The Preservation of America's Baseball Parks

Tuesday, October 28, 2014: 8:00 AM
Presenter: Marni Epstein , Goucher College, Baltimore, MD
Co-Presenter: Richard Wagner, AIA , Goucher College, Baltimore, MD
This paper examines preservation practices on America’s baseball parks. It surveys parks in the National Register and those eligible for inclusion, and includes parks in the Major League, Minor League, and Negro League. Case studies are divided into three categories: (1) cases where historic parks were torn down; (2) cases where interventions renovated and preserved parks as a historic resource; and (3) cases where parks are presently slated for alteration. Each park is assessed as to historic significance and architectural integrity pre and post major renovations all within the context of economic and cultural forces. Case studies include the demolition of old Yankee Stadium (which featured a monumental design) and the building of a new stadium for the 2009 season. The case study raises questions as to the meaning of architectural integrity, and underscores that nostalgia cannot be transposed and that new construction can be more costly than historic upkeep. Similarly, the razing of Ebbett’s Field, once home to the Brooklyn Dodgers and their uniquely diverse, immigrant fanbase, prompts questions as to whether a 50 year benchmark is necessary to establish historic significance and cultural patterns. Boston’s Fenway Park, the oldest Major League park still in use, recently completed renovations to update and modernize facilities while honoring its storied past. It also highlights how that storied past can continue to generate significant income streams. Birmingham, Alabama’s Rickwood Field showcases how a park can be born anew. It is the oldest surviving professional baseball park and former home to the Negro League’s Birmingham Black Barons, and now adapted to new uses as a museum and up-to-date facility for film shoots. Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium is emblematic of Major League Baseball’s ascension as a truly National pastime. Constructed in 1962 and an example of modernism and car culture, the park stands with its integrity and historic significance intact after recent renovations, primed for recognition.  Finally, Chicago’s Wrigley Field, historically slow to modernize, is proposing an aggressive plan to bring its past and future together, predominantly maintaining the integrity of the stadium, while at the same time significantly modernizing scoreboards and certain historic features, and also developing an adjoining hotel and office space.  Wrigley Field showcases that its history might only be preserved by adding increased and thoroughly modern revenue streams. These case studies present lessons that will assist in preserving a new generation of baseball parks.
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