The state nickname for Arkansas is “The Natural State” because of its wealth of natural beauty. When Kansas City Royals’ Double-A minor league franchise moved from Wichita to Springdale, AK, in 2008, the city of Springdale held a fan vote to select a new team name. And the Naturals got the most votes!
Nature also prominently figured when it came to constructing a stadium for Springdale’s new team, which was named Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The stadium — officially known as Arvest Ballpark — was built on a 40-acre plot of farmland previously utilized as a vineyard and an arbor.
To design the ballpark, Springdale hired HOK (now known as Populus), the renowned architecture firm behind such acclaimed stadiums as Camden Yards and Nationals Park. While scouting the Springdale areas, the HOK team became attracted to the rock outcroppings in the pastures around the stadium’s site, and they wound up using stones from local quarries for the stadium’s exterior, giving the building a distinctive, natural look.
Photo Courtesy MLB
Another unique design element is the 360-degree open concourse. Not only can fans inside the concourse see onto the playing field, but those outside can see into the stadium. Additionally, the design provides environmental benefits, such as generating better air flow and supporting drought-resistant landscaping.
When confronted with a 30-foot slope to the land in the ballpark’s footprint, the HOK architects also incorporated it into the design instead of trying to level it. The result is a stunning entranceway.
After the stadium opened, Springdale’s then-mayor Jerre Van Hoose praised HOK, explaining to “Ballparks.com”: “I love the way the architects fit the park into the land instead of trying to shape the land around the park.”
While the stone exterior and open-air concourse are laudable showpieces, numerous other sustainability-enhancing touches are situated at the stadium. Arvest Ballpark was outfitted with bins for recycling and low-flow toilets to converse water.
The positioning of the stadium’s upper level and the construction of canopies provide welcome shade for fans, along with lessening the need for energy usage. Moreover, energy efficiency improved from the glaze applied to suite-level windows.
“While the outer building resembles the pastures and rock outcroppings of the surrounding fields, the steely glass of the upper level reminds one of the sky, and the lovely white canopies on top evoke billowing clouds,” said Joe Mock, writer on “Baseballparks.com.”
Photo Courtesy MLB
Energy waste has been addressed in several ways at Arvest Ballpark. Low-wattage light fixtures were installed in offices, bathrooms, and suites. Builders put sensors in to turn off lights when people were not using specific spaces. Furthermore, the simple act of placing fixtures in useful places resulted in electricity conservation. They helped maintenance crews be more energy efficient because they didn’t have to turn off the strong field lights to do their post-game cleaning work.
Stadium operators have done a good job of upgrading the lighting system over the years.
In 2016, Arvest Ballpark received a new hi-tech LED scoreboard manufactured by Daktronics, a company known for environmental-minded technology.
Over the past few years, the stadium has continued to upgrade its lighting systems on the field and within the facility. Stadium operators haven’t just focused on the lights. For the 2023 season, a new playing field was laid down in Arvest Ballpark. Besides improving the field’s conditions, upgrades to the drainage and irrigation systems were done, which should lead to better water efficiency.
Photo Courtesy Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Arvest Ballroom only takes up a portion of the 40-acre land parcel; a large amount of land was turned into parkland. The green space not only benefits the environment but families, too, because a large playground was constructed beyond the outfield walls. Attractions include a mini-golf course, a wiffle ball at “Little Arvest Ballpark,” a miniature train ride, and several inflatables, including two new ones for the 2023 season.
Lastly, one added a bit of trivia relating to the team’s name. The Northwest Naturals are owned by the same company, Rich Entertainment, which also owns the Buffalo minor league baseball team.
The franchise was going through tough financial times in the early 1980s until the owners received an influx of funds for letting the movie production film at Buffalo’s ballpark. The deal was enough of a financial boon to rescue the team from possibly going under. The name of that film: “The Natural.”