December 30, 2009
As the bleak and depressing decade known as "the aughts" comes to an end, it is useful to look back at one of the more positive aspects -- from the perspective of baseball fans, at least. From the year 2000 to 2009, eleven (11) brand-new "neoclassical" baseball stadiums were built in ten different cities all across the Fruited Plain. That is one more than were built in the nineties, and taken together, the last 20 years constitute a veritable renaissance in the world of American sports architecture. It was certainly more of a creative achievement than in the sixties, when 13 new stadiums (mostly dual-use "cookie-cutters") were built. That was more than in any other decade, but in terms of quality it was the pits. Ten "classic" ballparks were built during the the "teens" one century ago, mostly of splendid and original design. Two of them (Fenway Park and Wrigley Field) will soon celebrate their centennials. Will NBC's Willard Scott give them a special 100th birthday salute on the Today Show?
On the other hand, the past decade witnessed the demolition of no fewer than ten (10) former baseball stadiums, eight of which were designed to be shared with pro football teams. (Only two of them were built in the sixties, however.) [The next-closest decade was the seventies, with six demolished stadiums, one of which (Sick's Stadium) was only used in the majors for one year.] It is a perfect example of the economist Joseph Schumpeter's argument that the capitalist system is characterized by a never-ending cycle of "creative destruction." Nowhere is that phenomenon more evident than in professional sports in the United States. In any case, I have updated the Stadium chronology, annual page to reflect the latest status changes, with a few corrections and enhancements. It is perhaps discomforting to point out that the "peak" year for stadium demolition was in 2001. The table below shows the chronological progression of demolition within each decade, embellished with some iconic editorializing on my part.
|1950s||Baker Bowl||League Park||Braves Field|
||Seals Stadium||Polo Grounds||Griffith Stadium||Busch Stadium I|
||Colt Stadium||Crosley Field||Connie Mack Stadium||Munic-ipal Stadium||Sick's Stadium|
|1990s||Arling-ton Stadium||Cleve-land Stadium||Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium|
|2000s||King-dome||Memor-ial Stadium||Milwau-kee County Stadium||Three Rivers Stadium||Mile High Stadium||Cinergy Field||Vet-erans Stadium||Busch Stadium II||Shea Stadium||Tiger Stadium
(Stadium names used at the time of demolition are shown.) Yankee Stadium will probably be completely gone within the next few months , just as the new decade of the "teens" begins, though demolition work in The Bronx was slowed by the recent blizzard. The WCBS radio traffic helicopter took some aerial photos of the snow-covered "basilica," available at wcbs880.com.
One notable aspect of stadium demolitions over the past 15 or so years is the use of explosives to hasten the process. The suitability of that alternative depends on whether there is enough margin of safety around the stadium. For a thrilling retrospective experience, take a look at "The 7 Greatest Sports Stadium Demolitions Of All Time" at supertremendous.com. That page is a compilation of seven YouTube videos of stadiums that were imploded in one fell swoop, rather than piecemeal. Five of them were baseball/football dual-use "cookie cutter" stadiums, and the violent manner of their demise was appropriate, given that they were among the least-loved venues in all of baseball history:
Note that even though Cinergy Field was imploded near the end of 2002, the demolition cleanup work was not finished until early the next year. With regard to the Stadium chronology, annual page, note that the naming rights contract for "Land Shark Stadium" expires late next month, and it is yet uncertain whether the name will revert to "Dolphin Stadium" or not. Once they make up their minds, I will update the diagrams on that page to reflect the recent enlargement of the concourses around the stadium.
Speaking of which, the "stadium-to-be-named-later" just north of Miami will host both the Pro Bowl (January 31) and Super Bowl XLIV (February 7), a little over a month from now. The Pro Bowl had been played in Aloha Stadium for the past three decades, but that tradition came to an end last February. I suppose that filling the week of rest prior to the Super Bowl with an actual game will help generate fan interest in the otherwise-pointless Pro Bowl, but it's too bad they have to abandon Hawaii. Perhaps President Obama will do some lobbying on behalf of his home state and get the Pro Bowl back to the Aloha State. Or maybe not -- his efforts on behalf of Chicago didn't have much effect on the International Olympic Committee.
On a related note, while I was working on the Metropolitan Stadium diagrams over the weekend, I realized that it was among the elite group of stadiums that have hosted both the All-Star Game and the World Series during the same year. Here is the complete list, along with the corresponding pennant-winning teams:
Thanks to some superb aerial photographs brought to my attention by Bruce Orser, I realized that the 1936 version of the Tiger Stadium diagram needed to be revised. Here are the details: 1) The upper deck extended all the way to the property line along Cherry Street, about ten feet further than I had thought; 2) the roof did not extend as far in right-center field as it did from 1938 on; 3) the scoreboard was about 30 feet closer to the left field corner than I had thought; and 4) there was an access ramp from the back side of that scoreboard to the underside of the upper deck in center field. That diagram and page should be pretty darned accurate now. Because of that ramp, however, I estimate that the distance to the center field corner for 1936-1947 was several feet shorter than the official figure of 459 feet. Stay tuned...