Rob Neyer has thought hard about the various eras of ballpark construction. In today’s column he identifies The Utilitarian Era (think all of those long-gone parks of the 19th century); The Classic Era (Fenway, Wrigley); The Multipurpose Era (The Vet, Three Rivers) and The NeoClassical Era (think Camden Yards).
Bet you think that’s all the eras there are. Nope. Rob identifies a new, post-2008 era he dubs The Commercial Era, which he describes as ballparks built with something other than watching baseball as the primary purpose. And after spending a few days at Citi Field he has identified it as the quintessentially Commercial ballpark:
Citi Field isn’t a terrible place. But like the new Yankee Stadium, it could have been so much more. Considering how much money was spent, and the grand tradition of public architecture in New York, it should have been so much more. But this, I’m sorry to say, is where we’re at. Baseball stadiums are no longer palaces for the fans. They have become palaces for people who live in palaces, and places from which to hang garish billboards.
I’m not as down on Citi Field as Rob is. But his observations — specifically about the particular angles at which the billboards are placed — do make a pretty compelling case that the place is not a monetized baseball park but a baseball-ized cash machine.
Not that you can’t enjoy a ballgame in the joint. I enjoyed a couple of them there. But it is weird to see architecture that is not only an example of form following function but fundamentally altering function too.