History of Baseball Stadiums: Part III

In the last one hundred years or so, baseball ballparks have gone through various phases as these facilities became social and cultural bastions for their respective cities. As the 20th century was closing and a new century (and millenium) approached, baseball architects and team owners pushed a new agenda into ballpark designs using “old is new.”

The end of the 20th century and beginning of the new millenium brought a desire to return to simpler ballpark designs like “the old days.”

The trend to build new “old” looking, baseball-only stadiums was led by the renovation and building of Camden Yards for the Baltimore Orioles. Now called the Orioles Park at Camden Yards, this innovative stadium led the way for creating ballparks with an eye on past designs including heightened awareness for fan seating. Furthermore, Camden Yards restored the concept that baseball ballparks should only be used for baseball.

MIAMI, FLORIDA – MARCH 31: A general view of the loanDepot logo on a commemorative homeplate during a press conference to the media to announce loanDepot as the exclusive naming rights partner for loanDepot Park, formerly known as Marlins Park on March 31, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

On the west coast, the San Diego Padres said goodbye to the old Jack Murphy Stadium, commonly referred to as “The Murph” and joined the new trend to build old-looking ballparks in renovated downtown districts. Going from playing in a concrete, football designed stadium to a wonderfully designed downton venue in a revitalized area of San Diego, the Padres moved over to Petco Park and remain there today as a reminder that ballparks can play a crucial role in urban renewal that can benefit whole communities.

The early 1990’s saw the expansion of Major League Baseball into new markets with franchises being awarded to Denver and Miami.  Out of this expansion became the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins.  he inherent problem with this expansion was the fact that both towns were NFL cities and had football stadiums available for baseball use. The Rockies spent their first few seasons playing at the old Mile High Stadium in Denver playing on a football field until their 1990’s version of old-school ballpark was built in the form of Coors Field.

The Marlins, on the other hand, inherited Sun Life Stadium as an essentially football venue for their first  few decades of existence. From Joe Robbie Stadium to Sun Life Stadium, the Florida Marlins had to adapt to playing in a football venue as they were tenants along with the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami. Again, a football stadium is not really conducive to watching a baseball game as Sun Life was known for having quirky angles that made playing baseball there more difficult.  If you’ve ever watched an MLB game at an NFL stadium, you know  what I mean  -the games are different and so should be the venues for each sport.

The latest trend in baseball is the concept of the retractable-roof stadium that allows for all weather play and highlights fan comfort. Think of these ballparks as a hybrid – part dome, part regular stadium that can let in the sun.  The Marlins selected the site of the old historic Orange Bowl for their new stadium which is now known at loanDepot Park due to selling off naming rights.  LoanDepot Park is not a retro looking modern ballpark but a futuristic stadium that tries to provide the best of all worlds for the Marlins players and their fans. Located in Little Havana, loanDepot Park conveys a love ofbeisbol within the local Hispanic community in Miami.