Friday, March 14, 2008

Ballpark Talk

One thing that makes going to an Orioles’ game such an enjoyable experience, even when the team stinks, is Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It’s a beautiful ballpark: the ivy wall in centerfield that serves as the batter’s eye, the cityscape above that (which isn’t what it used to be now that that big hotel is built), and of course the warehouse.

I am a big fan of having features (such as the warehouse) that make your ballpark unique and different from other parks. When someone sees a picture of it, they should know right away which ballpark it is. Is there a huge green wall in left field? That’s Fenway Park! Is there a big hill and flag pole within fair territory in center field? That’s Minute Maid Park! Do the outfield walls not have any padding, just ivy covered brick? That’s Wrigley Field!

I love going to games regardless of whether or not the stadium is unique, but it adds something else to the experience if there is some originality there. That’s one of the reasons Camden Yards is one of my favorite ballparks. They managed to make it aesthetically pleasing and unique.

Don’t look now, but Camden Yards could have some competition for the RFBP award (Ryan’s Favorite Ballpark).

Those Tampa Bay Rays, who are looking to pass the O’s in the standings this year, are also trying to win over my park affections. They have come up with a ballpark design so fascinating that I may seriously consider following the Orioles down there on a road trip to see it. If you don’t normally click on the links I put in my blogs, change your ways and click on this one. You have to see it for yourself.

It’s right on the water and tries to blend in with the adjacent harbor by having its own giant sail - sort of. The Rays’ current ballpark is a dome, and while it is nice to watch a game in A/C when it’s in the middle of a Florida summer, I just don’t care much for domes. This design is a clever compromise.

It has a huge column beyond centerfield that supports cables running to various points above the upper deck. These cables will support a retractable sail roof. The sections that are closest to the seating are permanent, offering shade, and the rest of the sail roof will be used in inclement weather. The great thing is that when the roof is on, the sides of the ballpark are still open, letting bay breezes come through, so you still feel like you’re outside.

I’m impressed by this design and think it could be my favorite Major League ballpark. Of course, I’ll have to visit it myself before I can say that for sure. I’ll have to wait awhile - it is scheduled to open in 2012.

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