The Mets organization hit it out of the park designing Citi Field. They’ve blended the old with the new, splashed the park with terrific colors and opened a ballpark for the ages.
Ultimately, that’s the goal for designing a park. Most organizations get it, others don’t.
And as wonderful as some of these new parks are, I do get discouraged that not a single team has broken the mold of reto-style park in favor of something ‘stadium 3,000-like.’
That said, I keep the grading simple…does the park look magnificent, are the field dimensions unique and is it instantly recognizable on television?
The NL Central, with the exception of Wrigley, is complete with the opening of new ballparks. Below, I’ve ranked the division’s stadiums on the above criteria.
- Wrigley Field
- Minute Maid Park
- Miller Park
- PNC Park
- Busch Stadium II
- Great American Ballpark
Top honors go to Wrigley Field. The amenities for players and fans are sub par, but everything else makes it a crown jewel of baseball, and all of professional sports for that matter. Not much else needs to be said.
Houston‘s Minute Maid Park is second. Great design and the natural lighting that shines through the glass windows is absolutely beautiful. The Crawford boxes, the in-play flag pole and Tal’s Hill are a uniqueness found nowhere else in baseball. Turn the TV on and you know in a second you’re looking at Minute Maid Park.
Milwaukee‘s Miller Park isn’t far behind. The arched structure of the retractable roof dominates the city’s western skyline. On the inside, the roof’s magnificent beauty blankets the simple but unique dimensions of its field. Bernie’s slide isn’t eye candy, but it fits. And although it’s not the prettiest field on television, you know you’re watching a game in Milwaukee. In person, however, it’s one of the best parks in the game.
If ballparks counted in the standing the Pirates would actually contend. Centering the park on the city’s skyline was ingenious. The yellow bridges and skyscrapers make the field instantly recognizable over the tube. The staircase beyond left field is a bit boring, but the overall layout is solid. The drawback is there’s nothing truly unique about the field.
St. Louis‘s Bush Stadium matched Citi Field in tying the old in with the new, the idea being to create a modern day facility that looks like old Busch Stadium: mission accomplished. The great Arch of the Mid-West towering in center field is spectacular, but the rest of the park seems to lack a true character. And for the average fan there’s nothing unique that catches the eye during a broadcast.
Lastly, Great American Smallpark: a conservative park for a conservative city. Showcasing the Ohio River in center field seemed like a good idea at first, but viewers don’t see the water on television and it’s out of view from the lower-deck seating as well.
Magnificent, it’s not. And while the original renderings for the stadium included dark green seats, the club opted to go all red, which makes sense, but is unappealing for my taste. Worse, the Pepsi Power Stacks in center field are hokey and better left for a park in Triple-A.
Adding the riverboat atop the batter’s eye finally gives the park an identity on television, but it’s lackluster in person and does little to bring outsiders to the yard. The best thing going is the stadium’s name.