Take Me Out to the (Newer) Ballpark
My wife and I recently visited the West Coast, affording me my first game at Dodger Stadium in 45 years. While Brooklynites still despair the Dodgers exit from the East Coast, my mom’s family, living in LA metro, loved the move. In fact, they make up the small club of people who saw the Dodgers play at the LA Coliseum. I cut my sporting teeth on Koufax, Drysdale, and Wills. So, for me, Dodger Stadium is as iconic as Fenway or Yankee stadium for others. However, we moved away in the 1960s and only made trips to much more convenient Padres games on visits with my dad’s family.
We attended on Mother’s Day with a big crowd, perfect weather, the Dodgers on a roll, saw some home plate ump-player-manager theatrics, a great catch from Matt Kemp, a big homer from A.J. Ellis who has ties to Bowling Green, Dodgers comeback from 0-3 to win 11-5, and ate a Dodger Dog … but left letdown. Admittedly, I’m not nearly the Dodgers fan that I was as a kid. Nonetheless the place calls to me — the grounds where my boyhood legends played, the retro early 60s architecture of the Stadium. The trouble is that I like the newer ballparks better.
I’ve sampled a decent cross section of ballparks over the years: The Hallowed, Ancient Grounds: Fenway; The Multi-Purpose Monsters: (of the 50s) Baltimore Municipal, (and of the 60s/70s) Riverfront, Busch, Jack Murphy, Fulton County, the Astrodome; The Trumped-Up AAA: County Stadium (Milwaukee), Arlington Stadium; and The Modern-Throwbacks: Coors Field, Turner Field, SAFECO, Ballpark in Arlington — and the modern-throwbacks win hands down.
They offer close-to-the-field, baseball-designed seating but with wide concourses, plentiful food options, convenient entry, adequate restrooms, … In contrast, Dodger Stadium’s concourses are like walking down a dimly lit, narrow hallway. The aisles are also narrow, food options limited. Fenway was much worse. Yes, there is an aura to the field where Ruth, Williams, and Yaz played, but the place is drab and the concourse, food, restroom facilities reminiscent of a high school football game in the 1960s. While some diehards will never see beyond the history and the field, it’s not hard to understand why, in regression studies looking at attendance or revenues, newer stadiums exhibit a measurable and substantial bump to revenues and attendance.