Archive for Wednesday, August 7, 2002

The ins and outs of baseball stadiums across the country

August 7, 2002

The boys and girls of summer in the area are nearly finished with their seasons.

Sure, some of the more competitive softball teams are still playing in national tournaments and such, and just a smidge of Legion baseball is left. Some would say the Royals were finished sometime in late May or early June, but they're about the only baseball team in the area with players still lacing up cleats.

But as lawns become more blah from the impending drought, it's nice to think of the national pastime still being played on thick and vibrant green fields in major league ballparks. Groundskeepers there are free from city-enforced outdoor watering bans, so at least we can view the lush natural carpets in TV land or with a quick trip to Kauffman Stadium.

Now that a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field in Chicago probably will be put on hold just one more year for me, this would be the perfect time to rate the parks I've been to. A wish list of those I hope to attend is also necessary, as I plan to stick to it, even if it takes a few years.

This ambition could be squashed if players decide to strike, but we'll assume they'll hang in there and be happy with their modest paychecks for one more year.

So, before there's a player stoppage, here's the tour, with those I've attended first. Each will be accompanied by a rating. Something in the range of a pop fly or walk is bad, while a home run is the most favorable review.

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo. Officials last year made a push to put a stadium in downtown Kansas City, but a lack of funds was the underlying roadblock. Most cities have or are looking to revise their downtowns with majestic stadiums, but Kauffman shouldn't suffer the same fate other stadiums have encountered.

First, Kauffman Stadium doesn't have the multipurpose feel other stadiums, say Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati and Three Rivers Stadium, have. Those stadiums were built about the same time the park formerly known as Royals Stadium was assembled. The Royals didn't have to share with the Chiefs as other stadiums do or did with their baseball and football teams. The stadium looks like baseball and only baseball is played there. The fountains and the massive Royals scoreboard in the outfield give it flavor.

Major improvements are expected in the next few years also. Unfortunately, the current center field scoreboard might be replaced by other scoreboards, but the stadium should be OK sitting right south of Interstate 70. Rating: A solid double. It might lack the charm of some older stadiums or the amenities of newer parks, but it still has distinct character.

Arlington Stadium, Arlington, Texas It's a bad sign when your trademark is a large Marlboro Man billboard in left field. The former home of the Texas Rangers wasn't an enjoyable venue. It would probably not fare well against minor league ballparks, either. The place just didn't have the intimacy a ballpark should have, which is probably why it was torn down nearly a decade ago. Rating: Lazy pop fly.

The Ballpark in Arlington Arlington Stadium became a parking lot for its predecessor. This home fit the new-old ballpark genre that many organizations have tried to capture. The stadium's four main entrances resembled clock towers of sorts. The park, like many others, borrowed some characteristics from other parks and incorporated it into its own, such as upper deck trim also found at Yankee Stadium. I hope a return trip will happen in the next few years. Rating: Triple. The stadium has fit an equation for improvement from Texas' former home. Now, if big payroll plus productivity would equal a return to division titles, the Rangers will be complete.

Astrodome, Houston Domes have lost their luster, but the Astrodome was the first to be built. Although the Astros no longer play there, it was still exciting when it was in its prime. The huge multi-million dollar scoreboard beyond the center field wall was its focal point.

Unfortunately, the visual wonder was removed so the NFL's Houston Oilers would have more seats for their games. Shortly after the move, the Oilers split for Tennessee, and the Astrodome was never the same. The place did have a fun fact. A tour guide said the dome had 2,000 air conditioners. One could recycle much water from those puppies during a watering ban. Rating: Triple. I don't have other domes to compare it to, but its novel ability during its inception gives it the big hit.

The Wish List It seems that my viewing pleasure has been pretty limited. Perhaps the grading was too easy with little to compare, but a new report card can be issued after some other trips. These are parks I hope will be on my slate in the future.

Yankee Stadium, New York This is pretty obvious. The years of history in it is reason enough, but the colossal stadium has so many highlights, or so I've been told. As long as I am in New York, a trip to Shea Stadium would be in order. As long as I'm in the northeast, Fenway Park would also be part of the trip. The Red Sox home is top priority because it will probably be replaced after next season. Oriole Park in Camden Yards isn't too far away in Baltimore, either.

Safeco Field, Seattle The retractable roof seems to be the next fad, but I'm not too excited about it. Still, friends have expressed a fondness for the park. And, Seattle actually has a reason for the roof. The city gets a little more rain than Milwaukee and Miller Park. Minute Maid Field in Houston helps with those hot Texas summers, but one retracting-roof stadium is probably enough.

Jacobs Field, Cleveland The Indians' newest home, it's gotten rave reviews for its spot in downtown Cleveland and its retro look. Of course, Cincinnati isn't too far away and the Reds will have a new stadium soon . . .

A Ballpark for San Diego At this point, the Padres' new pad has a generic name. But the new field follows the recent trend revitalize a downtown district with an impressive ballpark. The venue's most exciting attribute is a building down the left field line that was built in 1912. The building once operated as a steel company, but will now serve as a dining area, along with other functions. Of course, if I'm in San Diego, I should probably check out Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.

Wrigley Field Many people have reported that the stadium is a magnificent site. This is probably why the Cubs can get by with struggling most years but still fill the stands. I do plan to sit with the Bleacher Bums next summer. As for the rest of the wish list, it could take a few years to complete. I just hope I have the funds by then and baseball isn't shunned after another strike.

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