Munsey on Ballparks
Greetings from Boston
by Paul Munsey (archive)
February 26, 2005
You might think that it would be difficult to get in a baseball mood here, as the temperature hasn't been above freezing, and it has snowed twice since I arrived last week. However, the folks in Boston won't let you forget about their Red Sox.
Growing up in Massachusetts, I never thought I would see the Patriots or Red Sox win a world championship, and here they have brought home three of them in the span of one year. Boston fans were already among the most rabid in the world. It would be hard to imagine a greater collective obsession over professional sports teams than I have witnessed recently.
Red Sox and Patriots signs are everywhere. A gigantic banner hung on the front of the State House for two weeks after the Super Bowl. Any store that could be remotely affiliated with sporting goods is overloaded with souvenirs for both teams. It makes you wonder who is buying all this stuff. Well, just walk down any street and you will see that half of the people are wearing some form of Red Sox or Patriots clothing.
Getting around Boston has been a little difficult because the weather hasn't been very cooperative. However, I have managed to inspect a couple of ballpark sites.
Fenway Park is looking good. In the middle of winter, it is pretty easy to walk around the ballpark. Until now, I had only been to Fenway Park to see games, and had to contend with huge crowds in the streets. They are working on turning Gate E into a grand entrance and expanding the concourse on the first base side. They better get moving, however, because there's only a month and a half until the first game.
The big souvenir shop across from the ballpark on Yawkey Way is open, but there are more salesmen than shoppers. I'm used to the place being so jammed with people that you can't move. I saw where they offer tours of Fenway Park, but decided to wait until it is a little warmer. According to the sales clerk, the tours were added in the winter because of unusually high demand following the Red Sox's championship.
They did a good job of adding seats on top of the Green Monster. It looks very sturdy, and should last for a long time. We used to wonder where the homerun balls went when they made it over the Monster. There's no mystery there now. If David Ortiz lifts one over the wall, the ball will probably land on Landsdowne Street. If he really tags it, then it will land on the roof of one of the buildings across the street. Behind those buildings is the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90), but I don't think many balls, if any, have made it that far.
The site of Braves Field, now called Nickerson Field, is only about a mile away from Fenway Park. Boston University occupies most of the space between the ballparks. I never cease to be impressed with how the university is integrated with the city. Just across the river are MIT and Harvard. That's a lot of brainpower.
Most of Braves Field has been demolished. They play soccer there now, and only one part of the stands still remains. The old ticket office was converted into a police station, and three high-rise dormitories replaced the grandstand. I had no idea that Braves Field ever existed until long after I moved away from Boston as a teenager. By that time, the Braves had been gone for over 25 years. I wonder how many of those students know the history behind where they live.
Just across Agannis Way is a gigantic new student complex. There are high-rise dormitories, an athletics center and the Agannis Arena. I'd like to catch a Terrier's hockey or basketball game there, but their respective seasons are almost over. I did go inside the arena to look around. It is a beautiful facility.
It looks like the Marlins are going to get their new ballpark built next the Orange Bowl. Only some state funding remains to be resolved. It should be interesting to see the design when it is finally ready. I understand that they are in the process of selecting an architect.
The area around the Orange Bowl is still very residential, and I'm surprised that is where they are going to build a new ballpark. The stadium always seemed out of place. It has been a while since I attended a game there, but I think residents in the area still sell parking on their front lawns. That's something you don't see everywhere.
Washington, DC keeps moving forward with their ballpark plans. They, too, are in the process of selecting an architect. The ballpark is going to be a part of a much larger urban renewal project. Many of us have visited our nation's capital, but I doubt that many of us have ever been to the area along the Anacostia River where all this is going to be built. A few years from now, it will probably be an essential part of any visit to Washington. I can already visualize the P.F. Chang's and Hard Rock Cafe.
There is an interesting drama playing out in Kansas City. Without any apparent instigation from either team, some city leaders are trying to set up the Royals and Chiefs in new stadiums. If I have this right, city leaders want to renovate Arrowhead Stadium, or build the Chiefs a new stadium in the same place. They also want to build a new ballpark for the Royals downtown. A sales tax referendum to finance the projects was shot down by voters, but the city appears willing to use creative financing to accomplish their goals. The Chiefs seem to be going along with the plan, but Royals have balked. They claim to be happy in Kauffman Stadium. This has fueled speculation among cynics that the Royals may not be long for Kansas City.
The Oakland Athletics are in the process of being sold. The new ownership is intent on getting a new ballpark built. So far, there has been talk of building a new ballpark adjacent to the Coliseum, in downtown Oakland, or in San Jose. My personal opinion is that they will end up in San Jose, but it appears to be anyone's guess as to what will happen.
The continuing saga over replacing the Metrodome has returned to the state legislature. Don't hold your breath waiting for a resolution to this one.
Paul Munsey is the editor of Ballparks.com.
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