Ranking 30 MLB Stadiums in 30 Days: #27 Rogers Centre

Last year, I achieved a life goal: seeing all 30 active MLB stadiums.  It’s a fleeting achievement though, which will become obsolete the moment the Atlanta Braves open their brand new stadium this April.  So now is the perfect time to rank the stadiums, since I’ll need a new ranking in only a few weeks.

Over the next 30 days, I’ll countdown the best stadiums in MLB–Turner Field included, since this is the last time I’ll ever get to rank it.

Rankings like this are inherently subjective.  I won’t try to give them a faux-objectivity by creating a point system like you’ll see in other rankings on other websites.  I also don’t rank peripheral factors like food, beer, and fan support.  I only care about the building and the location.  I’m ranking stadiums, not stadium experiences.

30. Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)

29. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum  (Oakland Athletics)

28. Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)

27. Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays)

It’s hard to believe that Rogers Centre–then Skydome–was the premier baseball stadium in the sport when it opened in 1989.  At the time, the Skydome was new, fresh, and exciting. In many ways, it re-imagined what a stadium could be.  It had a hotel overlooking the playing field!  There was a Hard Rock Cafe IN the stadium! (The restaurant closed in 2009).  The SkyDome was the first retractable roof stadium in MLB.  In 1989, the Skydome was first in many ways.

Now, it’s “last” in many ways.  Other than Tropicana Field (which has its own problems), Rogers Centre is the last MLB stadium left without natural grass.  It’s also the last stadium to be constructed for both baseball and football.  Rogers Centre is the last American League stadium to hold over 50 thousand fans.  When constructed, the SkyDome was built to big, modern, and multifunctional.  It was revolutionary.  But that revolution ended rather quickly following the construction of Camden Yards three years later.  At the time, the SkyDome looked like the future.  But in the retro park era, most MLB teams decided the future involved looking back, not forward.

The SkyDome became the Rogers Centre in 2005 after the team and stadium were bought by Rogers Communications.  Many locals are still upset about it.  But by 2005, the mystique of the SkyDome had largely worn off.  The Blue Jays played nightly before sellout crowds after the stadium was opened.  The team won back to back World Series in 1992-93.  Toronto and the SkyDome was the center–I mean centre–of the baseball world.  By the mid-2000’s, well into the MLB stadium building boom, the SkyDome started to appear rusty and out of date.  Rogers Communications poured plenty of money into the stadium bring it into the 21st Century.  Renovate, not replace, was the plan.

Now in 2017, Rogers Centre is a little bit of an outlier among MLB stadiums.  To my knowledge, though, there no plans to build a new stadium in Toronto, unlike Atlanta and North Texas, who abandoned/will abandon parks before they’re even 30 years old.  On the contrary, plans are in place to renovate the stadium even further.  Natural grass will be in place by 2018.  The temporary seats to accommodate football will be locked into place.  They’re a little late to the party, but the Torontonians are finally catching up the modern baseball stadium trends.  It helps that the stadium is downtown Toronto.  In any other location, it might be tempting to build a new one.  Instead, we’ll probably keep seeing one fresh coat of paint after another.  25 years ago, SkyDome was probably considered to be great.  Now, it’s not even good.  It’s just good enough.

800px-Rogers_Center-restitchedToronto_-_ON_-_Rogers_Centre_(Nacht)

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Ranking 30 MLB Stadiums in 30 Days: #28 Chase Field

Last year, I achieved a life goal: seeing all 30 active MLB stadiums.  It’s a fleeting achievement though, which will become obsolete the moment the Atlanta Braves open their brand new stadium this April.  So now is the perfect time to rank the stadiums, since I’ll need a new ranking in only a few weeks.

Over the next 30 days, I’ll countdown the best stadiums in MLB–Turner Field included, since this is the last time I’ll ever get to rank it.

Rankings like this are inherently subjective.  I won’t try to give them a faux-objectivity by creating a point system like you’ll see in other rankings on other websites.  I also don’t rank peripheral factors like food, beer, and fan support.  I only care about the building and the location.  I’m ranking stadiums, not stadium experiences.

30. Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)

29. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum  (Oakland Athletics)

28. Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Just outside Phoenix is Frank Lloyd Wright’s old winter home, Taliesin West.  Today, it is a tourist attraction and an active school of architecture.  On the way to Chase Field, I visited the famous site, so the ideas of Wright were fresh in my mind as I went to see my first Diamondbacks home game.  I’m not a huge Frank Lloyd Wright fan; many of his architectural ideas are, to be kind, pretentious.  But I do subscribe to his underlying philosophy that buildings should complement the landscape.  Architecture should blend with its surroundings.

I feel this way about baseball stadiums. Dodger Stadium feels like it was built for the California sun.  Fenway fits in its Boston neighborhood, and it always has.  The Giants didn’t try to avoid the Bay–they built right up to it and made it part of their stadium.

This is a long way of saying that nothing at Chase Field feels like Arizona, one of most distinct natural settings in the world.  A stadium architect looking for inspiration wouldn’t have to go far to find it.  The Grand Canyon.  The Sororan Desert.  One quarter of the state is occupied by Native Americans, mostly Navajo, with truly unique and dintinguishing imagery.  I don’t know exactly what I imagine Arizona’s stadium to look like, but I do expect it to reflect Arizona.

Instead, the Diamondbacks play in an airplane hanger.  Or a warehouse.  It’s a giant building with big windows with seats and a baseball field.  It’s simple, and not in a good way.  It’s not particularly charming and it doesn’t feel cozy or welcoming.  Again, it’s a large warehouse for professional baseball.

There are good features to the stadium.  The team managed to keep natural grass even though it’s a retractable roof stadium.  A have a bias against indoor baseball, but the Arizona heat makes the climate controlled arena the best of two bad options.  Chase Field is still relatively new-built in 1998–so most modern amenities are there.  Concourses are open.  Sightlines are fine.  Despite the roof, the design makes heavy use of windows to allow plenty of natural light.  The stadium is also right downtown in Phoenix, within walking distance of bars, restaurants, and hotels.  The stadium is serviceable.

But that’s it.  Serviceable.  The baseball stadium genre throughout MLB has become so innovative, a generic park like Chase Field feels a little bit left behind.  I don’t see a need for Phoenix to immediately construct a new ballpark.  But if they did, Chase Field wouldn’t be irreplaceable.

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