What started out last March as a simple question (How do people know if the roof on Chase Field is open or closed?) ended up as a full-scale design and development project here at 20 West Jackson.
Three weeks after first uttering those words, and just one day before the 2013 Major League Baseball season, we launched istheroofopen.com. At first we were merely content to give a yes or no answer for Diamondback fans here in Phoenix (where we could simply peek down the street to see for ourselves). But later we decided to answer this question for all fans of the six Major League stadiums with retractable roofs.
The vision began as a sketch of a single page with an open or closed sign for D-backs home games and ended up featuring a complete admin system with each team set up as users, so they could update the status of their respective roofs on desktop or mobile devices. The utility also addressed away games, days without games and the weather for every match-up, pulled in from the National Weather Service and from a database that accounted for all 972 relevant games. They were hand-entered by yours truly over the course of 36 hours.
Why go through all this trouble? If you’re a baseball fan in Miami, Seattle, Milwaukee, Toronto, Houston or here in Phoenix, the roof status makes a big difference in how you prepare for the ballpark. Do you wear sunblock or a sweatshirt? Thermals or T-shirts? Ultimately, it can eaffect whether or not the fans enjoy the experience at all.
Here in Arizona, there’s a big difference between the sun baking you for three hours and the cool breeze the stadium’s air conditioning pumps out in generous volumes. In Toronto, the early and late games of the season can bring particularly cold weather, or not, if the roof is closed and the heat is on. And no need to mention Seattle, though history and our site has shown that they close their roof the least of all six teams. Shocking.
The site was—to our extreme satisfaction—adopted by thousands and thousands of fans. This was particularly pleasing because each team had their own way of letting their fans know the roof status already, they just weren’t very user-friendly ways. Some teams set up 800 numbers (who calls 800 numbers now that we have the Internet?), some teams buried the information deep within several levels of navigation on their main site, and a few teams periodically tweeted the roof status. What we did was present that information on a mobile-friendly format that you could bookmark, and have one-click access to it wherever and whenever you wanted.
If the roof was open you knew it. If it was closed, ditto. You knew if there was an away game, if there was no game, and in the case that the roof status was unclear, you saw the magic baseball give it’s prognosis (Too soon to say. Check back later.)
Fun little design details were stuffed into this simple site from the team pennants all the way down to the admin buttons, which referenced the actual industrial buttons that are pressed to open and close the roof at Chase Field. We built a simple stats counter that showed visitors how often the roof had been open compared to closed, and even though Fenway doesn’t have a roof, we modeled the 404 error page after their famed Green Monster, complete with a finicky lamp. We gave fans one last way to interact with the site during the season by launching the Best Shot contest. If they took a great picture of their favorite stadium while at the game, it could be used as the open or closed image for their favorite team.
So with the World Series just a day away, we thought we’d share a little back story and some of the details of our latest passion project. We only have one regret – we never got a chance to show off our playoff version of the site (can you say bunting?) since not a single one of our teams made it to the postseason. Is it too early to declare an ITRO curse on par with the curse of the Bambino? Perhaps.
If you’re not a fan of the Red Sox or Cardinals, remember that Opening Day 2014 is only about 160 days away and hope springs eternal. Until then, help us support fan-centered ideas like this by sharing our little video below. Or you can try out the admin system for yourself by going to the URL at the end of the video. Oh, and go D-backs!