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.
Now compare that the other two examples I cited today.
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.