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
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3033 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
The circulation ramp on Fifth Street is shaping up very quickly.
From last week, you can see the piers taking shape. I believe that the front row, visible here as just forms and reinforcing rods, is the front edge of the plaza.
Back of scoreboard; facade in context.
Reverse stairway view
Awesome seat. Awesome sun. Awesome hitter. (Photo by Tony Voda, courtesy Jared Wieseler)
Those two empty seats in the front row are where we started the game.
Location for automated ticket machines
From the B ramp, 6th level elevator lobby window
Outside the Metropolitan Club, photos of all the other major league ballparks
Serious home dugout work in progress.
Killebrew taught, "Always make your autograph legible, boys."
Beams connecting the plaza to the Target Center walkway
Wayfinding within the B ramp is still a work in progress.
"Original" or "Dinger" Dog
Harmon is visible (barely) at the very center of the crowd.
Here is the most recent outfield configuration, captured from the animation video. We probably shouldn't make too much of the logos seen on the scoreboard: Best Buy, Dairy Queen, Target, Pepsi, Dodge and Qwest...
We'll be packed into the first five rows of section 136. Hey, Wilson! I'm bringing my glove!
Close-up on the diagram of the Club Level with finishing materials (click to enlarge)
Condiments! (complete with faux limestone on the cart -- nice touch)
Work in progress to improve the streetscape on Second Avenue