Baseball has long been considered America's favorite pastime. This month, excitement and expectations are high as fans return to stadiums across the country for the first time since October 2019. After COVID-19 forced big changes to the 2020 season, the site of spectators filling the stadiums is a welcome one. Stadiums are once again at the forefront of player-fan interaction, as sports fans will have the opportunity to cheer on their teams in person.
America's pastime is filled with iconic stadiums, some of which we are still fortunate to have today, while others have become little more than a fond memory. Still, others are rising up as part of the changing face of the sport, offering more to do than just watch the game. Let’s take a look at the past, present, and future of America's baseball stadiums.
The Past – Icons We've Lost
For the Golden Age of baseball fans, names like Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, and Yankee Stadium bring back a flood of memories. These hallowed grounds were home to some of the greatest moments in baseball history, and they are where many of the legends of the game performed.
The Polo Grounds was the most unique baseball stadium in the history of the game. It was built in 1890 as a polo ground, but it eventually hosted the New York Giants. Notably, the upper deck in right field hung out over the field, making the already-short 279-foot fence of the lower deck easy to overcome by a home run hit 250 feet into the overhanging upper deck. In fact, Bobby Thompson slapped his epic "Shot Heard ‘Round the World" home run into that same lower deck.
Ebbets Field, home to the Brooklyn Dodgers before the team moved to sunny California, was famously built atop a former garbage dump in Brooklyn, and its iconic outer façade is still fondly remembered by fans of the modern game. Ebbets offered fans one of the first truly cozy environments for live viewing, with seating for just 25,000 fans.
Finally, it's almost impossible to talk hallowed grounds and not mention the original Yankee Stadium. The new Yankee Stadium retained the exterior look, but the original was where countless Yankee greats and MLB Hall of Famers entertained adoring fans. As newer stadiums grow larger, it is unlikely that an intimate stadium with small dimensions, allowing fans to get as close to the game as possible, will ever be built again.
The Present – Baseball's Living History
Although the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field, and the original Yankee Stadium have all since been demolished, baseball is not without living history. The oldest stadiums in the game today are home to some of the most rabid fans and oldest franchises in the game.
Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs, opened in 1914 and is still in use today. The stadium was actually built for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League, but the league folded just one year later, and it became the home of the Cubs instead. Wrigley fans admire the charm of its ivy-covered outfield walls, the manually-operated scoreboard, and the famous neighborhood rooftop seating located just over the outfield stadium walls.
Boston fans consider Fenway Park the queen of all MLB stadiums. Fenway opened in 1912 and remains one of the most unique in the game. Everyone knows about the 36-foot, 2-inch Green Monster looming in the outfield and the incredibly short fence in right field, but others note an odd section of wall in right-center that forms a triangle and is actually 420 feet from home plate.
The Future – What You Can Expect in the Stadium of Tomorrow
What these living legends lack is that modern touch that baseball has increasingly seen in its newest parks. These days, fans expect a little something more than just baseball on the field. For example, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins both have pools with hot tubs in the outfield sections that can be rented for parties.
The future of MLB stadium design is still evolving. Clubs like Arizona and Miami are adding entertainment value beyond the game itself and trying to avoid cancellations and delays. Arizona's stadium had one of the first retractable roofs in baseball, allowing fans to watch the games in air-conditioned comfort. Miami also boasts a retractable roof, helping fans dodge the damp weather and the club avoid washouts when it rains.
The Texas Rangers debuted Globe Life Field in 2020. The original March opening was rescheduled due to the pandemic, but the first regular-season game was hosted this past July. This stadium features a clear-panel retractable roof and artificial turf instead of natural grass. In a sign of the true future, Globe Life Field does not stand alone in Arlington. Rather, it is part of the Texas Live! Complex, an entertainment destination with a hotel, convention center, outdoor courtyard, retail stores, restaurants, and clubs. Fans can enter directly into the left-field stadium entrance through this entertainment complex.
Of course, stadiums are just one piece of the collective memories that fans hang on to from the national pastime. From collectible baseball cards to bats, balls, and jerseys, baseball has proven to be close to the heart of fans and sports memorabilia collectors across the country. To learn why collectibles insurance is so important to protect these cherished items click here