|Out With The Old, In with The New|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on April 06, 2008
Itâ€™s often hard to reconcile the traditions of the past with the needs of the future.Â Case in point the aged, but historic ballparks that remain.Â Â With two new parks under construction in New York and what has become an almost constant buzz about parks like Fenway and Wrigley, the issue has become bigger.
With Shea Stadium itâ€™s not that tragic, except perhaps in the loss of the name.Â While many people have no idea who William Shea was, he was arguably one of the 10 most important men who ever touched the game of baseball.Â Â In a nutshell, Shea was the man responsible for bringing National League baseball back to New York - where baseball was officially born.
But Shea Stadium was never a good ballpark.Â It was a multi-use stadium designed by city planners who wanted to put a stadium where they wanted, not where it was ideal for baseball and the fans.Â Thus instead of Brooklyn, where the broken hearted National League fans did dwell, the city planners had decided that the appropriate place for a stadium was well away from easy public transport out in the borough of Queens.
As a ballpark itâ€™s probably the most miserable park left in the Majors, but even in its heyday it wasnâ€™t all that good.Â Itâ€™s outdated, the paint is peeling, the bathrooms are too small to handle hordes of fans, itâ€™s ugly, unfriendly, uncomfortable and the seats, especially the cheap ones, put you far from the action and sometimes force you to turn in your seat to watch the game.Â Personally I think it the worst stadium left in the game today and few of the fans, even the most die hard, will miss it.Â Especially if you have seen the modern stadiums like Camden Yards, Coors Field, or Citizens Bank Park.
And thatâ€™s what fans want, a modern, state of the art ballpark thatâ€™s fun to enjoy and hang out even when the hometown nine are getting blown out -Â full of family fun, good food and great baseball.
Thatâ€™s the rubÂ that has fired off so many debates.Â Shea was never a good ballpark or a particularly historic one despite two World Series championships, or the fact that the Beatles once played there. But those same things canâ€™t really be said for the hallowed walls of Wrigley, Fenway, or the soon to be torn down Yankees Stadium.
Every organization has to take a look at their facilities and make a tough decision - especially those large market teams which inhabit those special cathedrals of the game.Â Â Â The team would make a lot more money via increased seating, adding more luxury boxes, opening up the concourses for the addition of more concessions, restaurants and shops.Â It could also bring additional revenue from naming rights, sponsorships, and because it could provide more entertainment and make the place more family friendly by offering more than just baseball.Â Thus more people would come earlier to take advantage of the amenities, leave later and spend more money in doing so.
Fans and owners want a world class stadium for their world class team, but they donâ€™t want to lose that feeling of special place for baseball.Â That can be seen in the new modern ballpark.Â Citi Field, set to replace Shea next season, from the get go evokes memories of Ebbets Field. Camden Yards does the same with the Polo Grounds. Even Houstonâ€™s Minute Maid Field pays tribute to the nostalgia of yesteryear.Â Selling the past is a large part of the charm of a new ballpark in the cities where baseball has been for a long while.
Yet in some cities itâ€™s just the opposite - including Pittsburgh, where baseball has had roots for a very long time.Â New modern stadiums including PNC, PETCO and Coors Field are amazing places to go see games, but they lack the history that an old park has unless they put it there.Â Some places do - by erecting walls of fame, monument parks, or keeping some old and treasured pieces of the old parks, or local baseball history.
But real history is hard to replace - and thatâ€™s the issue for some teams and the Yankees are treading a fine line.Â They are demolishing a ballparkÂ that has held the most storied franchise is baseball history.Â The most World Series games. The most championships. The home to perhaps the most famous legends of the game.Â In fact the moniker the â€śHouse that Ruth Builtâ€ť implies a lot and thatâ€™s not something any other park can make a claim to - to have been funded essentially by the drawing power of a man who turned baseball on its ear and changed it into a sluggerâ€™s game.
However this stadium is a far cry from the original having been renovated in 1928, 1937, 1966 and 1973-76 when the stadium was just about demolished and rebuilt.Â Thus this stadium, while still partly original, and rebuilt along old lines, really isnâ€™t the original stadium, despite the outcry raised by some fans about the demolishing of history.Â Â The Yankees will attempt to move or preserve their tradition - part of the old stadium will be preserved as a museum while the monuments and plaques will find themselves moved to the new building for next year.
How well this translates to the new building may well be a big issue for teams like the Red Sox as it could add even more money to the already seemingly endless coffers of the New York Yankees, but it could mean a lot more in non financial terms.Â If the Yankees can successfully move into a new stadium modeled on their old one without too much ire on the parts of the fans then the Red Sox and Cubs could consider it - although a new stadium for either team would mean relocating their home parks to other parts of their respective cities - where land was more readily available, something which makes both fans and owners wince.
Still playing in an old stadium no matter how historic could place any team at a financial disadvantage and that weighs heavily against the value of history.Â Even the fans understand that although they donâ€™t want to admit it.Â Itâ€™s why Tribune Corporation CEO Sam Zell said he had no problem selling naming rights to Wrigley Field.Â That money would help keep the Cubs more competitive, but itâ€™s likely that this is a harbinger of things to come.