: They are not ready for showtime.
Oracle Park is in the midst of its biggest changes in the stadium’s history. As the team celebrates the park with a patch celebrating “20 at 24”, it is under reconstruction. The biggest and most well known change is the move of the bullpens to center field, but there are other things going on with the stadium. Here’s a look at the changes.
The New Bullpens
Here’s the big change, and boy, it’s not easy to visualize yet.
Other than bleacher seats having been removed, it doesn’t look like there’s much at all done here yet. It is interesting to see the foundations of the park, with the concrete under the grass.
In addition to the bullpens, the Giants promise new viewing areas around the bullpens for fans to watch (heckle) pitchers as they warm up. And yes, the Kale Garden will come back…Hunter Pence must be very happy about that.
Here’s a look at the renderings that are expected.
There’s six weeks to go until the start of the season and games begin, and it looks like the Giants have a long ways to go.
New Luxury Boxes
If you look at where the bullpens once were, they’re cut off by new concrete walls, although the field itself needs to still be redone.
The open area between the seats and the new walls will be new luxury boxes, according to the ushers in the area. Less bleacher seats, more luxury (pricy) seating areas down the lines. It’ll be interesting to see how the front row fans will feel about no longer being in the front row (and being at nearly the same level as fans in front of them).
However, I am looking forward to some fun confrontations because of these. There’s a stereotype (sometimes well-earned) that the fans who pay for luxury boxes sometimes know the least about the game and how to be. Well, they are in prime foul ball territory. We don’t know yet how the nets will be attached there, but if anyone’s going to find a way to lean over the wall and grab at live balls, it’ll be luxury box fans. I look forward to watching those ejections.
Less Foul Ground
One unexpected side effect of this change is that the new walls remove foul ground in places you won’t expect. Even down the lines, all the way to the outfield wall, there is now a 3-foot wall cutting off foul ground. In some areas, it’s not much, you’re losing maybe two feet of space, but it’s less foul ground where a fly ball might get caught for an out.
However, the biggest change is where this happens in right field. For the park’s first 20 seasons, there was that area in the right field corner where opposing bullpens originally were supposed to sit (but never did), giving a bigger corner where ground balls down the line could rattle around and get trapped. That helped turn some doubles into triples, especially with right fielders playing closer to center.
Now, that area is cut off, and it’s now a straight line to the Candlestick Suite in the right field corner. No more rattling around there, and a little easier fielding for right fielders.
New Club Level Premium Space
A couple of years ago, the Giants redid the left field corner of the Club Level, the furtherest seats from home plate on the level, and made it into a bit more of a place for people to gather and get together. It looks like that will continue, as the area around section 231 is getting redone as well.
It appears the Giants are trying to do more to aim for the fans who like to walk around, giving more standing room areas for fans with beers to meet with friends and hang out as well. This isn’t a bad thing, though putting it on the Club Level definitely makes it a little more exclusive.
Bar Areas Behind The Bleachers
Before 2019, along with the new scoreboard, the Giants seemed to indicate that the area under the scoreboard behind sections 143 and 144 would become a new bar/concession area, but this one with a view of the field (which the back patio does not). It never came to be, with mostly just glass-shielded areas for people to lean and watch the game.
The renderings of the new bullpens seem to show that bar as well (with Coors branding), as well as open areas on the other side of the scoreboard, behind section 142. At the very least, at FanFest, the longstanding Cheesesteak concession booth that used to be nestled under the scoreboard in that area was gone, but that may not mean much, as many of the concession stands that make up the center field patio were not present.
The Giants announced this offseason that they would be extending the protective netting all the way to the foul poles. At least as far as FanFest goes, there was no sign of those protective nets. We’ll have to wait to see how different things seem with the new, extended nets.