Now that spring training is here, David M. Schwarz is getting to see his vision come to life.
Schwarz is the design architect and master planner for the improvements and renovations to the Orioles’ facilities in Sarasota, Fla., which include Ed Smith Stadium and the club’s Twin Lakes minor league complex.
“For us, it was extremely important to make something that felt quite at home in Sarasota,” Schwarz said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “Sarasota has a style that is very unique and we wanted to tap into that history. We wanted to make a facility that was extraordinarily fan friendly and that was a special place for the city and the Orioles.”
Schwarz is president and CEO of a Washington, D.C.-based firm that has also developed American Airlines Center in Dallas and the Disney Sports Complex in Orlando.
Many O’s fans have probably never heard much about Schwarz, but it was his vision that shaped the renovations. O’s vice president Janet Marie Smith was involved in the selection process of Schwarz as the design architect.
“There were many things that contributed to the way we chose to do the park,” Schwarz said of Ed Smith Stadium. “When we looked at the park, we were very concerned with making sure we could open for the season. So we came to a conclusion we wanted to save as much of the existing facility as we could; we didn’t want to tear down and build from scratch.
“With our time constraints, what we decided to do was to, sort of, encase the building in new construction. The building didn’t have any concourses when we started. We put sort of a wrap around the building and then we increased the shade around the bowl. We added to the inside and outside, but left the middle almost completely intact.”
Schwartz is clearly proud of his firm’s work on both the baseball facilities in Orlando and Sarasota, but there is no real comparison of the two, he said.
“They are different. The one at Disney is part of a major sports complex, where the one for the Orioles is all about major league baseball,” he said. “We did look carefully at other spring training facilities and were very interested in making it a richer experience than we’ve seen at other parks.”
When it came to the plans for the O’s Sarasota renovations, Schwarz said many team officials provided input.
“Everybody had impact on the Orioles side from ownership to management to baseball to concessions. Everybody had input. One of the jobs of the architect is to make sure everyone thinks the ballpark was designed for them,” Schwartz said.
“The players think it’s all about them, the concession guy thinks it’s all about him. The goal is to make everybody happy and come up with a series of compromises that makes everyone feel as if they got the best possible solution for them.”