The New Parks

The New York Times has an overview of the retro-stadium craze of the past couple of decades, with particular attention paid to some of the parks’ unique particularities:

The quirky signatures at older stadiums — like the Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston — were adaptations to their narrow confines. But idiosyncrasies like Tal’s Hill are driven by the urge to be original.

“Teams want something that is memorable about the building because it’s broadcast to the fans,” said Earl Santee, a senior principal at Populous, formerly known as HOK Sport, the Kansas City, Mo.-based architect that has designed many of the retro ballparks. “The fans want to say, ‘That’s my building.’ ”

Which kind of describes my biggest complaint with some of the newer places. The character that the old parks were so noted for took decades to develop, and were often happy accidents resulting from form following function. Building a new ballpark with these kinds of anachronistic flourishes is kind of like building a new office building with a mooring station for Zeppelins. Interesting, sure, but kind of silly and unnecessary if you think about it for more than five minutes.

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  1. ericinboston said...

    the outfield in houston, while unique, is just plain dangerous.

    the hill and exposed concrete footings without padding is absurd when you think about the $ being paid to the players and the potential risk.

  2. kendynamo said...

    it would be interesting to see if a new stadium is built in the next ten years that went REALLY original and built a symmetrical outfield fence.  now THAT would be crazy.

  3. Jake said...

    I know I was bummed when the new Reds park did not include an incline in left field.

    Seems kinda pointless in Houston, though. smile

  4. Richard in Dallas said...

    Kendynamo – If you want symmetrical outfield fences, Go to ESPN Classic and watch games from any of the following parks in the ‘70s up until their replacements came about in the ‘90s and beyond:
    St. Louis
    Chicago (CWS)

    There’s a reason they all went away.  They were devoid of character, boring, predictable, and if it weren’t somehow noted on the TV screen, you wouldn’t know where the game was being played.

    When you see a flagpole on a hill in center field, you’re in Houston.  When you see a brick wall behind home plate and ivy on the outfield walls, you’re in the friendly confines.

    I love the new ballparks, especially the ones that make a strong effort to reflect the local flavor.

  5. Jim Casey said...

    I have mixed feelings about the ballpark as entertainment, as started by Camden Yards. Some are great, like SF, PIT, Denver, and DC. Most are good, and all are improvements over what they replaced, except the Tigers and White Sox parks.

  6. kendynamo said...

    uh, the friendly confines have a symmetrical outfield fence. 

    kudos for the Filthadelphia dig but symmetrical fences dont necessarily mean your ballpark is boring just as asymmetry doesn’t mean your park is sweet either.  look at the nats new stadium.  its got all sorts of crazy angles and what not and its boring as hell.

  7. Bob Rittner said...

    I am sure that if I ever go to Yankee Stadium I will be properly impressed, but I remain disappointed that they decided to go what is essentially the retro route. It seems time for ballparks to come up with new ideas, new ways to imagine the scene. I loved the proposal in Tampa Bay, for example, with the retractable sail roof and the views of the water.

    The Yankees are properly proud of their tradition and the glories of the Stadium, but rather than follow the crowd-started in Baltimore-they might have blazed a new trail but chose what some call a revered tradition but which I call stodgy sentimentalism.

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