From SABR member Benjamin Hill at MiLB.com on April 29, 2016:
Well, it was a good run.
Barring any unforeseen developments, 2017 will mark the first time since 1980 in which no new Minor League ballparks opened. Every season since 1987 has seen the opening of a Minor League ballpark that is still currently in use.
Over 130 Minor League ballparks opened between 1981 and 2016, an average of nearly four per season. The majority of these occurred between 1993 and 2005, a period of time that accounts for over half of the 159 facilities currently in use today. It was during this time that Minor League Baseball made the transition to its now-entrenched “affordable family fun” philosophy as 360-degree concourses, ample group areas and massive videoboards became the order of the day. This was accompanied by a distinct trend toward building within a city’s downtown, as opposed to the comparatively remote locations that had previously characterized ballpark placement.
While nothing is set in stone, 2017’s ballpark drought probably won’t last for long. New ballpark plans are in various stages of development in cities such as Amarillo, Augusta, Fayetteville, Potomac and Richmond (to name just a few); this is an industry that is always in flux. Yet, the economic conditions that helped foster the ballpark boom of the ’90s and early 2000s — namely, state and local governments willing to contribute funding and land — are not as prevalent in this thriftier, warier era.
Originally published: April 30, 2016. Last Updated: April 30, 2016.