AT&T Ballpark vs. Wrigley Field

I had the opportunity to take in a ballgame at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Friday so I thought I would put it up against Wrigley to see how it compares.  Of course, I have one game experience at AT&T and hundreds at Wrigley, so this is not intended to be the final word in comparisons.  I’d welcome any additional viewpoints in the comments

Customer Service

Almost everybody I dealt with at AT&T was very friendly and courteous.  The concessions people were very nice, answered questions politely and moved the lines along pretty quickly.  Most of my interactions with concessions was on the Club Level, so I would expect the service to be better there, but I also had an opportunity to get food in the lower level and bleacher area and the service was just as good there.

The ushers held up people from entering aisles when a batter was in the batters box.  Again, this was in the club level so I don’t know if that is standard in the rest of the ballpark, but I thought it was a nice touch.  We were warmly greeted upon entering and also upon leaving.  One woman usher gave me a high-five as we went out after the Giants had won on a walk-off single by Freddy Sanchez.

The one weird, off-putting event was in the bleacher area.  We walked out to the Standing Room area behind the right-field bleachers right above McCovey Cove for the last inning and found a gap where we could see through all of the people standing in front of us (the game was exciting so everyone was on their feet). A security guard told us we had to move back away from the bleachers, so we did, and then immediately a bunch of teenagers moved into the spot we had just been with no word from security.  It was very weird and seemed unnecessary, but we just moved on to another spot where we actually had a better view of the game-winning hit, so it worked out.

I have complained for years that the Cubs’ customer service is atrocious when considering how much money they take from us on a yearly basis while usually providing an inferior product on the field.  Based on my small sample-size I can’t think of a single area where the Cubs do something better to serve their fans than the Giants do and they just won the World Series, so if anyone could take fans for granted, it should be the Giants and not the Cubs.  The Ricketts have made vast improvements in this area, but visiting AT&T highlights how wide the gap still is.

I had a screen shot of a personalized thank you e-mail we received from the Giants, but I can’t get the photo to work and I’m on my way out the door so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I’m fairly certain the Cubs don’t do anything like this for their ticket purchasers.

Concessions

This isn’t even close.  If we were to liken this to comparing players’ baseball skills, AT&T is like Albert Pujols and Wrigley Field is Koyie Hill.

I stuck mostly with staples so I could compare apples to apples and hot dogs to hot dogs.  The hotdogs were about the same as what you’d find, but the buns were fresh.  Again, this was one time and maybe I just got lucky, but my odds of finding a hot dog with a bun that isn’t too stale or too soggy is about 50%.  We got two hot dogs at AT&T and they were both good quality.

The nachos were drenched in cheese and jalapenos, and they weren’t the lowest quality chips or cheese either.  The only dissapointment was that we ran out of chips before running out of cheese and we opted not to lick the container.  They also had a higher grade nachos available with beans, guac, sour cream and chili available which looked really good if you like all those extras.

I’ve always liked Wrigley’s nachos, but I never really realized how much better simple cheese and chips with jalapenos could be.

Then there was the options.  Oh my lord, the options.  Crab sandwiches. Garlic fries (I ate plenty of garlic fries in San Fran, so I opted not to get them at the ballpark). Something called a cha-cha, which I’m informed is a Jamaican dish.  They had vendors selling hot chocolate straight out of a thermal dispenser backpack that included a dollop of whipped cream, if you so desired.  Think about that the next time you get a tepid chocolate at Wrigley.  They had churro vendors coming around with the sticks of cinammon sugary goodness.  I could go on, but you get the picture.

I know Wrigley has tried to get better with the food options, but again, AT&T just highlights how little bang a fan at Wrigley gets for his or her buck.

The last snack I got was a simple bag of cinnamon-sugar candied almonds.  I love those things and it seems like most minor league ballparks have them available.  As far as I know, they aren’t at Wrigley yet despite needing very little room to operate.  This is a crying shame, in my opinion.

Fans

The fans, for the most part, at AT&T seemed very interested in the game itself.  They watched the game and had opinions on just about all the players.  They seem to hate Miguel Tejada and Mike Fontenot is gaining popularity (he helped himself there with a triple into the gap to get the Giants on the board).  Of course, Buster Posey is the main man in the lineup and in the Giants’ fans’ hearts.  I would assume only Lincecum would come close to Buster, but I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing him pitch.

Just about everyone was wearing orange and black and the tone throughout the game was extremely hopeful despite getting no-hit by Ubaldo Jimenez through the first 5 innings and falling back 3-0 early on.  Every walk or single was greeted with a big cheer as the start of a potential rally.  When they actually came back to tie the game in the 8th and win it on a walk-off single in the 9th, the place went crazy.  

I tweeted in the 9th that it was strange being in a stadium not filled with an impending sense of doom when things didn’t go exactly right.  I guess winning a World Series is good for a healthy sense of optimism.

The bleachers reminded me of the days in Wrigley before the prices went through the roof.  Those are decent enough seats, but they aren’t prime and they aren’t priced like prime seats.  So it was an interesting mix of demographics with limited budgets.  The roving bands of teens were annoying, but they were mostly hanging out in the back of the bleacher area so if we had actual tickets to those seats, I don’t think they would have been a problem.

Up in the club level, there were few blatant businessmen who were only there to entertain clients.  They may have been, but if so, they were better at blending into the fan atmosphere than the folks who try to impress clients with seats at Wrigley.  I didn’t notice many people on their phones.  In fact, Kris and I were probably on the most as we tweeted periodically throughout the game.

Fans are fans, and I think the similarities between the two fanbases far outnumber the differences, but overall, I’d say the fans at AT&T were there for the game. I can’t always say that about the Wrigley crowd.

Logistics

We arrived to AT&T via a ferry from Larkspur across the bay.  Not having to deal with game traffic was a huge plus and we got some great views of the city as we came across the bay. I’d recommend it if you’re in the area.

There was also a ferry that docked in McCovey Cove from Oakland, so that is another good option.  Not that I recommend spending a ton of time in Oakland.  Otherwise, access to the park is pretty good from the city.  It’s right near the Bay Bridge so car access from across the bay is pretty easy.  It’s also far enough from the Wharf and other touristy areas that I imagine knowledgeable drivers can get there from the city itself without a ton of problems, but I didn’t do it so I don’t know how it actually works for drivers.

Once in the park, we had a hell of a time finding the Club Level.  It is possible we are just dense and missed the signage, but I never saw a single sign pointing the way to the 200 level.  We figured it out and discovered the memorabilia area in the Club section that is pretty cool.  Lots of autographed balls and bats, plus other stuff from Giants’s history.  We didn’t have time to spend in there, but I’d definitely go back to check it out further.

Obviously, taking a boat to Wrigley isn’t an option, but the location right off the Red Line and having the Brown Line within easy walking distance is a huge plus.  I’d never want to drive to Wrigley for a night game either since you can’t park anywhere near the ballpark without paying a crapload of money to someone (whether its a private garage owner or the team).  

I always thought the signage in Wrigley Field was pretty good too.  It’s been a long time since I didn’t know exactly where I was going in there, but I don’t remember ever having a problem finding my way around.  So Wrigley has a bit of an edge there, from my experience.

Stadium Aesthetics

AT&T Park is beautiful.  There is no getting around it.  The location gives great views of the Bay, the architecture is classic yet modern, and they did a phenomenal job of getting advertising all over the park without beating you to death with it.

The scoreboard and outfield area is the most heavily advertised and I just didn’t seem to mind it.  This photo doesn’t even include the giant Coke bottle behind the left field bleachers.

Wrigley is still tops in my book from the inside, but it isn’t a runaway and I’d be thrilled if Wrigley was re-done to include the modern features like this that allows for added revenue without distracting from the beauty of the game.  

From the outside, AT&T has Wrigley beat.  The brick facades are fantastic and the surrounding area is very nice and inviting.  For all of the charm of Wrigleyville, it isn’t pretty to look at and we’ve been over how dumpy the outside of the stadium is.

Overall

The day started off great because it was the first homegame since Willie Mays’ 80th birthday, so there was a nice pre-game birthday party for Willie including video testimonials from former teammates, colleagues, and celebrities ending in the park singing Happy Birthday.  It was fantastic to see one of the best players of all-time, even if he was just sitting in a chair taking it all in.  Throughout the game, we were treated to various highlights from the career of the Say Hey Kid.  It was all very well done and Willie seems genuinely touched.

Unfortunately, we didn’t arrive soon enough to get the Mays statue or the orange and black birthday hats they passed out to the fans, but it was still cool.

Any game that ends in a walk-off win is great, and it still baffles me how the Giants are doing it.  Pitching obviously, but Cain started off a little rough and dug the 3-0 hole that the climbed out of in the later innings.  Nate Shierholtz tied it with a 2-run, 2-out single in the 8th, and Freddy Sanchez got the walk-off single to drive in Cody Ross who had led off the 9th with a pinch double. Who are these freakin’ guys?

I really enjoyed the experience at AT&T.  It was nice seeing a couple of good teams in a well-played game.  It was nice having room to roam in the corridors of the ballpark.  It was really nice to be treated pleasantly by the stadium staff.

I still love Wrigley and the feeling of watching my favorite team when they win, but if I removed my personal bias, I’d have to say AT&T is the superior ballpark and the fan experience is far superior.  I’d really like to go back again.


aisle424

About aisle424

I used to write lots of things about the Cubs. Now I sometimes write things about the Cubs.

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