With every season you can expect a few tweaks here and there at Great American Ball Park. In 2009 we were brought a new high-definition scoreboard, and in 2011 Mr. Red’s Smokehouse popped up near the Fan Zone in right field. The Reds have truly outdone themselves this year, and you can expect to see more than just a few changes at the ol’ ballpark.
Most notably, at the front entrance you can find a video wall made of nine 60-inch screens mounted from the suite level. It displays lineups, stats, and in-game action. I hadn’t heard of this addition and was pretty surprised to see it hanging above my head when I walked into the park for the Spring Showcase last night. It definitely updates the park and gives it a much more modern feel.
The Highlight Zone down the third base line got a nice upgrade with 20 HD interactive screens. Not only does it show live action from the game at GABP, but also from other games around the league. The coolest feature? It allows fans to post their own photos wirelessly, as well as interact via social media from Facebook and Twitter. As a social media proponent and fanatic, the more teams that embrace social media and the connection it can give them to their fans, the better. Reds interactivity through social media has grown so much in the last three years, and this may be one of the best new ideas I’ve seen.
The menus at the park even got a makeover! There are all new digital menu boards at the concession stands that feature quite a variety of food and bundled deals that we’ve never had before. But we’ll get to the food a little bit later…
The scoreboard is still the same, enormous HD board we’ve had since 2009, but man… I’ve got to give a round of applause to the Creative Services department. The graphics are fantastic. The layout and design is visually pleasing, and the roster photos are rather “instagram-y.” A fun little feature that I’ve never seen at any other park is that the player’s walk-up music is now listed along with their stats and tidbits of information. The repetitious questions about what X player’s walk-up music is are no more.
The ribbon boards down the first and third base lines also received a graphics makeover. The most interesting part of it may be that each time a player is announced a photo of their eyes appears next to their names. A little intimidating and edgy? Possibly. Creepy? Slightly, but I’m a fan.
Even Split the Pot has gone hi-tech! No more tickets, but a little paper that prints out of a handheld device with your numbers on it. It’s very similar to the way they print receipts for people that use credit cards to pay for in-seat services in some parks/stadiums.
For the Kiddies
The Fan Zone has always been a great concept, but it’s been fairly barren. There were a few games here and there, some people eating at the picnic tables, but not too much hustle and bustle. The Fan Zone received a little facelift, with new features geared towards the little Reds fans.
The Fan Zone Field is a new Wiffle ball field for kids aged 14 and younger. It features a synthetic field so the children can bat, pitch, run the bases, and even try to hit one over the outfield wall. Just this alone attracted quite a few fans last night. It was good to see some life out there.
The Reds Heads Kids Club has been around for a while now, but next to Fan Zone Field you can find the Reds Heads Kids Clubhouse. Memberships to the club are $25, but provide plenty of members-only experiences, vouchers and gear for all!
The new batting cages aren’t just for kids, but those of you that are still kids at heart can participate as well. They’re located near the Hall of Fame Rose Garden in the Fan Zone as well.
Over the years there have been a lot of on-field opportunities for the little fans, but this year they can attempt to “steal” second base. The kid that is chosen has 30 seconds to run from the third base camera well out to second, pick up the base, and it run it back. If they’re successful, they’re rewarded with a Subway gift card.
On the left field concourse you can find a new Reds Authentics stand. They sell jerseys, home run balls, bats, lineup cards, bases; all the good stuff. Plenty of game-used and autographed memorabilia, at times from the game you’re watching. Items will be collected between innings. As always, the proceeds go to the Reds Community Fund.
For those of you that need your official merchandise fix, there are some new developments both inside the park and in The Reds Team Shop. The upstairs, which used to feature women’s apparel and bits of memorabilia, now holds big and tall apparel. Other new merchandise there includes new toys and gifts for kids. On the Terrace Level near the main gate you can find a kiosk dedicated solely to New Era caps.
The promotions and giveaways the last few years have been outstanding at GABP. This year’s bobbleheads feature Joey Votto, Sean Casey, Jay Bruce, and Johnny Cueto. A few of the recurring promotions are back such as the fleece blanket and team calendar, while a grilling set, mini mascot set, and Joey Votto batting gloves are also on the schedule.
The Reds Hall of Fame
Each year the Reds Hall of Fame selects a significant moment, time, or person in Reds history to celebrate as the main attraction of the exhibit. This year, it’s the Big Red Machine. This exhibit will be open until the end of the season, and features great artifacts and stories as ever, as we have come to expect from the great folks at the RHoF.
There is also an exhibit dedicated to the life and career of the hometown great and Nation Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Barry Larkin.
Hopefully in the coming weeks I can make a trip through and snap some photos for you out-of-towners that might not have a chance to make it through.
At last, the delectable delights. Last year, the funnel fries and the aforementioned Mr. Red’s Smokehouse were a big hit. This year, we’re talking customizable burritos and hot dogs, as well as fried, greasy goodness.
The Food Network Hot Dog Bar near the Fan Zone gives every fan an endless amount of topping options. From traditional to the utmost unique options such a roasted corn, avocado, Frito chips, and even pork rinds.
I haven’t had a chance to see the new menu in The Machine Room Grille, but I’ve heard it’s gastro-pub style and features gourmet burgers.
There is a new Chipotle-esque burrito stand behind section 127 with chicken and beef options, as well as beans, rice, and a variety of salsas.
I don’t know about you guys, but I think I’m most excited for the State Fair Stand. If you’ve never had monkey bites or banana changa, here’s your chance. Fried dough, fried pickles, fried bologna sandwiches. You might feel like you need to run a lap around the park after eating some of the options, but it’ll be worth it.
Great American Ball Park has done a great job of renovating and adding new attractions year after year since it opened in 2003. Nothing can help keep a park itself alive and interesting like doing everything you can to keep it modern and refreshing. The Reds crew has gone above and beyond this year, and I hope you all can take advantage of the new additions.