Ballpark Quirks is a series on the distinctive features and oddities that make up each of MLB’s 30 parks. Today's pick: Arizona's Chase Field and its swimming pool.
Nothing quite epitomizes a Phoenix summer like a backyard pool party. And if you think of Chase Field as your home, right-centerfield as your backyard, and 34 other people as your closest friends—completely disregarding the other roughly 49,000 fans surrounding you, of course—then don’t fret: The Arizona Diamondbacks have your pool ready.
Opened in 1998, the 8,500-gallon pool 415 feet from home plate behind the right-center outfield fence was a way to bring a natural Phoenix association into the ballpark. "Trying to find something unique and identifiable that would give this ballpark distinction and personality from others, everyone thought a swimming pool was ideal," said Derrick Hall, the Diamondbacks’ president and CEO. "We want the stadium to resemble features we have at our own homes."
Chase Field can already close up the roof and turn on the air conditioning to keep out the summer heat. The 35-person pool suite was the final touch.
Early in the design, there was some thought of placing the pool in straightaway centerfield, but dropping it under the batter’s eye wouldn’t give it a view of the field. The Diamondbacks wanted folks in the poolside area to see the field and wanted the rest of the stadium seats to see the pool. The added bonus of "splash balls"—home runs dropping into the chlorinated water—made right-center the spot.
According to Hall, the pool suite, which includes a 1,288-square-foot pool deck, a 385-square-foot pool up to four feet deep, and a hot tub, remains the most popular feature of the park to this day. The first half of the season sells out before the start of the season, and the entire slate of games gets sold out by May 1 every year.
The pool, serviced by a local pool company as part of a sponsorship deal, received a few extra—and unwanted—visitors in 2013. After the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the National League West in Phoenix, members of the Dodgers returned to the field after an in-clubhouse celebration and cannonballed into the pool. A no-L.A. sign has cropped up poolside at the start of 2014, but otherwise, that story has died down.
During games, whether the Dodgers are in town or not, the Diamondbacks have a rotation of paid lifeguards on the payroll to watch over patrons at the suite, which comes with a host of complimentary food and beverage options and a towel.
The pool area has undergone two major renovations, including redoing the interior and deck in an effort to "constantly keep it looking as new as on day one," according to Hall. Of course, the Diamondbacks have added to it, too, enlarging the bar and adding televisions. With changing rooms located under the right field seats, the Chase Field pool feels just like a typical Phoenix backyard pool party. This one just comes with a MLB game across the fence.Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.