CHS Field Ballpark in St. Paul/Minnesota by Snow Kreilich Architects

published in sb 5/2016

The greenest ballpark in America


Snow Kreilich Architects as the leading design architect created a green space on what was one of the most contaminated sites in the Twin Cities. The CHS Field Ballpark is conceived first as a park and a public space, and then as a sports venue. Entering off Broadway, the park attracts both spectators attending the St. Paul Saints’ matches as well as patrons seeking space for movement and recreation.

Working with the City of St. 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 elevated 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


Welcoming visitors of all abilities

The neighbourhood’s cultural identity is built on the creativity of the artists, its diversity, its social energy built on its events, restaurants, farmers’ market and active public places. The energy and creativity erupts in some of the tucked-away corners of the district. Similarly the ballpark is conceived to appeal to a diverse population, and the social experience during a game is enhanced by providing open seating opportunities in the park, including an art courtyard behind home plate, outdoor terraces at the suite level, a drink rail in right field, berm seating and park space in left field, and a large terrace off Broadway.

The ballpark operates as a public space; it offers social engagement opportunities as well as a civic and district identity. The design maximises 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 unprogrammed 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 materials welcome visitors of all abilities. By providing ample revenue-generating spaces, the design assists the team in creating affordable entertainment for all income levels.


Rich visual connection to the surrounding warehouse district

Located adjacent to, but not in, St. 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 St. 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.

From brownfield to ball field

CHS Field is the first major sports venue to meet Minnesota’s B3 Sustainable Building 2030 Energy Standards, a progressive conservation programme designed to significantly reduce the energy and carbon in commercial, institutional and industrial buildings. CHS Field is also the first major sports venue to reuse rainwater for field irrigation.

One of the ten most contaminated sites in the Twin Cities has been transformed into this public ballpark consisting of 135 trees, 12,420m² of natural grass, a dog park, a children’s play area, and a rain garden featuring local art. These green spaces will remove 22.5 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.

The team was able to reuse 99% of the former Gillette warehouse building, reusing 20% of the building as foundational elements for the new ballpark; the remainder was recycled in crushed material for the building and field base or reused in the retaining walls and pier foundations. 230 foundation piers, 461m² of concrete wall, and 15,120m² of slab were reused in the ballpark.


Playing field functioning as a sand filter

The 100kW solar array provides 15% of the ballpark’s electrical needs and doubles as a shade pavilion for the picnic area. Innovative fixtures focus light on the field, reducing spill into adjacent areas.

Additionally, a 100,000 litre rainwater cistern located beneath the outfield concourse provides 25% of the irrigation needs, saving up to 1,800,000 litres of water each year. The cisterns collect rainwater from the roofs of neighbouring buildings. The rainwater is then stored beneath the concourse and used to flush the toilets directly above the cistern or to water the field. Even beyond the reuse at the cistern, the proximity to the Mississippi River made water quality a central design element.

The playing field itself functions as a sand filter collecting the water, cleaning it and directing it to two retention areas below the outfield before flowing into the storm system. Additionally, tree trenches along the front entry clean and retain concourse water as well as catch the attention of fans entering the game.

Operationally, the Saints have committed to a zero-waste facility, with the initial target of 90% of the waste diverted from the landfill and recycled or composted. Training efforts and interpretive signage are in place to ensure this programme is a success.