Star quality means place for FanFest New convention center boosts Philadelphia

June 23, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

PHILADELPHIA -- When it comes to playing host to baseball's All-Star Game, where it's played is not as important as having a place to put FanFest, baseball's traveling sideshow.

"It's a huge deal," said FanFest spokeswoman Errin Cecil-Smith. "To host FanFest requires 315,000 feet, or 39 baseball diamonds."

So, back in 1992, when the Philadelphia Phillies and the city made a bid to play host to this year's game, a big boost came in the form of the nearly completed 440,000-square foot Pennsylvania Convention Center.

According to David Montgomery, Phillies vice president, the team bid for the 1996 game in 1992 and, he said, "One of the things that changed and helped us was the advent of FanFest.

"FanFest, done right, requires a lot of footage, and before we had the Convention Center, we didn't have the room."

FanFest -- an interactive baseball convention with 25 attractions and exhibits -- was added to the mix in 1991, when the game was played in Toronto.

This year's show will open at the Convention Center the weekend of July 5 and run daily through July 9. In addition to the games, it will include a mini-Hall of Fame exhibit, a replica dugout and clubhouse, exhibits from the minor leagues and past All-Star Game and All-Star merchandise.

Of course, back in 1933, the year the first All-Star Game was played at Comiskey Park in Chicago, having a place for a FanFest wasn't necessary. The game traveled from city to city on a rotating basis; one year the National League had the game; the next year it was the American League's turn.

The host city was only a matter of which was next on the list.

But, according to Katy Feeney, senior vice president of the National League, as the game became bigger and required more of each host city, the site of the game depended on a number of things -- facilities for FanFest, available hotel space, the best logistics in terms of travel accommodations, and the number of years since a town was host to the All-Stars. It still is rotated between leagues.

"We need a few thousand hotel rooms every night," Feeney said.

To be exact, 3,500 rooms are needed for baseball personnel alone, beginning with 200 the week before the game. The Philadelphia Marriott, 12th and Race streets, is the headquarters hotel.

Ten other city hotels will be designated All-Star hotels, and they will be supported by shuttle-bus service to and from the airport and the stadium.

This will be the fourth time Philadelphia has been host to the All-Star Game. The game also was played here in 1943 and 1952 (Shibe Park) and 1976 (Veterans Stadium).

According to Feeney, it is always a plus to have a new stadium in which to play the game, but the other factors play a bigger role.

The new home of the Texas Rangers, The Ballpark in Arlington, was host to last year's game. The next two also will be played at new stadiums -- 1997 at Jacobs Field in Cleveland and 1998 at Coors Field in Denver.

Pub Date: 6/23/96

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