I was lucky enough to score a tour of the Madison Mallards' renovated Duck Pond at Warner Park by general manager Conor Caloia last week. Construction is set to wrap up on May 26, but with most of the seats in place it was easy to see the improvements over the old stadium. True, some of the shabby charm of the old setup is gone, but it won't take long for fans to fall in love with the new amenities.
- An 18-foot concourse wraps around the entire stadium. Caloia says fans will be able to buy concessions on the concourse during games and live bands will perform from the third-base concourse throughout each Friday night game. That's right, no pre-recorded music on Fridays, with most of the duties assumed by the Hometown Sweethearts.
- Seats! The Mallards are promoting the "end of bleacher butt" with its vinyl seats, complete with cup holders (!) procured from Baltimore's Camden Yards. According to Caloia, the Camden Yards seats cost the team about $25 each, compared to the $200 they would have paid for new seats.
- A red brick wall replaces chain link fencing behind home plate and front-row seats are now right on top of the field, flush with the front of the dugouts. It's startling how close you are to the field here.
- The seats are angled so each fan will be facing the infield. In the old configuration, fans along the right field line faced the outfield. The view from the "worst" seat in the house is still fabulous in the new configuration.
- The majority of the seats are on the first-base side, avoiding the setting sun over the right-field fence.
- A roof behind home plate is going in this week. The original design had no roof, but owner Steve Schmitt wouldn't hear of it. The design is meant to mirror the Warner Park community center.