LF: 325' CF: 400' RF: 325'
Tifway 419 bermudagrass
Affiliate: Milwaukee Brewers
2017 Shuckers Schedule
|Year ||Total ||Average
|* Attendance figures listed are the regular season totals drawn by the Biloxi Shuckers at MGM Park
Where the pursuit of baseball never ends.
Biloxi's ballpark bears such an uncanny resemblance to another stadium in a coastal Southern League city that it's hard to believe MGM Park was designed and built by firms not associated with Pensacola Bayfront Stadium. But separate sets of architects and construction companies produced the ballparks that opened just three years apart in the two Central time zone Gulf Coast cities, even though what is found inside the confines of each is so strikingly similar.
So what was unique in Pensacola is no longer one of a kind, as the curving foul pole to foul pole grandstand and narrow strip of berm spanning from right to center field has been duplicated in Biloxi, where the big scoreboard is also embedded within the outfield lawn area. The building holding the club area and housing the press box at MGM Park is behind the wide concourse, thus making such restricted access areas further from the field than is customary. Such a design is déjà vu all over again though, and Pensacola and Biloxi both have seating bowls that don't rise very high, are filled with blue seats and have a group area that comprises one end of the grandstand, although Pensacola's party deck is on the right field line and Biloxi's terrace is on the left field line. But the placement of the team store is identical, as each is entered from the uncovered concourse directly behind home plate.
Although I dislike referencing another ballpark so much in the review of this one, the comparison is warranted as the phrase "imitation is the highest form of flattery" seems to be the theme at the home of Biloxi's minor league baseball team. In fact, no less an authority than the Shuckers' inaugural season manager, Carlos Subero, noted "it reminds me a lot of Pensacola" when summing up MGM Park in an interview given 10 weeks after it opened.
While their layouts are essentially the same there are some notable differences within the two structures that are about 120 miles apart. Chiefly, MGM Park's upper level is much more complete, featuring a dozen suites (Pensacola doesn't have any) and an enclosed club area on the third base side (Pensacola's is open-air).
That $36 million was spent on MGM Park versus just $18 million for Pensacola's Bayfront Stadium explains the ability to be more upscale up high in Biloxi, where the only views of the nearby Gulf of Mexico can be found.
The dominant feature of MGM Park is the MGM-owned hotel and casino two blocks beyond it, as the Beau Rivage makes for an extraordinarily unique hitter's backdrop. Standing 346 feet high, it's the tallest building in Mississippi and the Beau Rivage looms large in right-center field. Unfortunately, the "MGM Resorts Destination," as it's advertised, and its adjacent parking garage block out any chance of seeing the sea that's right behind it.
For a casino, the Beau Rivage isn't splashy on its exterior, as glittery signage is kept to a minimum. Likewise, for a new ballpark the Shuckers' stadium isn't that flashy. The frills it has are simply the standard modern amenities that are laid out in the style of Pensacola's ballpark. However what makes the ballpark work so well in Pensacola -- its bayfront location -- is tantalizingly not capitalized upon in Biloxi, as the Gulf waters are essentially "a triple shy of the cycle" away, meaning close but not close enough.
I can't help but feel that's a big shortcoming, as Biloxi's ballpark could have been quite special simply by choosing a better location. And the potential certainly existed to have one of the best ballpark settings in the minors. Instead, the tight confines it got placed in contributed to a rather unimaginative design.
Because of those two factors this is an "if only" ballpark to me. As in if only a better location was chosen, if only it was designed a little differently, then I wouldn't think of MGM Park as just being OK. But it is what it is, and that's what it is.
MGM Park is alongside varying heights of I-110 lanes on its first base (west) side. It's so close to the Interstate that honking horns from drivers wanting to get fans' attention during games can easily be heard within MGM Park, and startling so for those sitting closest to the elevated lanes that connect to I-10 four miles to the north.
The ballpark is most notable for being on the other side of Highway 90 from the Beau Rivage and beach, as the waters of what's officially the Mississippi Sound are behind the casino, which is a whopping 32 stories tall. Highway 90 also goes by the more scenic sounding name of Beach Boulevard and numerous other casinos are found along the appropriately named road. That includes the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which is the other gaming resort visible from within the ballpark, as some fans are able to see its signature guitar sign, especially when it's neon is lit up at night.
While the casinos and their associated hotels are can't miss big, downtown Biloxi is rather quaint and certainly not imposing. It's contained within the blocks east of the ballpark.
Not very far west of MGM Park on Beach Boulevard is the Biloxi Lighthouse, which dates to 1848 and stands 64 feet tall within the median of Highway 90. The city proudly proclaims the lighthouse as its signature landmark and it managed to survive Hurricane Katrina, which was responsible for extensive damage throughout Biloxi in 2005. Besides being a symbol for the city, an image of the lighthouse was used by the Shuckers in a logo prominently featured on the team's inaugural season publications.
Thanks to plenty of casinos and many miles of white sand beaches, Biloxi enjoys a large influx of tourists. But the city doesn't have a very large population. Biloxi had just 44,054 residents as of the 2010 census. One of the city's top tourist attractions is the home of a former resident, Jefferson Davis, best known as the President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. The 51-acre estate where Davis spent the final dozen years of his life and wrote his memoirs is called Beauvoir, which is a French word for "beautiful view." A 5-mile drive west of MGM Park, Beauvoir overlooks the Gulf on Beach Boulevard and thoroughly details the rise and fall of the Confederacy and the role of Davis in it at the estate's museum, which is a must-visit for Civil War buffs.
Plenty of parking is available courtesy of the Beau Rivage, where the baseball team's friendly neighbor has a free to park in six-story garage. Since there's no publicly available parking on stadium property, the casino's lot serves as the de facto, and certainly the biggest, parking lot for MGM Park on game days.
A parking garage is under construction right behind right field, but the 350 spaces in that four-level structure are destined to be reserved for team personal (players and coaches), ballpark VIPs (suite and club level patrons) and Beau Rivage employees (the stadium was built on the site of their previous parking lot).
And if you want to pay for parking, neighborhood entrepreneurs and businesses will be happy to let you do so in spaces at their homes or lots, although given the easy availability of free parking at the Beau Rivage paying a pricey sum ($10 is typical) doesn't make much sense.
|The Beau Rivage casino is a towering backdrop for players and fans alike at MGM Park, where the grandstand that holds a large amount of the ballpark's 6,076 capacity is curved like a boomerang, a design that allowed for ample room to place the bullpens in foul territory.
Distinct Features & Layout
Because I-110 is so close, tall screens supported by 7 poles had to be placed in the narrow space between the interstate and ballpark along much of its first base side. The same support system of protective netting was erected behind the left field wall too, as Caillavet Street is in close proximity to that part of the ballpark.
The grandstand is curved so that it has a boomerang shape, as opposed to the typical seating bowl style in which the field level stands are laid out in straight lines with changes in geometry coming in defined angles or turns. The gently curving grandstand at MGM Park extends from foul pole to foul pole and all seats within it are stadium-style, except for the four rows of table seating found at the grandstand's end on the left field line. That terrace seating area is for groups and has a capacity of 100. Seating in the terrace is comprised of 4Topps, which is a semi-circular table with four fully swiveling seats behind it.
The ballpark's upper deck contains 8 suites on its first base side and 4 suites on the third base side. Each suite has outdoor seating for 12 people and has an overall capacity of 20. Party decks are at each end of the upper level and both have a capacity of 52, with that amount split equally between stadium seats and patio/table seating. In addition to the 12 suites, two decks and press box, the upper level, which is situated entirely within the infield, has a large private club space on its third base side. Officially called the Mercedes-Benz Club, it's found between suites 10 and 11. Ticketed capacity for the club is 72 and it has 48 outdoor stadium seats plus an indoor gathering area featuring a long bar.
A small berm stretches from the right field foul pole to center field. Although that's a fairly lengthy expanse, the grassy incline isn't very deep, meaning the distance between the top and bottom of the berm isn't great. Still, the capacity of the berm is reportedly 800 to 1,000.
Has two outfield-based video screen-style scoreboards. The main one is within the berm in right-center field and is 32" x 46" in size. The secondary scoreboard measures 14' x 48' and is elevated slightly above the wall in left-center field.
The concourse is truly open -- never covered but always overlooking the playing field -- but is not a 360-degree one, as no part of it is behind left field. The otherwise continuous concourse couldn't be extended there since a sidewalk and city street are directly behind the left field fence.
The permanent concession stands (there are 7) are clustered within close proximity to each other on each side of the concourse, where the first and third baseline found stands are in the building beneath the upper level and are separated by the main team store, which is directly behind home plate. Called Shuckers Shop, it's a walk-in store that is long rectangle in size inside but small overall. Unlike many newer ballparks, MGM Park does not have a sit-down restaurant or bar.
Bullpens are on the field in foul territory. Players sitting in them for both teams do so on individual chairs situated behind the bullpen mounds in their respective locations: the Shuckers staff sits alongside right field line section 117 and the visitors’ corps sit in front of the left field line terrace.
The Gulf of Mexico is just two blocks away (past Jackson Street and Highway 90/Beach Blvd.) but only those in the upper level can see any of its water, and even then it's mostly those in the party decks on each end that can. The blue waters of the Mississippi Sound, as the Biloxi inlet of the Gulf is called, can also be glimpsed on the horizon from the third base side of the upper deck, the further down the line the better. The backdrop that everybody in a seat can see is the Beau Rivage, which has been the state of Mississippi's tallest building since the casino opened on March 16, 1999.
MGM Park Facts, Figures & Footnotes
Construction cost: $36 million
Financing: Fully funded with public funds from two sources: $21 million came from the city's issuance of general obligation bonds and $15 million came from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, which distributed federal funds to Biloxi that were granted to the state following the 2010 BP oil spill disaster. The decision to issue the bonds was approved by the Biloxi City Council in a 5-2 vote on February 11, 2014.
Architect: Dale Partners, a firm based in Mississippi's capital city of Jackson that has an office in Biloxi
General contractor: Yates Construction, which is headquartered in Philadelphia, MS and has an office in Biloxi
Became the second minor league ballpark in Mississippi to be designed by Dale Partners and built by Yates Construction, as Trustmark Park, which opened in the Jackson suburb of Pearl in 2005, was also the product of that architect/builder team.
Groundbreaking took place on January 23, 2014, but that was only in a ceremonial capacity as actual construction of the ballpark didn't begin until over six months later, with August 4, 2014 being the date that construction was allowed to proceed. That was 13 days after the City Council chose Yates Construction to be in charge of building the stadium by approving a contract that gave them 12 months to complete it.
Owned by the City of Biloxi.
The ballpark is on about 6.4 acres of a 13.3-acre site that is leased to the city for $1 per year by MGM Resorts International, which previously used the land they own for employee parking at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.
Naming rights: MGM Resorts International, the parent company of the Beau Rivage and owner of the land of which the ballpark stands, pays an undisclosed amount. The name of the ballpark was officially announced on September 24, 2014, although "MGM Park at Beau Rivage" was used during groundbreaking ceremonies held on January 23, 2014. However, the portion of the name referencing the casino was dropped by the time the 20-year deal was finally made public. The length of the agreement means MGM Park should be the name of Biloxi's ballpark through the 2034 season.
Was called Caillavet Park during initial planning stages, which included the original ballpark renderings. That working title name was simply based upon the street name where the ballpark was built, which is Caillavet Street.
Leased to the Biloxi Shuckers for 20 years. The team pays the city $150,000 in annual base rent, which is due and payable on October 1 each year. An additional rent provision of the lease requires that Biloxi Baseball, the LLC that owns the Shuckers, pay the city a surcharge on all tickets sold, with the total amount not to exceed $500,000 annually and based on a "AA Baseball Ticket Surcharge" that is $2 per ticket sold for the 2017-2032 seasons and $0, $2 or $3 for a variable level of ticket sales in the first two and last two years of the lease. Other events staged by Biloxi Baseball are also accessed a surcharge, with the amount due to the city ranging from $1 to $5 depending on the event type and/or ticket prices.
The original lease and use agreement set a date of March 28, 2015 for the city to have the stadium ready for "beneficial occupancy" by the Shuckers and required Biloxi to pay $10,000 to the team for each home game missed if MGM Park was not ready for occupancy and games had to be played elsewhere as a result. As it turned out, the stadium was not ready to be used until June 6, by which time 25 originally scheduled home games had to be played on the road. But rather than owing $250,000, the parties agreed to amend terms of the lease so that the city's remedy limit for missed games was capped at $100,000.
Due to its delayed opening, only 45 of 70 home games on the Shuckers' inaugural season schedule could be played at MGM Park. Of the 25 "home" games the team had to play away from Biloxi, 15 were hosted at Joe Davis Stadium in Huntsville, AL, from where the Shuckers had moved after 30 seasons of being known as the Huntsville Stars. The games the franchise played in their longtime home in Huntsville drew a grand total of just 4,192 fans.
Is the fourth ballpark to ever host professional baseball games in Biloxi. The first was called Point Comfort Park, although it was used for just part of the 1908 season by the Gulfport-Biloxi Sand Crabs of the Cotton States League. Biloxi Stadium, which opened in 1928, was where the Washington Senators held spring training from 1930-1935 while the Philadelphia Phillies trained at the stadium in 1938. In 2003, two games were played at Hollis Field, a high school facility, between the Pensacola Pelicans and Baton Rouge River Bats, which were a pair of teams in the short-lived independent Southeastern League. None of the three ballparks that hosted pro baseball in the past in Biloxi still stand.
MGM Park Firsts
First game: June 6, 2015; the Biloxi Shuckers beat the Mobile BayBears, 5-4 in 14 innings, with 5,065 as the announced attendance. Because the game went extra innings, it lasted a very lengthy 4 hours and 26 minutes.
Official ballpark firsts (all of which occurred on 6/6/15, unless noted):
|Pitch ||Batter ||Hit (single) ||Home Run (6/8) ||Winning Pitcher ||Losing Pitcher ||Save (6/7)
|Tyler Wagner ||Jack Reinheimer ||Jack Reinheimer ||Orlando Arcia ||Trevor Seidenberger ||Adam Miller ||Jimmie Sherfy