Sawchik: The new generation of ballparks is pushing us away

From Travis Sawchik at FanGraphs on April 24, 2017, with mention of SABR member Philip Bess:

On several occasions in my youth, in the early 1990s, my dad took me to the chain-link perimeter of the construction site of what was then called the Gateway Project. There, we monitored the progress of what was to become Progressive Field. Within what had been a warehouse and market district in downtown Cleveland, we saw a steel skeleton rise and concrete poured. And on April 2, 1994, it was awe-inspiring as a 14-year-old to walk into the new park for its first game, an exhibition-game christening against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Progressive Field was the second of the retro-style ballparks to open, following Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The ballpark, originally named Jacobs Field, hosted its first regular-season game on April 4, 1994. The Ballpark in Arlington became the third retro park to open, a week later, on April 11, 1994.

Upon entering the stadium that day some 23 years ago, it was clear that the overall experience would be markedly superior to that of the multi-purpose Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Jacobs Field had charm, including varying wall heights, asymmetrical dimensions, and a backdrop of downtown high rises. It also had modern amenities, wider concourses, and no obstructed views.

As soon as Camden Yards opened, most existing stadiums became immediately obsolete. Since 1992, 21 teams have opened new stadiums. One club, the Atlanta Braves, is now on their second — SunTrust Park, which opened last week. (Let the record show that Bartolo Colon‘s major-league career outlasted Turner Field.)


Integrating a ballpark into an urban neighborhood isn’t healthy merely for the neighborhood, but ultimately, I suspect, for the park. In the late 1980s, Notre Dame architectural professional Philip Bess, working with SABR, proposed a design for a new stadium to replace Old Comiskey. The concept was a neighborhood ballpark called “Armour Field” as recounted at This Great Game

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Originally published: May 1, 2017. Last Updated: May 1, 2017.