Ballparks In The 90

′S Essay, Research Paper

The current trend in baseball park construction is a retro design, reminiscent of the early years, combined with modern technology. This trend, dubbed “The Construction Era” by Frank Deford of Sports Illustrated, is prominent in three new American League parks: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Jacobs Field, and The Ballpark at Arlington. The current idea for ballpark construction is to locate the retro style parks in the heart of urban areas. The whole movement was initiated by the construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and it’s radical new design concept.

It all started on April 6, 1992, the inaugural game at Baltimore’s new stadium: Camden Yards. That day 47,930 people packed out the new stadium to witness what Frank Deford of Sports Illustrated, called “ The single most influential athletic creation since artificial ice”(#2).

This was the birth of the current trend in construction of ballparks. The goal of the designers of Camden Yards was to create the first fan, and player friendly ballpark. The designers wanted to capture the feel of an old fashioned ballpark combined with twentieth century technology. The designers accomplished this in many radical new ways.

First they started with the outside of the stadium. They chose a brick front, which enhanced its retro look. Secondly they incorporated the B&O warehouse in the backdrop, which by the way is “the longest building on the east coast: 1,016 ft long by 51 ft wide”(#7). The warehouse is used as the Orioles main offices, a restaurant, a gift shop, and a club.

Second of all, the designers incorporated the Baltimore skyline with its open style “park” as opposed to the bowl style prevalent in the 1970’s.

Thirdly, the designers incorporated the latest technology into the stadium. The sound system, visual displays and seating was all designed so that everyone in the park could see and hear what was going on. The designers also placed television monitors in every section under the overhang for the crowd to see the t.v. replays.

The fourth aspect that helps create the retro atmosphere at Camden Yards is the color scheme in the park. The seats are all green, and each one has the 1890 Orioles club seal on it. The wall in left field is home to green ivy that was brought over from Memorial Stadium.

The green seats and the ivy growing on the left-center wall help the park to look both open and natural, much like the first ballparks did at the beginning of baseball.

Finally, the last characteristic of Camden Yards that make it a retro style park is that it is located in downtown Baltimore. In the young days of baseball most of the ballparks were in the city since that is where a majority of the population lived. Lack of transportation also played a big role in building a ballpark downtown during the beginning days of baseball. Most people walked to the games, so it was important for the first ballparks to be relatively close to the population. The reason the designers of Camden Yards chose to build it downtown was in conjunction with an urban renewal project that was rebuilding, and beautifying the downtown area of Baltimore known as the Inner Harbor.

The next ballpark in the “Construction Era” is The Ballpark at Arlington.

The Ballpark in Arlington was based on the retro deign of Camden Yards, however many improvements were built in to the stadium with the lessons learned from the construction of Camden Yards.

As with Camden Yards, The Ballpark in Arlington was built with an all brick front with a rustic color to simulate a more retro look. “The Ballpark was built right near the center of Arlington adjacent to Six Flags over Texas”(#1) for the same reasons as Baltimore.

One article described the ballpark, as “The Ballpark In Arlington is fan and player friendly with modern amenities that Rangers fans hadn’t seen in 20 years of play in Arlington Stadium outside the park”(#1).

Like Camden Yards there are certain aspects of The Ballpark in Arlington that characterize it as a Retro style ballpark. First of all the park was designed based on the same concept as Camden Yards, as far as the look and feel of the ballpark. Second of all the ballpark incorporates the city scenery into the view inside of the park. One of the major differences between The Ballpark in Arlington and Camden Yards is the park in Arlington is entirely closed in, with a hint of the Arlington skyline visible just inside the park. Third of all The Ballpark in Arlington like Camden Yards built an office in the outfield which also houses a restaurant, a club, and a few leased office spaces for other businesses. Fourthly, The Ballpark in Arlington incorporates many retro physical characteristics that are reminiscent of the ballparks of yesteryear. These features are in plain view to the fans. The first retro feature is “A covered pavilion porch in right field that has pillars similar to those at Tiger Stadium”(#1). The second feature is “The many nooks and crannies reminiscent of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn”(1). The last aspect of The Ballpark in Arlington that classifies it as a retro park is the on-field hardware. All of the seats are painted in a retro fashion, and the advertisements use an old time motif in their graphics. The modern part of the hardware is the highest quality audio and visual system, and state of the art multimedia capabilities. Based on eyewitness accounts, there is not a bad view in the park. The Ballpark in Arlington has been described as “ The old ballpark look with a new ballpark flare that contains 1,800,000 square feet of baseball playing surface, office space, restaurants, retails areas, Hall of fame, Learning center, museum, and underground parking”(#5). This leads us to the third most recent retro style ballpark.

Jacobs Field, affectionately known as “The Jake” to Cleveland fans is also classified as a retro style field with characteristics associated with ballparks that were built at the beginnings of baseball. Like Camden Yards and the Ballpark at Arlington, Jacobs Field is described as a fan and player friendly ballpark.

Jacobs Field was built in 1994 to replace what one writer described as “The mistake on the lake”(#4) in reference to Cleveland stadium. The characteristics, which classify it as a retro style ballpark, are as follows. First of all it has the same basic layout as Camden Yards as far as openness on the field, minus the B&O warehouse of course. However, The Jake is not completely closed in like The Ballpark in Arlington is, but it sports an opening in left-center field. The opening in left-center field gives way to a spectacular view of the Cleveland skyline, which lies just a few blocks away. Like Camden Yards, The Jake was built right in the heart of Cleveland as part of an urban renewal project to reclaim the glamour and the beauty of the city of Cleveland. In right field at The Jake, you will find “ The largest freestanding scoreboard in the United States”(#4).

The second characteristic of Jacobs field that makes it a retro ballpark is the “asymmetrical dimensions”(#4), which gives the fan a feeling of openness, not characteristic in the bowl type Cleveland stadium. One cosmetic difference however is the outside of the stadium. The outside of Jacobs Field is comprised of steel girders and cement ramps, much different from Camden Yards, and The Ballpark at Arlington. The reason for the exposed steel as written in was “To capture the look of the steel bridges located on the Northcoast”(#6). As mentioned before the inside is where most of the retro styling was built in. The most prominent retro features are “the bleachers that sit atop a 19-foot left field wall, much like those in Wrigley Field ”(#4).

The Jake has many of the same features as Camden Yards, and many improvements. For example, the designers of the Jake angled the left and right field seats so that the fans did not have to tilt their head in order to see the game, unlike in Camden Yards. Second the hardware was painted in retro colors to capitalize the open feeling of the stadium. And as Camden Yard and The Ballpark at Arlington, The Jake boasts state of the art audio, visual, and multimedia capabilities to enhance the ballpark experience.

Another retro style characteristic, which it shares in common with Camden Yards and The Ballpark at Arlington, is the wide-open picnic area with tables shaded by trees and shrubs.

Jacobs Field combines the retro look with a more industrial style of architecture which is more prevalent in Cleveland, especially at the beginning o the century. This gives The Jake a look that separates it from the other two retro style ballparks.

With the ushering in of the “Sports Construction Era”, with the conception of Camden Yards, and continuing with The Ballpark at Arlington, and Jacobs Field we see a return to the good old days of ballparks. The design and layout of these three revolutionary ballparks more closely resembles a park than a stadium. This is in part by designers abandoning the old bowl style stadium such as the Astrodome or the Kingdome, and switching to the open, free flowing nostalgic scenery reminiscent of the golden age of baseball. The modern ballparks of today combine the feeling of the past with the comforts of today’s technology and comfort. The “Sports Construction Era” was initiated by the design and construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992, and continued with the building of The Ballpark in Arlington, and Jacobs Field in 1994.

This radical new style of ballpark design has been such a hit with the entire baseball community that teams such as Detroit, Houston, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh, all of who are scheduled to build new stadiums in the near future, plan to mimic the style of ballpark which Baltimore, Texas, and Cleveland had been so brave in pioneering.

So what is the result of this new style of ballpark? There are two specific areas that affect the fans and the home team. First is a better overall experience for both the baseball fans, and the players. Second of all with the new style of ball parks teams have witnessed an increase in attendance, as well as an increase in revenue, both an indirect result of the new ballparks.

In conclusion the “Sports Construction Era” ballparks are a radical change in the way we experience a major league baseball game. The radical changes benefit both the baseball club and the fans. Finally the new style of construction employed by these three “pioneer” cities has been such a success that they have become the standard for the future of major league ballpark construction throughout the country.

1. The Ballpark in Arlington. 04 APR 2000. .

2. “To everything, turn, turn, turn…” CNNSI.

04 Apr 2000. . 20 Oct 1999.

3. “Cause and Effect”CNNSI. O4 APR 2000. 26 Jul 1999.

4. Jacobs Field. 04 Apr 200. .

5. The Ballpark in Arlington. 04 APR 2000. .

6. “About the ballpark” Jacobs Field. 04 APR 2000.


7. Oriole Park at Camden Yards. 04 APR 2000.


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