Shulfer Architects, LLC
The Madison Mallards haven’t announced their 2017 roster yet, but you can bet whoever is named as the team’s starting right fielder will be a budding showman. After all, given its close proximity to the popular Great Dane Duck Blind party area, the position requires someone who can engage the crowd by tossing balls to fans and encouraging fun chants.
“We put a lot of thought into who plays that position,” admits Vern Stenman, president of Big Top Baseball, which operates the Mallards and three other Northwoods League teams. “I’ve seen opposing right fielders come in and get riled up by the fans, and then they make mistakes.”
This season, the pressure on visiting right fielders will be even greater. The Duck Pond is undergoing its largest renovation since 2010 — converting the Duck Blind into a four-level space with a total seating capacity of about 700. The exclamation point on this $1 million project: 37 lightly used shipping containers converted into 12 fan suites.
The design is the first of its kind in all of baseball, Stenman says, and this is Madison’s first shipping container project.
“We want to be reflective of the community,” says Stenman, who conceived of the initial design with Middleton-based Shulfer Architects. “But we also always try to break new ground and see what happens.”
The Mallards have established themselves as one of baseball’s greenest franchises, earning an Outstanding Achievement in Recycling award from the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin in 2012 for incorporating reused materials into a major renovation of the Duck Pond.
Other highlights of the updated Duck Blind include relaxed seating with outdoor furniture and better views of the field, a shaded rooftop suite and a second-level suite area that cantilevers over the playing field and provides a short porch for home runs. (Not surprisingly, Duck Blind ticket prices have increased, too.)
“It started out as a simple party space that evolved into a phenomenon — a signature of summertime in Madison,” Stenman says about the all-you-can-eat-and-drink Duck Blind, which debuted the same year as the Mallards, in 2001. “It was different from anything else in the market, and it’s still different. But it’s been there for a long time, and it needed the infusion we’re giving it.”
Fans will have their first opportunity to check out the new and improved Duck Blind at the Mallards’ home opener on May 30 against the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders.
Opposing right fielders: You’ve been warned.