|The main entrance to Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
Baseball season is in full swing (slight pun) and the "no fans allowed" game, following the civil unrest in the wake of the Freddie Grey funeral, has brought attention to the city of Baltimore and the role of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Klaus Philipsen, of the blog archplanbaltimore.blogspot.com, looks at how this young ballpark, it opened on April 6, 1992, has become the "best baseball park in the country." Janet Marie Smith, the architectural consultant to the Orioles, meticulously guided the design and ambiance of the ballpark to mimic the oldest ballpark in the United States, Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. However, what really sets Camden Yards apart from its contemporaries is its urban setting, not set apart by acres of parking lots or a multi-purpose stadium lacking in character. This state-of-the-art, yet throwback to ballparks of days gone by, is the shape of ballparks to come, nestled "neatly into existing and historic neighborhoods and play key roles in revitalization of urban America.
|Fenway Park entrance|
|AT&T Park at night|
San Francisco, California
But 20 years is a generation. Camden Yards was a template for other teams to try to improve on.
Most newer stadiums are smaller and cozier and have concourses that allow fans to watch the action as they buy food or beverages. Other stadiums are effectively theme parks where baseball sometimes seems like a secondary concern. And some look to better skylines. (http://www.nytimes.com/.../oriole-park-at-camden-yards-keeps-up-with-the-times...)
- A location directly adjacent to downtown as an aggressive attempt of revitalizing downtown with a sports venue (there was no downtown living in 1987 when the location was first selected).
- The reuse of a fairly large underutilized industrial area that make a poor gateway to downtown (there were no "brownfields" legislation and incentives in place back then)
- A direct multi-modal public transit connection with a new light rail line designed to open with the first Opening Day in 1992 (the new light rail line was one of only a handful new light rail projects in the country and Oriole Park was a transit oriented development before the TOD became made popular).
- Shared parking assumed to take place mostly in adjacent downtown garages (the term "shared parking" was also not yet in use and not building seas of parking was a novel idea)
- Adaptive reuse and preservation of two historic structures that were integrated into the stadium design and gave the park its name (the first larger adaptive reuse buildings in Baltimore happened around 1985-87, the Sailcloth Factory Ridgely's Delight and Tindeco on Boston Street)
- A stadium designed specifically for baseball connecting to historic ballparks such as Boston's Fenway Park (http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/ballpark/) and Wrigley Field (http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/chc/ballpark) in Chicago
- The incorporation of the downtown street grid as a design element for public spaces open to everyone outside of ballgames and events (the Eutaw Street pedestrian corridor between the warehouse and the ballfield)
- The management of design and construction through a specifically created entity, the Maryland Stadium Authority (http://www.mdstad.com.com/who-we-are) (a state institution still in place, currently overseeing the Baltimore school renovation projects)
|PNC Park entrance|
Sports stadiums are major urban investments. along with convention centers and "festival marketplaces' like Baltimore's Harbor Place, they make up the trio of large-scale projects on which many declining older cities have stake their economic futures.
But what about a city's stake in its creative future? To design these new buildings in retro style risks sending a message that contradicts their forward-looking purpose: that cities have no future except as well-endowed museum of their better days. (http://www.nytimes.com/1992/04/.../baseball-for-the-birds-and-everyone-else.html)
|Coors Field entrance|
|Citizens Bank Park|
|Rendering of the Middle Branch Park|
|Rendering of Citi Field|
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, New York
|Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
Despite everything Oriole Park at CamdenYards is a success at the urban design, urban renewal, architectural level. Game days bring a lively crowd, the light rail service is busy and fans are let off a mere few feet away from the front entrance, and the historic Camden Station head has been restored and repurposed as a baseball museum and event spaces. The warehouse is not only a lovely background to the stadium but has been readapted as commercial and retail space. The ballpark has also benefitted the historic buildings on Russell Street which would have fallen on hard times with out the stadium. The buildings have been converted into sports bars, used as pre (and post) game party spaces.
The lessons of Oriole Park at Camden Yards should serve as a model for the proposed football stadium near The Forum in Inglewood, California and a newly proposed soccer pitch in Downtown Los Angeles. The success of incorporating a stadium into an urban setting in a city smaller than Los Angeles proves that with careful planning and consideration, a stadium can be a catalyst for urban design, urban renewal, and economic development.