Great American Ball Park undergoes array of upgrades

Glass-enclosed club, new food and retail concessions will enhance fan experience

Great American Ball Park undergoes array of upgrades

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When Reds fans begin streaming into Great American Ball Park for the first time in 2015 on Opening Day, they should immediately notice a flurry of offseason upgrades that were made to the ballpark.

Among the biggest changes this season is the arrival of The Handlebar at the Riverfront Club.

Formerly the glass-enclosed club along the right-field foul line, this new feature sponsored by Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati will continue a growing Major League-wide ballpark trend that creates a dedicated space for casual fans to enjoy a game in a laid-back setting.

"It's more of a mingle-social thing," Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini said.

There will be multitiered levels inside The Handlebar with a variety of possibilities.

Reds

"It's going to be a ticketed product and it's going to be pretty high-end, contemporary club," Castellini said. "It's going to be a food and drink inclusive. There will be a couple of different levels. You can buy into it and have standing-room spot. You can have a seat or one of these really cool pods. It's like a private area for 12-14 people, and your food is buffet style with drink service to those seats."

The area is also open to all fans with a ticket to the game.

"If you have a ticket somewhere else in the bowl, for a different price point, you can buy into just coming up to the club and enjoy the food and beverage and hanging out in a hopefully very cool social environment," Castellini said.

Unlike the old club that felt sealed off from the rest of the stadium, The Handlebar can pull back the glass and let the game come inside.

"I think it will be a game-changer for the stadium in general," Castellini said.

The Reds' goal with the project is to create alternative ways to enjoy a game, especially for fans seeking more in the way of entertainment than just the action on the field.

"A lot of these things will try to continue to improve the ballpark," Castellini said. "A lot of them are for non-traditional ways to see the game. This is a great example of that, in creating a ticketed product out of an area that was underperforming for us."

Reds

The Handlebar is only one of the changes that are coming. Here are some others:

• All new food concession stands on the concourses, including concessions with streetscape facades on the third-base concourse.

• A new row of retail concessions on the lower concourse, with storefronts creating a "Main Street" type vibe.

• Bootleggers Bar, a walk-in "speakeasy bar" along the first-base line.

• New LED lighting on Great American Ball Park signage at the stadium's main entrance and above the scoreboard.

Opening Day is April 6 and, of course, the stadium upgrades come ahead of a season in which Cincinnati will host the 2015 All-Star Game.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.