MLB at Rickwood Field - BrightView
MLB at Rickwood Field. Photo courtesy @cookmurray

BrightView transforms historic Rickwood Field

On June 20, the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals played the first ever regular season Major League Baseball (MLB) game to be held at historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala.

As the Official Field Consultant of MLB, BrightView renovated the entire playing surface at Rickwood Field, the oldest ballpark in the country, which dates back to 1910.

Under the direction of Murray Cook, president of BrightView’s Sports Turf division, the overhaul of Rickwood’s field included removing the existing field, bringing in all new clay for the infield and warning tracks, replacing the infield and outfield grass with Tahoma31 and adding a new padded outfield wall, bullpens, foul poles and netting along the foul lines. New dugouts were also installed and temporary field lighting added.

“In all my years of working these events, I’ve had the privilege of building and reconstructing some unique and amazing ballfields all around the world, but the history surrounding Rickwood Field makes this project extra special,” said Cook. “Baseball legends of both the Negro Leagues and MLB stood at home plate, and this game and overall environment will certainly be a great tribute to them.”

MLB at Rickwood Field - Brightview
Photo courtesy of MLB

Special consideration had to be taken to keep Rickwood’s history and legacy intact, including the outfield fence that holds vintage advertising signs and the iconic scoreboard replicating the one from 1948.

“We had to be mindful of the existing, historical features of this field and stadium,” said Cook. “The outfield walls, for example, had to be padded for player protection, but our partners Populous and BaAm Productions were still able to keep the old signs intact through some unique branding methods. We did have to make some adjustments to the positioning of the field, which involved moving home plate back 10 feet and shifting the angle counterclockwise.”

“I couldn’t be prouder of the exceptional work our team has accomplished at historic Rickwood Field for MLB’s tribute game to the Negro Leagues,” said Dale Asplund, BrightView president and CEO.

MLB at Rickwood Field - BrightView

About Rickwood Field:
Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., has seen a lot of history in its 114-year existence. The first game played there was in August 1910, making it older than such hallowed grounds as Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston. It was the home of the Birmingham Barons and was the first minor league ballpark to be made from concrete and steel. In the 1920s, Rickwood also became home to the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues, playing at the field on dates when the Barons were on the road.

Baseball legends have taken the field here, including Babe Ruth, Harold “Pie” Traynor, Rogers Hornsby, George “Mule” Suttles, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Yogi Berra, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, and Birmingham native Willie Mays.

MLB at Rickwood Field Facts

  • Removed 5,000 tons of material from original field
  • Excavated 100 years of chalk from both foul lines, which solidified into a 10-inch thick mass
  • 6,000 tons of sand, clay, and warning track material were used
  • 120,000 square feet of sod was installed
  • Moved home plate back 10 feet and the backstop wall forward 10 feet
  • Outfield fence distance was changed to 325 feet in leftfield, 400 feet in centerfield, and 332 feet in rightfield
  • Shifted entire field 5 feet counterclockwise
MLB at Rickwood Field Crew
Photo courtesy Murray Cook, @cookmurray