Stadium Description Rickwood Field, Birmingham Alabama

The grandstand was constructed in 1910 during the early century shift to modern stadium construction techniques. Following the pattern of many major league parks constructed at that time, including Shibe Park in Philadelphia and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Rickwood was one of the first minor league clubs to utilize the new materials and methods. Unlike the wooden bleachers constructed in the earlier era, the modern reinforced concrete and structural steel ballparks were fireproof from top to bottom and provided greater material comforts for an ever-growing community of baseball fans at the turn of the century. Unlike its counterparts, Rickwood was not confined by an urban landscape that forced peculiar angles and irregular shapes upon the design. But like most fields of the era, the dimensions were quite large and the field was asymmetrical, 470' to left, over 500' to center, with only a manageable 335' in right field. Though Rickwood does not have the ivy walls of Wrigley Field or the green monster at Fenway Park, fans were still thrilled by the prospect of watching a player hit a triple or "homer" into the "groove" in deep left-center field.

Though baseball grandstands are largely perceived as grand structures that enshrine the national pastime, Rickwood Field carries a human scale that creates a sense of coziness and comfort among people in the stands. Whether in the box seats or the stands, Rickwood presents a casual space that allows, though it does not demand, a certain level of social interaction. Yet in relation to the field itself the stands become more detached. A majority of the seats are oriented toward the infield area where most of the playing action occurs, but these seats are separated by a large foul territory that creates a distinct buffer zone between the fans in the stands and the player and umpire on the field. The backstop behind homeplate and the field seats behind that fence, favored by the ardent fans of pitching technique, are an unusually long 82' from home plate, and originally stood at 90'.

The formal entryway, added to the field in 1928, displays an influence of the Mission style quite fashionable in the South during the 1920s. It has a prominent one-story arcade with a symmetrical facade and a pent roof with Spanish clay tile. A tile banding extends around the parapet, keeping in line with the Mission theme.

The original grandstand was laid out on an area that presumably had been used for ball playing back into the nineteenth century. Home plate is placed in the northwest corner of the site and the back edge faces in the same direction. The grandstand curves around the back of home plate and angles out at forty-five degrees along the first and third base lines. On the third base side the stands cut back in towards home plate and end just beyond third base where they were at one time followed by a steel bleacher section that continued on down the line to the left-field foul pole. The first base stands extend out along the foul line into right field and curve back toward the outfield around the right field foul pole. Adjacent to these stood the wooden bleachers used by Black patrons.

The open end of the diamond is enclosed by a concrete wall extending from what was the outer edge of the steel bleachers to the edge of the wooden bleachers in right field. This fence, constructed in 1928, is rounded while the original wooden fence was squared forming a right angle directly in dead center field. The original fence dimensions were enormous. The fence dimensions were changed four times presumably with a plywood fence much like the one now on the field with the shortest dimensions Rickwood has ever had, suited for the high school teams that play there. Surrounding the site from one end of the concrete fence to the other is a chain link fence with numerous pedestrian and vehicular gates.

The field itself is a diamond. The infield area is a smaller diamond within the larger field bounded by the four bases running counter-clockwise from first to home. The running and primary fielding area is a red clay surface while the rest of the field is Bermuda grass. On each side of the field are the dugouts, two-thirds recessed into the ground, supported by two round steel columns and having an open end view of the field.

Constructed before any of the adjoining streets were paved the original grandstand is offset from the main thoroughfare by 36' on the right side and 24' on the left. The path of the late afternoon rays of the sun played a primary role in the layout of the field. Orienting home plate toward the northwest ensured that the late afternoon summer sun would cast shadows on the grandstands and most of the infield playing area. Thus on the later grandstand additions wooden louvers were attached at the back of the grandstand seating along the right field line.

The grandstand rises up from field level with several rows of box seats that are then separated from the covered seating areas by a cross aisle extending around the entire grandstand. There are two tunnels leading directly onto the field past the dugouts. The seating is separated from the field by a low concrete block wall behind home plate and then by a low chain link fence in front of the box seats.