The Diamondbacks were once mocked for putting a swimming pool in their ballpark. Now the unique feature at Chase Field in Phoenix is a fan favorite.

Here’s how the idea for building a swimming pool in a Major League Baseball ballpark came about.

Three guys from Chicago were looking at a model of Phoenix’s proposed ballpark when one of them made an off-hand reference to a novelty shower that used to sit in center field in the White Sox stadium.

That led to one of them — exactly who is disputed — saying something about how Phoenix’s new baseball stadium should have a swimming pool.

That off-hand remark would become reality. 

When the park opened in 1998, there it was, just over the right-field fence, a shimmering crystal-clear swimming pool surrounded by umbrellas and deck chairs. Also a hot tub.

The swimming pool became an object of derision from baseball traditionalists and broadcasters. To them, it was a sign that Phoenix wasn’t a fitting spot to play this revered game.

It also spawned imitations, of sort. No one else would replicate it. But other clubs would also aim for a signature feature of their ballparks. It is why, a club official says, there is a large model train in Houston and a zip line in Atlanta.

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Nearly 20 years later, the pool remains a draw. Despite a price tag that starts at $4,750, the pool suite sells out for every game, including the upcoming wild-card playoff game.

It has also moved beyond novelty and has became part of Diamondbacks lore. When this year’s team clinched a post-season berth, team members jumped into the pool, adding to a tradition started by the 2011 team.

The dip also served to cleanse the waters of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had the temerity to dive in after winning the division pennant in 2013.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

A new ballpark, a new idea

The Diamondbacks ballpark was already set to be innovative, partly because of its setting. It was going to have a retractable roof that would let in enough sunlight for grass to grow, while allowing fans to be comfortable during the city’s summer weather.

It would have a brick facade, resembling a warehouse, in keeping with a tradition that started with Baltimore’s Camden Yards and continues with the Colorado Rockies’ park in that city’s lower downtown district.

But the roof was set to be the noteworthy element of the park. Until the model was produced.

Jerry Colangelo, the chief executive of the team; Rich Dozer, the team president; and Scott Brubaker, the vice president for marketing, were looking at the model in the team’s temporary headquarters, a downtown high-rise.  

Both Dozer and Brubaker had worked as executives with Colangelo with the Phoenix Suns, the professional basketball team Colangelo also owned. All three men also hailed from Chicago.

Knowing that, Brubaker made a Chicago joke while looking at the model. He pointed to center field and said that was where Bill Veeck of the White Sox would have put the shower.

A bit of background: Veeck was an owner who was known for publicity stunts. Most famous was his disco demolition night where, between the games of a doubleheader, a disc jockey exploded a mound of disco records. The resulting on-field chaos led to the White Sox forfeiting the second game.

The shower was less famous but would end up having a more lasting impact.

Veeck installed a rudimentary showerhead in Cumiskey Park that would be operated by a pull chain. A yank would send cold water gushing down on the person below. It was handy for the hot, steamy Chicago days. Veeck also hoped women wearing bikinis would use it.

Brubaker said after he pointed to the model’s center field and mentioned the shower in Chicago, he added, “And here’s where we’re actually going to put a pool in.”

The line was intended as a joke, Brubaker said, not a serious proposal to Colangelo.

Dozer, reached by phone this month, said he remembered he was the one who first floated the pool idea.

Either way, Brubaker said that after the meeting, Dozer told him the idea was “interesting and you should run with that.”

‘We’re taking a pass,’ Colangelo says

Dozer, who described himself as the “bean counter” of the group, said he did some quick revenue projections. The seats that would be removed would be lower-priced outfield bleacher seats; the suite could sell for a premium.

“We did the math and I guarantee you it was a financial home run,” Dozer said.

And that was before selling the naming rights, something Brubaker said he already started thinking about pitching.


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Brubaker said someone from the architecture team told him it could be done, but he recalled sweating over how to raise the idea as a serious proposal with Colangelo.

Not only did the idea buck baseball tradition, Brubaker recalled, but it would go against what was a standing concern in construction of the new ballpark.

At the time, Brubaker recalled, the Suns were a popular draw, but a tough ticket to get. There was criticism that only season ticket holders could see games and the average fan could not. The Diamondbacks had already sold 44,000 season tickets, Brubaker said, potentially setting them up for the same problem.

“This cockamamie idea was going to eliminate 180 seats in the right-field bleachers,” he said.

Now the idea had to be pitched to Colangelo, for real. 

Brubaker waited until the end of a meeting about the ballpark’s design. He told Colangelo he had one more item. 

Brubaker said as he talked about actually building a pool in the ballpark, Colangelo was “looking at me like I have 12 eyes.”

Colangelo, according to Brubaker, then asked: “Are we killing seats for this?”

Brubaker said they would be.

“If we’re killing seats, we’re taking a pass. Meeting over,” Brubaker recalled Colangelo saying.

Or was he seriously considering it?

At the time, Brubaker was Colangelo’s son-in-law and pitched it to him again in a more private setting. This time, Brubaker said, he had run the numbers and was armed with potential revenue figures. He said he told Colangelo the pool could generate a half-million dollars a year.

Still, Brubaker wasn’t sure if Colangelo was on board.

Colangelo was out of town this week, his office said, and unavailable for comment.

News stories from the time indicate that Colangelo needed some time to be convinced.

The model was shown to the media — or at least The Arizona Republic took a photo of it — in July 1995.

That October, Brubaker was quoted in a Republic story saying a pool in right field was being “seriously considered” by Colangelo.

In January, Colangelo excitedly showed off a model of the ballpark to Bob Ryan, columnist for the Boston Globe, and mentioned where a pool would be. 

Brubaker said he did recall Colangelo showing off the model at one point to a reporter, though he wasn’t certain it was Ryan. What he did vividly recall was that Colangelo used a laser pointer to indicate where the pool would be.

Brubaker said he elbowed Dozer, who was next to him. “Did you hear that?” he said. “Did you just see what happened?”

‘The seventh-inning swim’

With Colangelo on board, Brubaker said, he knew the pool would become a reality.

Ryan wrote a column in the Globe mentioning the pool. Two months later, in March 1996, the Wall Street Journal did a story about the pool, under the headline: “Splish, splash: The seventh-inning swim.”

Brubaker said the owner of a pool-chemical company saw that story and asked to sponsor the planned pool. It would be known as the Sun Pools Party Pavilion, and with the naming rights sold, there was no turning back.

The architecture team took a small knife to the model and added the pool.

Building the real pool was comparatively as easy.

Buzz Ghiz ran Paddock Pools at the time. The company was already a sponsor for the Suns and a natural choice to build the pool, for a reason few but these two men knew.

Ghiz said that when the Suns new arena was being built, Colangelo toured it with him. Ghiz said he suggested that Colangelo build a pool underneath the floor, big enough for competitive swim meets.

“But it was way too late,” Ghiz said.

This time, it wasn’t.

A pool with a view

Ghiz said he planned out the pool carefully so fans could actually see the game. He didn’t want it to simply be an add-on to the stadium.

“It was all designed so when someone sat in the pool, they could get a full view of what was going on in the ballpark,” he said.

Construction itself went smoothly, Ghiz said. “Like any project, it had little challenges, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

But the pool did have its critics. One of them was a Maricopa County supervisor, Tom Rawles, who oversaw the stadium district and had some questions.

Rawles was quoted as saying the idea was “stupid.”

“We thought we were building a baseball park,” he said in an April 1996 story. After the swimming pool, he said, “there would probably be riding stables next.”

Rawles, reached this month by phone, said his chief concern was making sure the county was compensated for the seats torn out to make way for the pool.

Rawles recalled a “relatively unpleasant” conversation with Colangelo about the revenue issue. Rawles said he wasn’t sure what ended up in the final agreement.

He said his main opposition to the pool was as a steward of taxpayer dollars. He was against the quarter-cent-per-dollar sales tax that funded the ballpark and thought a swimming pool was simply another waste.

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All these years later, Rawles is still against the pool. He said he doesn’t think it added to anyone’s enjoyment of the game, one he relishes for all its nuance. 

“People don’t go to the pool to watch the game,” he said. “Normally it’s just kids playing and bouncing around. It’s entertainment; it’s not baseball.

“I guess I am a bit of a purist.”

And one more thing …

When the pool opened, there were also puritanical issues.

Brubaker recalled seeing some images on the stadium’s big screen. He then thought about his mother-in-law seeing them. He then thought about Colangelo seeing them.

“I needed to call an audible,” he said. Thongs were outlawed. “I needed to make it a zero-tolerance situation.”

The pool was a quick sell. Brubaker said it became a popular incentive in sponsor packages. The remaining dates were sold at suite prices quickly.

“I was way low on my revenue projections,” he said.

The pool continued to hold its novelty through the years. Josh Rawitch, the club’s vice president for marketing, recalled visiting the Diamondbacks’ stadium before working for the team.

He and his friends made a beeline for the pool. “It was a must-see attraction,” he said.

Even after nearly 20 years and a full renovation, the suite, now called the Ram Trucks Pool, has continued to be an attraction, Rawitch said.

It continues to sell out every season, with some people coming back for at least one game each year. One of those return visitors is Shane Doan, who recently retired from the Arizona Coyotes, Rawitch said.

Not such a bad idea after all

Rawitch said while the pool hasn’t been copied, the concept of it has. Each ballpark that followed has wanted some novel feature. “Most cities look for that iconic thing from their city,” he said.

For example, Houston’s Minute Maid Park, which opened in 2000, featured two novelties: a raised hill and flagpole in center field, and a large locomotive carrying a car full of oranges that chugged in celebration when the Astros hit a home run.

“That train that is in Houston is a direct result of our putting the pool here,” Rawitch said.

The flagpole, incidentally, has since been removed.

Miami has added a swimming pool to its ballpark, part of a nightclub-like setting in its outfield. But the Diamondbacks still consider theirs unique in creating a suite-like venue that allows fans to actually experience the game.

Rawitch said the suite consistently sells out, despite its price tag of between $4,750 to $7,500.

Part of the reason for its novelty is its exclusivity. With only 35 people in the suite at any one game, that represents a fraction of a percentage of the overall attendance.

Everyone gets to see it, but most fans have yet to enjoy it.

For a while, that also applied to the team’s executives.

Both Brubaker and Dozer said they first went to the pool on an off-day, both taking their children for a birthday party.

Rawitch said he was able to take a dip during an afternoon game when the person who booked it backed out. “It was an absolute blast,” he said.

The celebrations, good and bad

In recent years, the pool has become part of team lore, a unique venue for the team to celebrate.

The 2001 team that won the World Series did not include the pool in any of its celebrations, preferring the traditional champagne and beer soaking in the clubhouse.

But, in 2011, the Diamondbacks jumped into the pool to celebrate their clinching of the National League West pennant. It was the first time the team had extended their celebration into the pool suite.

Two years later, the Los Angeles Dodgers, their division rival, jumped into the pool to celebrate its division pennant. The Diamondbacks were not happy.

“It raised the rivalry between the two teams,” Rawitch said. “Our fans took offense to it. … They were really unhappy the Dodgers had done this.”

So it was a measure of relief when this year’s team celebrated its post-season berth with a dip in the pool.

“I think we exorcised the demons,” Rawitch said. “I think we kind of turned the page on the whole Dodger episode.”

And, no, the team did not drain the pool after the Dodgers took a swim.

Instead, they handled it the same way they did after the Diamondbacks entered the pool with uniforms already wet with sweat, beer and champagne: They shocked it with chemicals.

What other cities have said about the pool

The following is a collection of comments from out-of-town newspapers about the swimming pool at the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball stadium:

Boston Globe, columnist Bob Ryan, January 1996:

The what?

The swimming pool. The swimming pool will be located in what would otherwise be the right-center-field bleachers. That’s correct: swimming pool. 

… At such a moment, it is easy to remember that Jerry Colangelo entered the NBA in 1966 as the “director of promotions” for the Chicago Bulls. He has always had, as George Bush would say, “the vision thing.”

Los Angeles Times, April 1996:

It’s not unusual for baseball teams to go into the tank, and now some spectators in Phoenix will follow in a more pleasurable fashion.

St. Paul Pioneer Press, April 1996

There’s nothing like going to a ballpark and taking a nice deep breath. Aaaahhh. The smells of America’s pastime. Hot dogs. Brats. Peanuts. Popcorn. Chlorine.


Yep. It’s about to become baseball’s latest scent.

Chicago Tribune, May 1996

Calling all yuppies: The expansion Arizona Diamondbacks turned some heads last week when they announced plans to have a swimming pool built in the new Bank One Ballpark. This is an idea that is sure to attract yuppies who don’t even like baseball, but it doesn’t seem to matter.

Seattle Times, March 1998

(L)ike downtown, there is little there there. Except from high in the upper deck, and with some side panels open, you have no idea you are in Phoenix. Only the swimming pool in right-center, as silly as it is, gives a hint.

Los Angeles Times, March 1998

The Diamondbacks will play at Bank One Ballpark, where a swimming pool in the right-field bleacher area gives new meaning to having a dip.

New York Daily News, April 1998

The view from the swimming pool is, um, interesting. And not only because a man just got into the hot tub while still wearing his Bruno Maglis.

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