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.

IMG_1297 Continue reading “Ranking 30 MLB Stadiums in 30 Days: #28 Chase Field”

Ranking 30 MLB Stadiums in 30 Days: #29 Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

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 

29. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum 

Like Tropicana Field, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum exists for one reason: the team hasn’t yet figured out a way to replace it.  Built in 1966, the A’s stadium is tied with Angel Stadium as the second oldest in the American League (Fenway, of course, is the oldest).  Unlike Angel Stadium though, which has been renovated and has otherwise aged gracefully, the Coliseum has actually gotten worse.  In 1996, to lure the Raiders back to Northern California from LA, an additional upper deck was put into the centerfield stands. The construction, which blocks the view of the Oakland hills beyond the centerfield wall, has been derisively named “Mount Davis.”

Mount Davis, along with the entire upper deck, is often covered by tarp to reduce the stadium’s “capacity” to the smallest in MLB.  The configuration is an atmosphere killer.

The Coliseum is a holdout from an earlier era of stadium building.  Many of the park’s contemporaries–Shea Stadium, RFK–have been replaced by newer parks with more amenities.  Without the unnecessary centerfield stadium enclosure, the Coliseum might emulate some of the charm of Dodger Stadium, but with it, it more resembles the cookie-cutter, dual-function stadiums that propagated MLB during the 70’s and 80’s.  Indeed, in 2012, the Coliseum became the last baseball stadium also used for football.

The stadium’s defining characteristics are blandness and emptiness. It lacks charm and coziness. There are a lot of seats and not enough people to fill them.  The Coliseum has the largest amount of foul space between the baselines and the crowd–a necessity to accommodate the conversation to a football field.  The layout only dries a wedge between the fans and the action.

The stadium long ago entered its garbage time era–everyone agrees it needs to go, but no relief is on the way.  The A’s have struggled to get new a smaller park closer to population centers in downtown Oakland and their proposed move to the wealthy San Jose area was blocked by the San Francisco Giants.

Oakland’s sole purpose is to remind us how fortunate we’ve become.  Thirty years ago, Oakland’s Coliseum didn’t stand out.  Now, it’s a oddity and an eyesore among baseball’s dazzling landscape of newer aesthetically pleasing baseball-only ballparks.  MLB’s stadium revolution has undoubtedly been a good thing for the game–but Oakland and its crumbling Coliseum have been left behind.McAfee_Coliseum_(15993646150)

Ranking 30 MLB Stadiums in 30 Days: #30 Tropicana 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.

We have to start somewhere, so lets’s start at the bottom.

#30 – Tropicana Field – Tampa Bay Rays

Tropicana Field came to us by accident, and now we’re stuck with it.  Built by the city of St. Petersburg, Flordia in 1990, it actually predates the Rays franchise by eight years.  Setting aside the oddity of an American city building a stadium without the guarantee of a Major League team, the timing of the stadium’s arrival was far from fortuitous.  In 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards began the retro-ballpark era, ending the practice of soulless, aesthetically indifferent stadiums like Tropicana Field.  Had the city of St. Pete waited a few years, they likely would have caught the trend and build something entirely different.

What they did build is a sad home for baseball–a game not meant to be played indoors.  I understand the climate of Florida probably necessitates a climate-controlled arena.  But the Trop’s lack of a retractable roof doesn’t even give the team the option of an open-air game when the weather is cooperative.

Almost everything about the stadium is stale.  The seating bowl is unimaginative, the catwalks above the playing field give a warehouse vibe, and almost nothing in the decor is distinctive. Even the turf is uninviting; the artificial playing surface has a bizarre color inconsistency.

The outside of Tropicana Field offers nothing architecturally.  St. Petersburg is a very pleasant bayside city, but the stadium doesn’t really fit in with the skyline.  It’s just there and too far away from downtown to be convenient for those who live/work in the city.  The design of the building is a cylinder with a slightly sloped roof.  I’ve seen some interesting designs for replacement stadiums for the Rays over the years–retractable roof parks with a sailing or nautical themed architecture.  Almost anything would be an improvement over the current stadium, which invokes the era of the 1970’s and 80’s when domes and multi-purpose cookie-cutter parks proliferated MLB.  In an ironic twist, Tropicana Field doesn’t even have the functionality of the cookie-cutters.  The stadium concourses are actually very difficult to navigate, depriving fans of the only good thing about generic stadiums–convenience.

The Rays are in an unfortunate situation.  The Tampa market is not well-suited to support baseball.  For a good discussion of this, check out Jonah Keri’s book on the Rays, The 2% Doctrine.  The Tampa Bay area has a sizable population, but it’s demographically old and spread out.  Of all the teams in MLB, they actually have the fewest number of fans within 30 driving minutes of the stadium.

The park, of course, doesn’t help.  It’s simply not an attraction.  The team, for it’s part, has tried it’s best.   Without putting forth the resources to rebuild a stadium in its entirety, they’ve tried to dress up the Trop to be something useable.  Party suites have been added.  There is a fishtank in center field where kids can pet real-live Sting Rays.  The Ted Williams Museum/Hitters Hall of Fame in the stadium is actually a pretty good way to spend an hour or two.  But overall, this park is just marking time until a permanent solution arrives–whether that’s a waterfront downtown stadium in St. Petersburg, a stadium up north in Tampa, or a whole new team even farther north in Montreal.

Review: Turner Field

English: The front of Turner Field, the home o...
English: The front of Turner Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves. Image was taken before the final game of the 2011 season. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My review of Turner Stadium is remarkably biased.   I am incapable of separating the stadium from the team I despise.  I despise the Braves for their shady scouting practices (ever wonder how Jayson Hayward slipped all the way to 14th in the draft), how poorly they represented the NL East in the playoffs, and how they are then biggest obstacle to a decade of Nationals domination.

Turner Field is a direct mirror to the city of Atlanta.  That is to say, very generic, little charm, and a terrible location. Coca Cola and Chick-fil-A billboards are everywhere and mediocre bar-b-q seems plentiful. Unlike virtually all successfully designed stadiums that integrate or define a new neighborhood, Turner Field is located in the middle of a parking lot near, not in downtown Atlanta. So far, attempts to develop the area around the stadium are mired in bureaucratic city planning nonsense (let’s build a ferris wheel or another convention hotel)

English: Turner Field - Atlanta Braves play he...
English: Turner Field – Atlanta Braves play here – player memorial numbers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It appears there is some kind of informal dress code which goes as follows: Women:  Cut off jeans and cowboy boots, lots of makeup and an Upton Shirsy. (I couldn’t find anyone who was positive if they were wearing B.J. or Justin) Men:  Wear a shirt, unstuck it, and never actually watch the game. Only watch the roughly 1000 TV positioned around the stadium and talk on your cell phone.

The stadium is just like every other stadium developed by Continue reading “Review: Turner Field”

Review: Ty Cobb Museum

20130420-090712.jpgIt is impossible in our modern world to talk about Ty Cobb without the specter of racism being present. It is similar to bringing up the topic of Berry Bonds without mentioning steroids. The difference is, nobody doubts Cobb’s authentic achievements on the diamond, but Bonds accomplishments leave more to the interpretation.

Cobb’s achievements are truly remarkable. At his retirement he owned 70 or so records and received the highest percentages of votes in the inaugural Hall of Fame class. He was recognized in his time as being the greatest living baseball player. The Ty Cobb Museum is located in Royston, Georgia, the closest town to the small farm area where Ty Cobb was born. At one time, I am sure this was really the middle of nowhere, Ga.  Now, it is a little less than an hour from the suburban sprawl that is Atlanta.  The museum tells the story of Cobb from the perspective of his family and neighbors and friends.

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The museum exists in a paradox of independent sports museums. You don’t make a museum for someone Continue reading “Review: Ty Cobb Museum”

Petco Park, notice anything different?

Petco had the nickname among those in San Diego as Petco National Park.  Rumor is that the park was purposely built to favor the pitchers and, more precisely, hold down the number of home runs hit by Barry Bonds.  Pitchers love the park and hitters dislike it.  In the early days, Phil Nevin resorted to making gestures at the owners box when a hard hit ball of his dropped in for a double rather than a home run

Over the winter, the Padres made changes to the park to bring the outfield power alleys further in.

In left-center, the fences were moved in from 402 feet to 390 feet.

Continue reading “Petco Park, notice anything different?”

Review: Dodger Stadium

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Attending a baseball game in Dodger Stadium was a surprising experience.  It was all about expectation and location.  I expected a normal stadium (it isn’t) and I expected a urban local (not even).  Living in LA means sitting in your car a lot.  Hopefully, moving in your car, but most likely just sitting.  I lived in the high desert of San Bernardino County,  so it was a good hour drive from my home to Chavez Ravine.  After so much start and stop, I exit the 5 onto Stadium Way which then winds through Elysian Park past the Chavez Ravine Arboretum.  While driving through a park I saw families eating picnic lunches.  I began to question if I was in the right place.  At that point the trees opened to provide a view of one of the most unusual stadiums in baseball.  From the parking lot the Think Blue sign is large and sets a very Hollywood sign tone for the experience.

Dodger Stadium is a unique stadium for so many reasons.  It is one of the few MLB stadiums along with Kaufman Stadium that seems to exist in a Continue reading “Review: Dodger Stadium”