Saturday, April 3, 2010

Take Me Out to the Mallgame

Now that Target Field in Minneapolis has opened its doors as the new home of the Twins, it now stands that an even 2/3 of major league ballparks have been in existence for 18 years or less. That's right, 20 out of the 30 current MLB stadiums were either nonexistent or not completed before 1992. Why do I go back to 1992? Because that is when the mold-breaker of stadiums that everyone now tries to emulate, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, made its entrance into society. Camden Yards signaled the ushering out of the 1970s "cookie cutter" era of multipurpose stadiums and the ushering in of the new, "modern-retro" era. Many of these new places are big improvements over the parks they replaced, and are much more comfortable and navigable for fans.

The interesting thing that has developed as these new stadiums have popped up all over the country is that there seem to be a great deal of similarities between all of them - wide concourses, comfortable seats, luxury suites, an attempt a nice city view where possible. Ironically, so many franchises have tried to copy the uniqueness of Camden Yards that all these gorgeous new stadiums now seem to comprise a nouveau cookie cutter era. What's more is that every stadium now goes over the top with the amenities designed to enhance the fan experience, but end up directing peoples' attention everywhere but toward the field. Once everyone is inside the stadium's gates, it seems more and more that the objective is not for them to enjoy the game, but to get them to spend as many dollars as possible - hence the term "mallpark."

It's great that we now have more food choices, beer choices, and a much easier time getting from our seats to the concession stand or bathroom and back. No one will take issue with that. I am not the biggest fan of the new Yankee Stadium for a variety of reasons, but I'd be nuts not to take the new concourse over the old one. But my problem is with all the other stuff, like the Phanatic Build-a-Bear Factory at Citizens Bank Park, the aptly named "Kiddie Field" pictured above at Citi Field, the lame ass Peter Max art gallery that thankfully didn't last the whole season at Yankee Stadium last year, or the "it stopped being cool 8 years ago" pool in right-center at the airplane hangar that the Diamondbacks call home. It's almost as if these teams are now saying, "OK, thanks for coming to our stadium, you now have the option to watch a professional sporting event up close, or if that doesn't sound like fun, you can go check out all these other gimmicky things in here for 3 hours instead."

Like many who hail from South Jersey, I grew up going to games at Veterans Stadium. Anyone who has followed sports even moderately in the past 10-15 years knows how much of a dump that place was. Cold, cavernous, dirty, and unpleasing to the eye, the Vet did, however, ensure that you weren't preoccupied with unnecessary goings-on around you and simply (gasp!) paid attention to the game taking place. I'm not trying to muse like an old codger about "how we had it in my day," because I'm 24, not 84. And I do know that teams don't put all this stuff into their ballparks without research showing that enough people will enjoy it. Hell, if it gets people into the building who may otherwise not be interested in going, then it's a success. However, I don't want to see a generation of kids have to be tricked into liking baseball by all the peripheral stadium attractions. It's fine if they originally want to go for the mascot races or the stuffed animals at the team store, but I hope to goodness that they want to come back because of the 450-foot homer or the nifty 4-6-3 double play they saw. This is our concern, dude.


  1. Stadiums, unfortunately, have become victim the ADDism that has taken a hold on our nation. Students, people claim, have such a short attention span that my 42 minute classes are expected to be broken up in 7 minute blocks. If a student cannot pay attention for 42 minutes, then the expectation is that a kid could not sit still at a stadium for 3 hours (4.5 if its Yankees-Red Sox). With computers, video games, and modern TV, the problem just increases (although I am not immune to it. One thing I enjoy about going to games is that it forces me to focus on a random Wednesday night game that I otherwise would've watched while doing three other things.) Unfortunately, instead of trying to combat the problem, stadiums (and schools) just reinforce it to a certain extent.

  2. NO ONE misses the Vet. From the Phillies' "Wild" ending in '93 to the dump's closing, I think the Eagles had better seasons than the Phillies (I will not waste my time to look up Eagles season stats.). Yes, you were there for the baseball game, but you couldn't see it from the 700 level, dead centerfield on Steve Carlton bobblehead doll day. (A game I'll never forget though)

    The Cubs were on a homestand when I visited Chicago over the summer. Sitting 5 rows from the top was still an amazing seat. It took sitting here and soaking up the history that made me realize Wrigley got it right all those years ago and still does it right, no Build-A-Bears necessary.

  3. The worst part about this nonsense is that it makes it difficult to take the family to baseball games. If my kids aren't going to watch the games why am I spending $30 per ticket to let my son eat cotton candy and my daughter play on the playground.