The refrain over much of America this month is that it has been a rough winter, except we haven’t yet even gotten to winter. It’s actually been a harsh autumn, especially in November. We’re only a month removed from the Boston Red Sox putting the finishing touches on a World Series romp over the Los Angeles Dodgers, yet those glorious summer afternoons at the ballpark seem so far away.
One of the great things about that Series matchup was that it played out in two of the three oldest venues in baseball, Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium, though the games in Boston gave us a glimpse of the cold November to come. Fenway is a classic jewel-box venue that opened way back before World War I, and Dodger Stadium is a prototype of modern stadium design that took hold before the plague of multipurpose venues in the 1970s. The latter opened to the public a full 50 years after the turnstiles at Fenway started churning, making them unlikely brethren. All across baseball, stadiums and entire cities have come and gone from the big league landscape, making the sustainability of places like Fenway, Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field all the more remarkable.
Twenty-four of the 30 stadiums currently in use have opened since 1989. In fact, 17 of them opened during a 16-year frenzy between 1989 and 2004, and that doesn’t include Atlanta’s Turner Field, which opened in 1996 and lost the Braves after the 2016 season. Things calmed down a bit after the building frenzy of the ’90s and 2000s. In fact, according to the ballparks database at Seamheads.com, the roughly 1,836 days between the opening of Miami’s Marlins Park in 2012 and suburban Atlanta’s SunTrust Park in 2017 was the longest gap between venue openings since the 2,617-day gap between the opening of Minneapolis’ Metrodome in 1982 and Toronto’s Skydome (now Rogers Centre) in 1989.
However, things are moving on the ballpark front once again, with some developments more solid than others. With that in mind, let’s run through some of the news regarding baseball’s cathedrals. To me, it all points toward an emergent trend.