Friday, November 23, 2012

Constructing our Popsicle Stick Baseball Stadium

It was probably several years ago when I was presented with a large 3-D puzzle of New York as a birthday present that I first thought about building a baseball stadium model. I remember searching at length on the Internet for such an item and finding only 3-D versions of Yankee Stadium available for somewhere in the range of $250-$300. I found a Kansas company known as Bauer Diamonds that made cardboard model kits of some of the old stadiums but all items had been discontinued. Later on, I happened across a YouTube video of two boys that had built a model of Busch Stadium with Popsicle sticks. I showed my kids the video, and the creative juices started to flow.

We started with a piece of cardboard that we found in the crafts section at Wal-Mart and some colored pencils. I laid out the field so that it was to scale (1:180, I think) and there would be sufficient space all around for the seating. This meant I had to have a smaller outfield than I would have liked. Instead of designing a pitcher's park, we would be left with the very intimate and symmetrical dimensions of 320, 365, and 400. To compensate, we raised the height of the wall down the lines - sort of a nod to Baltimore's old Memorial Stadium - and bumped it even higher in center, a la old Comiskey. I didn't know it at the time (because we had no real plan), but this tip of the hat to what was once known as the Baseball Palace of the World would signifiantly influence the park's overall design.

I thought the old angular stadiums with their straight lines and lack of frills would be better suited for replication with Popsicle and kebob sticks. And, truthfully, I thought it would be easier and take less time to complete. We already had the bullpens situated beyond the outfield so we decided to begin there with the seating construction. After double-decking the outfield seats and adding bleachers in center, I realized we actually had an old Comiskey look going. Knowing I had a picture my Dad had taken during a Royals/Sox game in August 1980 of Comiskey's exploding scoreboard, I decided this feature needed to be incorporated into our stadium.

Because we had not intended to perfectly represent old Comiskey, or any other stadium for that matter, at the project onset, we wanted to add some features from other stadiums and from our own imaginations. I mentioned our outfield walls down the lines, which I viewed as a tribute to old Memorial Stadium. We also added a "This is Braves Country" banner on the wall in left, as I watched many a Braves games on TBS in the early 80s and still manage to make it to Turner Field every once in a while. As an homage to Brooklyn's revered Ebbets Field, we added an "Abe Stark Hit Sign, Win Suit" banner in right field. Growing up a Royals fan, the team is represented on the scoreboard, just as it was in the photograph from 1980, and a banner promoting Wichita's KAKE-TV 10 is displayed below the press box, sort of a thank you to the local affiliate that carried the Kansas City broadcasts of selected Royals road games for years. Inside the press box are pictures of Harry Caray and Steve Stone, the broadcasting duo I used to enjoy listening to when they worked for the Cubs and WGN.

Above the scoreboard, you can see our stadium's name. Here's the explanation: Roy is short for Royals; E is for Ebbets Field; and Turniskey is a combination of Turner and Comiskey. Roy E. Turniskey. Almost sounds legitimate. Behind the scoreboard we placed pictures of some players from the teams represented in the stadium name. George Brett and Rich Gossage (from his Sox days) are featured most prominently, as these two were fierce competitors and had a great rivalry through the years, particularly in the early 80s when Gossage was blowing smoke for the Yankees. In my mind George won every battle, though I obviously know this certainly was not the case. But Brett's series-clinching home run in the '80 ALCS and the pine tar fiasco of '83 are two huge clutch homers that Royals fans from that era will never forget. Other players featured beyond center field include Greg Luzinski, Chris Chambliss, Duke Snider, and Terry Forster.

Another picture I have is from April 1979, the very first major league game I saw in person. This was at Comiskey Park when the Yankees were in town. We parked beyond right field, in between the stadium and the Dan Ryan Expressway. My Dad snapped the picture I'm holding, and we decided to use this as a basis for our own detail, which is also found outside right field.

Perhaps the worst seats in Comiskey were in the left and right field corners. Quite accidentally, our Popsicle stadium has a fairly unique corner design that we imagine would produce superior sight lines (because this is so important with Popsicle stadium architects and owners). Our design works as a differentiating feature, but it created unwelcomed additional work by having to construct pedestrian ramps and cut-arounds in the building exterior. We used card stock for the exterior skin and a cobblestone pattern we found online for the sidewalk surrounding the park. The card stock is held in place with magnets. This is so we can access the concourse area in the future, where we strung miniature lights throughout, tucking the battery packs between the center field bleachers and the player panels.

   View from the blimp

Putting in the last piece

Gap in facade offers the opportunity to peek in from outside

Baseball on roof, compliments of Greg Luzinski

We completed our "summer" project just in time for Thanksgiving. What can I say, as an aspiring Popsicle stick general contractor, I'm just trying to stay true to form, ya know?