As spring nears, golf clubs come out of the closet, lawnmowers are wheeled from the shed, and of course, ball players participate in long toss and wind sprints. Spring Training is upon us and in anticipation of the upcoming MLB season, we discuss the top venues in which to view a game. Today’s top stadiums are colossal money-making monuments to both architecture and the sport of baseball. Ideally, new stadiums provide the fan with a better experience (in exchange for higher ticket prices) while allowing the club to generate more revenue and field a better squad. Even the Yankees realized the need for new as they demolished the most historic stadium in the sport in favor of a more modern facility. Below are our picks for the stadiums worth the price of admission, even though the team may not be.
The one that started it all. Built in 1992, Camden Yards still seems fresh and new, and was the first of a new wave of stadiums that showed the world what a baseball park could, and should, be. Finally, stadium designers had figured out how to provide elbow room for fans, while still packing in nearly 50,000 of them. Not wanting to forget the past, Camden’s architecture is a retro reflection of fallen stadiums. Included in the look and feel of the park is the renovated 100 year old B&O building, visible behind the right field seats. The Orioles have their offices there and the building was cleaned up (literally, 3 million bricks were hand washed) to match the new park across the street. Together, the buildings make a beautiful site. Who can forget Griffey Jr, plastering a ball off the B&O building in the 1993 Home Run Derby (still the only time in history)? Thank you, Camden Yards, for showing us the way.
It seems unfair that the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates play in such a stadium gem. Perhaps if teams had to earn their digs, players would be more motivated. Either that, or fans should receive two for one entry, but we digress. PNC Park’s quality begins with its entrance, the Roberto Clemente bridge. Shut down to cars on game days, this beautiful bridge carries fans on foot across the river and places them at stadium doors. Once inside, visitors can appreciate the parks placement, which allows for a sweeping view of the Pittsburgh skyline. Who knew Pittsburgh looked so good? If you are hungry, seek out a Primanti Brothers sandwich, a Pittsburgh institution. It’s difficult not to mention Pittsburgh in every sentence when describing this park. It just fits with and reflects the city that well. That should be true for all stadiums, considering the tax players usually pay for them. Cool stadium fact: the outfield walls are 21 feet high, in honor of Roberto Clemente who wore number 21.
For years, the Seattle Mariners played in the Kingdome, a massive concrete dome that was about as comfortable as you expect a concrete dome to be. When it was demolished, a tear may have been shed for Mariner memories that occurred in the building, but no one was actually sad to see the site itself go. Enter the wonderful Safeco Field. Faithful Seattle fans now enjoy state of art facilities south of downtown, where you can often find free parking for the games! There really is not a bad seat in the house, including the cheap centerfield bleachers, conveniently located directly above the beer garden. A retractable roof keeps the rain out, but allows players to play on grass, the way it should be. Stadium fare is also a major selling point for Safeco as vendors pour a selection of local craft brews and concession menus reflect Pacific Northwest cuisine with items like clam chowder and sushi.
One of the most exciting events in baseball during the 2003 season took place nightly at Giants stadium. Every time Barry Bonds stepped to the plate, cameras readied to capture history. The real action, though, was happening outside the stadium, in McCovey Cove. That is, of course, where all manner of floatation devices were manned with souvenir seekers, hoping snag one of Barry’s bombs blasted out of the ballpark, deposited into the water. Since Mr. Bonds’ absence, stadium goers are more regularly treated to sailboats and whitecaps filling the cove. Possible the best vista in baseball, you might wonder why you paid to be inside, though life is not so bad from this vantage point. You are surrounded by fans that know and appreciate the game, evidenced by the continual sellouts. The thoughtful design of the stadium ensures an unobstructed view of the action from any seat (even divider walls in the stands are clear). The stadium is basically a transit hub, allowing fans a variety of options for getting to the game. And there is Tim Lincecum. Not lucky enough to score a ticket? You can see the field from a walkway along the cove, for free.