A Great Baseball Place?
June 1, 2006 12:38 AM
Here I've tried to distill some of the elements which have been present in all great ballparks of the past. This is just the starting point for the discussion.
The question is: What makes for a great baseball place?
1. The park must respect the game.
This means that every seat must face the infield. The surface must be real grass. Sunshine must be able to get to the field and the stands on a sunny day. Rain must be kept out so games can always be played (yes, I think that a retractable roof, properly executed, can respect the game). The park must be genuinely designed for baseball and not generically for multiple uses (though it might be used for other things, baseball must come first). Arbitrary, made-up quirks (flag poles, embankments, baggies, manual scoreboards) are unwelcome. Genuine quirks -- based on the size or shape of the site or history -- are welcome. The park must never interfere with the action (speakers, roof, et. al.). Out-of-town scoreboards must be complete and current. Visible displays of league membership and standings must be prominent. Pitch speed and real-time stats on current hitter and pitcher must be always visible.
The Metrodome's greatest failing is that it does not respect the game. It's a (marginal) football stadium into which a baseball diamond has been shoe-horned. Its roof and turf add an arbitrary level of difficulty for visiting players. Its speakers reach out and deflect playable balls. Otherwise impressive homeruns land in folded up seating areas or bounce back onto the field. The Metrodome actively disrespects the game.
2. The park must respect the fans.
This means that things like aisles and restrooms must be plentiful (with twice as many women's restrooms than men's). Seats must be comfortable and face the action. Access and parking must be convenient. Entrances and exits must be convenient and efficient. The majority of the seating must be in foul territory. Cheap outfield seats must be available, though there should be no upper deck seating in the outfield. Luxury amenities must not intrude on the everyday fan. Seats must be tight with the action. Scoreboards must be easy to figure out and plentiful. Advertising must not dominate. Fans must be able to have access to the players for autographs. Sound must be audible but unobtrusive. Sections of the grandstand must have a roof to provide shady areas for those who wish to seek them out. Any retractable roof must completely disappear when it is not needed.
3. The park must respect the home town.
This means that something of local interest must be visible beyond the outfield walls. The park must be located in an area representative of the city in which it's built. Local businesses must be integral to the ballpark experience. The park must not create an artificial city, or, God forbid, a mall-like atmosphere. Nor may it sit in the middle of a big parking lot. The park must be a functioning part of its home town. The architecture must enhance the city, complementing its best aspects. The park must not dominate its neighborhood, but be integrated with it.
4. The park must respect the franchise.
This means that the identity of the team must be integrated deeply into every aspect of the park. Naming rights, while unfortunate, are a necessary evil. To counteract this, the park must openly celebrate the team's past accomplishments, its former stars, its former home fields, its former incarnations (for teams which have moved). Permanent fixtures must be built in to every aspect of the park, giving a sense of the permanence of the franchise within its community. Parks must feel as if they are built to last a century -- whether or not this is actually the case (though it should be). Museums, hall-of-fames, victory rows, historical displays are welcome. Impermanent displays (flimsy banners or posters, painted cement walls) are unwelcome.
5. The park must have a unique identity.
The Ivy. The Green Monster. The Pinwheels. The big "A" (or is it the waterfalls?). The Crown. The Arch. The Warehouse. The park must have some form of defining element which is appropriate to the game, the city, the franchise, and the fans.
I'm not entirely sure that this list is exhaustive. In fact, I can confidently say that it is not. But these are some very important aspects to new ballparks. Hot dogs and beer(and other more esoteric snacks) will take care of themselves. And the single biggest element to a great park -- history -- cannot be built into it.
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This page was last modified on January 21, 2010.
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
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Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3045 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
You are forgiven for wondering whether architect Tom Oslund is, in fact, a visitor from the future.
A little more imaginative is the circulation building for Northstar.
Steps going up at Gate 29/Carew
The service entrance area in left-center, now with bench seating
Did I mention that the cheerleaders looked pretty sharp?
This is what I was working on while my photo was taken (click to see a VERY BIG version).
This is what will count as a knothole (actually, it's a gated entrance)
The finished product.
Peering through Gate 34
Limestone still dominates the Seventh Street walkway from a pedestrian point of view. But brick take over as you move upward -- a concession to cost, no doubt.
A scene repeated about a BILLION times each game
This is from inside the B ramp, where an entrance to the plaza will one day be
I never think of Rod Carew as a first baseman. But he was.
The season was perfectly bookended by Mick Sterling on the plaza
Up there is where I plan to buy a lot of hot dogs. You can see the vending areas developing rather quickly around the completed portion of the upper concourse.
Artist at (very painstaking) work
A closer look at the grid on the Pro Shop.
Note reflected sunset (7:30 PM). Could be a worry...
Scoreboard installation in progress
Looking back toward downtown from the end of the balcony
Here's the field of posts which will support the third base side of the grandstand. Some walls have started to appear about where the Northstar riders will enter the park.
Final pieces arrive
A view from up (and in) the street.
North Loop Deli
Here is a close-up of those funny little islands of seats (HRP View).
Met Stadium on May 17, 1975 (Twins vs. Brewers featuring Hank Aaron)
A true fan out in the bleachers
The Guthrie Theater's Wurtele Thrust Stage seating
This view, through a B ramp window, won't last forever.
A few details worth noticing (Kauffmann Stadium, New Comiskey, Comerica Park, Source: LP)
BPM - Ballpark Magic
BRT - Bus Rapid Transit
DSP - Dave St. Peter
FSE - Full Season Equivalent
FYS - Fake Yankee Stadium (see also: NYS)
HERC - Hennepin Energy Resource Company (aka the Garbage Burner)
HPB - Home Plate Box
HRP - Home Run Porch
LC - Legends Club
LRT - Light Rail Transit
MBA - Minnesota Ballpark Authority (will own Target Field)
MOA - Mall of America
MSFC - Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission (owns the Metrodome)
NYS - New Yankee Stadium
SRO - Standing Room Only
STH - Season Ticket Holder
TCFBS - TCF Bank Stadium
TF - Target Field
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Selected Bibliography - Surveys
Second Edition (1987)
Not a "Third Edition" exactly,
but it replaced the above title
(2000, large coffee table)
Original edition (2000, round)
Revised edition (2006, round)
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(2002, small coffee table)
(2003, medium coffee table)
(2004, very large coffee table)
(2006, very large coffee table)
Combines the previous two titles
(2007, medium coffee table)
Selected Bibliography - Nostalgia
Book and six ballpark miniatures