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.
If you want, you can ask those folks how the game is going -- and even get a little bit of info from the big screen (Grandstand)
I realized I've never shown how the walkway over Seventh Street meets the A ramp
Looking south (toward Seventh Street).
Flowers. Real flowers.
I was surprised at how close those upper deck seats seem. From the plaza, you feel like you can reach out and touch them. It really adds to the impression of overall compactness.
A truck is leaving the HERC plant. Here you can see the proximity to the promenade. For the record, the truck drove right by me and I smelled nothing...
Seat logos in place
A skyway-level view down Seventh Street.
Spring of 1982 (click to enlarge greatly -- can you pick out Kent Hrbek?)
The finished product.
A sign that your mall is all but dead: roped off escalators. (This is at about 4:00 PM on a weekday.)
Print press box
Sometime in the late 1980s: B ramp is under construction. Not yet built: Target Center, I-394 and the A ramp.
From the best seat in the house (Section 8, Row A), the right field corner is blocked. (No one may care. Fine with me. People should know.)
Just so you have a reference, this is an LD ("low def") scoreboard (inset is what the controller probably looks like).
Miller Park: Gymnasium with skylight (Source: RP)
Yes, son, Memorial Stadium used to be right there, just beyond those gates.
At the corner of the Pro Shop.
These two sections are within a few feet of one another.
Photo by Jared Wieseler
Many people will approace the park from this direction and it's a pretty great first glimpse. It features all the design elements in modestly condensed form, and still manages to look like a ballpark (instead of something else).
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).
Someone please get those poor people a drink of water. (Gate 34, after the game had started)
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.
Where you are, and where you can go.
Here's the view from the main concourse out through Gate 3 "Killebrew".
Also warming things up are these planters.
Working on the main concourse right about directly behind the plate.
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
Selected Bibliography - Analysis
First Edition (1992)
Second Edition (2006)
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)
(2001, medium coffee table)
(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