When aesthetics give way to $$$

Rob Neyer recently made the case for five eras of ballparks. Chronologically he ordered them:

  • Utilitarian era (1876-1908), early days
  • Classic era (1909-1960), first true ballparks as we know them
  • Multipurpose era (1964-1988), cookie-cutters and the like
  • NeoClassical era (1989-2009), retro ballparks with modern amenities
  • Commercial era (now), parks more geared towards revenue generation than watching baseball

Neyer defined the commercial era as a nod towards crass commercialism, with overdone signage and far too many premium spaces/facilities that detract from the game experience, especially for Joe Fan. While I agree with the sentiment, trying to separate ballparks into specific eras is a lot tougher. New Comiskey has the prominent sandwich of suites and club seats, and Jacobs Field opened in 1994 with a massive triple tier of suites down the third base line. Angel Stadium has a quadruple tier of enclosed spaces behind home plate, as does Marlins Park 15 years after the Big A was redone. Signage will forever have varying degrees of obnoxiousness. The least obnoxious park, Wrigley Field, is set to have a lot more blinking lights and electronic signage starting next year. Some people mind that a lot, I don’t.

That’s why for me, the picture below represents the best arrangement conceived in the last 25 years. It’s simple, elegant, inexpensive to build, fan-friendly, and more important than anything, fair.

The grandstand at PNC Park

The grandstand at PNC Park

Now compare that the other two examples I cited today.

Angel Stadium grandstand

Angel Stadium grandstand

Marlins Ballpark grandstand

Marlins Park grandstand

A full review of PNC Park is due later. For now, let’s discuss what we want in a ballpark, and how to balance those desires with what a team may want to improve their revenues (to help pay for the ballpark). While we’re at it, refer back to my review of the Cisco Field (Diridon) renderings from 2010.

11 thoughts on “When aesthetics give way to $$$

  1. I’ve never understood why Cleveland’s Progressive Field seems to get good reviews. The three levels of luxury suites are obnoxious. This makes for an upper deck that is further away than Cleveland Municipal Staduim’s which sat twice as many people. PNC absolutely does the luxury box/upper deck thing right compared to any of ballparks built since Oriole Park at Camdem Yards was built in the early nineties. Luxury suites need to be tucked underneath like that at PNC not a dominate feature like in most ballparks. I’d actually put on top (Imagine Tiger Stadium’s roof/press area). I like the idea of the colonnade but, I think they are missing the boat by using brick.

  2. This question may be a bit on the technical side, but does anyone know the length of the cantilever at PNC Park?

  3. /// Using Google maps and Seatdata, it looks like there are 13-14 rows under the overhang at PNC, which would be 35-38 feet of cantilever.

    Re: Cleveland, it benefitted at the time it opened by 1) being the second “retro” stadium to open (I’m using the term loosely as there is very little that is retro about Cleveland, but it is asymmetrical), 2) replacing one of the crappiest stadiums in the history of mankind, and 3) having a good team just getting good when it opened so that it sold out for years and years. Reviews now are nowhere near as positive as they were in the 90’s when not everyone had a cookie-cutter retro stadium.

  4. Kind of strange that Neyer cut off the Classic Era at 1960, or Candlestick Park. I guess he’s pretending that RFK and Dodger Stadium don’t exist, as his Multipurpose Era doesn’t begin until 1964. And US Cell I can see a disagreement on, but why does the Neoclassical Era stretch back until 1989 so as to include Skydome?

  5. @Brian: The time span listed in the article above are intended to help guide a conversation. I wouldn’t get too hung up on the exact years used. Even though Dodger Stadium and Kauffman are baseball-specific, they opened during the “multipurpose era.” They share a few of the sensibilities of the cookiecutters (symmetrical dimensions, uniform outfield wall height, etc.).

    Angels Stadium isn’t one of my favorites. The club level feels too pushed back, and the 3rd deck is much too high. The Plaza level at the Coliseum gives a much better view of the game despite its circular design pulling the seats away from the action.

    My favorite aspect of the Diridon design is that the brick RF wall will hold in volume better. One favorable quality a lot of people over look about the Coliseum is that it holds the crowd noise in very well. When it gets loud, it gets very loud. I don’t think I’m being bias when I say 17k A’s fans at the Coliseum sound louder than 43k Angels fans at Angels Stadium.

  6. Even though the Skydome was created in 1990 it definitely was designed for the Multipurpose Era. The Skydome was hit at the time as the first retractable stadium. It’s kind of like the Astrodome in the sense of it was more of technical wonder. Once Miller Park, Safeco, Minute Maid came along I think it hurt the Skydome’s reputation even more than the acclaim of Camden and Jacobs. People realized you could have a retractable roof and a nice park.

    BTW, I agree with Brian, I don’t hear much about Jacob’s Field anymore. It was great for the time, but so many nicer parks have been built since then.

    Also I think Citizen Bank Park in Philly has a big time commercial feel to it. I think it started the trend that New York took to the next level.

  7. I agree on Citizens Bank being the beginning of a new era. The non-roofed stadiums completed immediately prior to that (AT&T, PNC, to a lesser degree Comerica and Great American) felt intimate. Philly (judging from pictures, as I’ve never been) does not. Neither do any of the ones that have opened since (Busch, Nationals, the NY ones, and Marlins) except for Target Field.

  8. I’ve never been a fan of the “neighborhood” or fractured top deck design, except for Petco. I’ve never sat in one of these sections so I can’t say whether the sightlines are any better or worse, but aesthetically they’re not as pretty.

  9. I think the Nationals Park took the “fractured” top deck to a whole new level. I tried to walk through there because I heard you could see the Capitol Building and Washington Monument from certain sections of the upper deck. It took me about 30 minutes to figure out a way up there. The view wasn’t worth the hassle.

  10. @Brian, I didn’t find Busch too “Commercial”. You do have those nice views of the city in CF. If that was NY, they would of slapped a giant billboard to block the arch.

  11. I don’t think it looks commercial, I think it looks huge. The argument for the new stadiums was that they bring baseball to a more intimate level. St. Louis doesn’t seem to do that. It seems to have been built less for “Our fans will pay more for seats closer to the field” than “Our fans will pay for for a new stadium because it’s new”.

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