When Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium host their first regular season games later this month, there will be plenty of people singing their praises. They'll be doing so with good reason, because both are well-crafted, handsome monuments to the game done in the retro style that we've grown accustomed to since Camden Yards opened in Baltimore in 1992.
Yankee Stadium is a throwback to the original stadium, while Citi Field has all the brick and iron that are now the hallmarks of baseball stadium design. Neither one feels fresh, though, and that's becoming a problem in baseball stadium design. The quirky dimensions and fence heights, necessities in old stadiums because of limited footprints, feel artificial in the new parks, and the looks have become so formulaic that there's not much sense of place.
It was imperative to get away from the multipurpose donuts that dominated stadium design in the 60's and 70's, and these parks are all huge improvements. From Seattle to Philadelphia to Denver to Detroit, though, there's a groupthink at play that's taken the new and unique and made it homogenous. It is high time to reach forward for a new take on a baseball stadium.
More than any particular athletic performances, the two lasting images of last summer's Olympic Games are of stadiums. The Olympic Stadium, or "Bird's Nest," and the Water Cube, which hosted swimming events, looked nothing like any sports venues we have in the United States. We don't even need buildings that go as far as those two did, but all the borrowing from the past makes it feel like we're living in it.
The problem right now is that the stadium boom of the past 20 years leaves few teams with the need for a new building in the near future. Two teams, the Marlins and Twins, have new parks in the offing, but, as you can see in this video, each is staying within the established design parameters.
Keeping watching that video, though, and you'll see the proposed new park for the Rays, which stands as the great hope for a leap forward in stadium design. It doesn't look anything like any existing stadium, past or present, and would be a welcome addition to the group. Alas, the Rays can't get a deal in place to start construction which means we won't jet into the future anytime soon.