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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.

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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.

Comments


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I think you should email your list of 5 to Mr St Peter.....because I think you nailed it.

Posted on June 1, 2006 at 08:47 AM by MOJO Highlight this comment 1

I like the list but one thing that caught my attention was,
"Arbitrary, made-up quirks (flag poles, embankments, baggies, manual scoreboards)"

While some I agree with you (baggies) others are tributes to past ballparks like the flag poles and embankments. Ballparks, back in the day, were way more crazy than today.
Take a look here for some examples,
http://boofberg.blogspot.com/2006/05/stadium-bits.html

I'm not saying that I would want a giant hill or a flag pole in play, but it should be pointed out that these quirky things have been around awhile and that the old ballparks were forced to allow such changes.

Anyway, I love the site and I look forward to reading it daily for the next 4 years

Posted on June 1, 2006 at 3:12 PM by Boof Highlight this comment 2

I agree, Boof. If it's historical -- that is, from a ballpark in the franchise's past -- then there's a good reason so I'd support it. But if they're just making it up to have a quirk, then I don't think it's a good idea.

With that in mind, I'd be satisfied if they put a big square point out in center to echo the weirdness of Griffith Stadium. Not very likely, I know, but that's the kind of quirk that I think is not arbitrary because it ties directly to the franshice's past.

With that in mind, I think there might have been a flagpole in play at Griffith Stadium... Maybe that one's OK after all!

Posted on June 1, 2006 at 5:17 PM by Rick 3

Good comments, except for one: I don't think you can include a roof and still have a decent design. A roof is too darn big and you can't hide it and it's mechanics when not in use.

However there are other ways to keep fans warm or out of the elements and you touched on some of them: Overhangs, open concourses, etc. The Twins have talked of seat warmers and I hope that is something that can be accommodated within the given $522 million budget.

Posted on June 5, 2006 at 08:47 AM by freealonzo Highlight this comment 4

Along with the roof - the current series at Safeco Field is a great opportunity to see a roof on a park. Its HUGE and ugly. I think it the latest one on a ballpark. It would be way too tempting to close it.

Posted on June 7, 2006 at 09:55 AM by Jared Highlight this comment 5


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."

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This is where you will put out your butts -- I mean enjoy some pretty flowers.



Let's be honest and say that this promenade, which will face the HERC plant, won't be the most exciting part of the streetscape. It has to be provided for circulation reasons, but there won't be much to see unless vendors and other attractions take root here.









A cold afternoon in 323, but we had our trusty Twins blanket -- made by my mom when Noah was born.



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At the end of the balcony you can see down the promenade.



Steel meets concrete, with the last rays of sun visible through the suite and concourse openings at left.



Catwalks provide access to the View Level seats (from the Ballpark Authority July update)






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Legends Club fireplace (there are two)












Playing surface dirt out there? Maybe. (click to enlarge)






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A whole bunch of guys working on something.



Lots of people are doing it.



Replays on the out-of-town scoreboard!



Did you know that the out-of-town scoreboard is covered by a black chain 1ink fence?






It's pretty easy to see right into the Twins dugout!



The lights went on, and it was a Good Thing



Site plan for the new Nationals ballpark, with the size of the Rapid Park site overlaid






Marquette looking south



We'll be packed into the first five rows of section 136. Hey, Wilson! I'm bringing my glove!



Here's one big problem with a retractable roof: completely terrible seating in left. These scant few seats would have been tucked under the track. No sunshine, no open concourse, it was a terribly kludgy idea. With some hindsight, it's very clear that adding a retractable roof on this small site would have required compromises which would have just been too extensive to tolerate. Without it, the design was free to grow into something much more memorable.



Here are some less intrusive things things you can actually get at the ballpark.



The first pitch.






Click to see the full-size image.



Fabulous Fantasy






An early concept for St. Paul.









This was actually taken from the top floor of the International Market Square.



Panels arriving on flatbed trailers in front of the Twins' dugout.



This view clearly shows the curve in the left field stands and the relationship of the first row with the playing field (no overhang to speak of in left).






The Metrodome has sure been tarted up.



Ye Olde Tyme Vegetable Cart (and its modern cousin)






Memorabilia on display in the Metropolitan Club


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BPM - Ballpark Magic

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FSE - Full Season Equivalent

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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

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