When I was a kid, I used to design baseball stadiums. I studied picture books of Fenway Park, Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, Forbes Field, Shibe Park, Wrigley Field, and Crosley Field. I loved the vintage ideas that had been buried in the donut-shaped, utilitarian multi-purpose stadiums. I loved the idea that a ballpark didn't have to be a stadium. There was something magical about a ball park fitting into the empty space of a neighborhood, with the skyline looking in and the strange angles in outfield created by the context of the city.

I became hopeful with Camden Yards and the revival of vintage ideas. As a diehard Giants fan, I find their ball park to be everything a new ball park should be: anchored in the context, open to the surroundings, vintage but not overly nostalgic, fun without being too kitsch and a sense of purpose of intentionality.

So, I was watching the part of the game at Miami's new ball park stadium amusement park. It features a huge aquarium behind home plate, a design that looks futuristic (circa 1965) and every bad stereotype of Miami. One part plastic air port hanger and one part bad Miami Vice prop, it feels deliberately tactless and pointless.  I'm wondering if they realized they were supposed to design a ballpark and not an theme park. It's not only that, though. Take a quick glimpse at the slope of the seats and it becomes instantly evident that the sight-lines are horrible.



In case you missed it, here's the focal point of the outfield:


And the price tag on cash-strapped Miami residents? $2.4 billion. In forty years, when the stadium is finally paid off, the "contemporary" look will be faded and outdated. It will be the Astrodome 2.0.

Education Reform: Let's Learn from their Mistakes

  • Be intentional: We need to examine ideas with a critical idea so that we don't end up with another outfield monstrosity.  
  • Have a Purpose: The stadium fails, because it tries to be too much. It isn't designed with the players or the fans in mind. It almost assumes that no one really likes baseball all that much. Sometimes I think schools do the same thing. In trying to please everyone, you end up with an educational version of an aquatic backstop. 
  • Embrace the Vintage: Yes, iPads are neat. True, apps can be fun. However, some of the best ideas are older. If we push toward innovation without thinking about sustainability, we end up with "contemporary" schools that become outdated and useless within a few years. (Remember WebQuests and Lazer Discs)
  • Connect to the Community: The stadium seems like they were trying too hard to follow every Latin American stereotype available in Little Havana. It was as if someone said, "You know, Latinos really like bold colors and gawdy art. Let's do that." What if the ball park actually opened up to the community in the way that Baltimore, San Francisco, Cleveland and Phoenix have managed to do? And what if schools were able to do the same thing?



12 comments:

  1. Such a timely post. Insider knowledge does matter, yes?

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    1. I think so. There's value in outsider knowledge. New eyes an new perspectives are great (I'm seeing that right now as I attempt to write a YA novel). Still, intimate knowledge is vital.

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  2. Funny enough, I went to college in Baltimore during the 1990s, so Camden Yards was still "new," and it was one of the most boring places to attend a baseball game (and this was when the Orioles were good). Sure, the crowd got excited, but everything was so ... bland.

    But I grew up going to Shea, where even when the Mets were horrible, the crowd was excited to be there, and I loved that place ("It may be a dump, but it's our dump" was often heard, especially toward the end).

    I'm forcing a "shiny and new" analogy with this, but I'm half paying attention to writing this and half watching MLB Network, so forgive me if I'm not making any sense.

    Oh, and Let's Go Mets.

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    1. Classic, Tom, not bland. I went there when I was in junior high. I thought it was amazing. You and Doyle are both rooting for the Mets. I hope you guys win the East. It won't happen. Might as well hope you win a unicorn. But still, I wouldn't mind the Giants facing the Mets in the playoffs. It would be an easy series.

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    2. Ha!

      About as easy as our football Giants were. If we meet in the playoffs this year, I'll lay a case of Guinness for a case of whatever ale you prefer.

      (Double dawg dare you....)

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    3. It's on. Guinness for hefeweizen. We are drinking and gambling. What has this blog become?

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  3. i was living in nyc in the ninties and shea was boring and the worst and, yes, a dump—i never felt the charm. i loved going down to camden. that stadium ushered in a whole new paradigm of design. it's one of the best places to take in a game, any game.

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    1. I love the way East Coasters can go across states like it's no big deal. For us to go to Colorado or Los Angeles would require full-day or multiple-day trips.

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  4. Here's an interesting look at Camden Yards, which also includes some (limited) commentary on how taxpayers shouldn't be forced to pay for stuff like this -- especially when schools are struggling to get funding.

    http://www.mdpolicy.org/research/detail/camden-yards-the-stadium-that-changed-baseball-and-baltimore-turns-20

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    1. Thanks for the link. It was an interesting perspective. I'm sure folks in Baltimore have mixed feelings on the stadium.

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  5. A fellow educator & Cardinal fan sent me this link. As a Reds fan watching the St. Louis / Cincinnati game last night and seeing Homer Bailey serve up 3 first inning home runs, another stadium insight hit me. Great American BallPark was built for sluggers Ken Griffey Jr. & Adam Dunn (neither of which is still with the Cincinnati Reds). Short fences and a small outfield built near a river means the ball can carry out fast. Numbers become inflated there. Hitters demonstrate more "pop" & pitchers ERA soar. This stadium was built for one type of player, which unfortunately, does not necessarily translate into winning baseball.

    How many of our schools do the same thing? We build our instruction around one type of student because "it worked for me when I was in school"! Suddenly our numbers become inflated. Students who adapt to this type of learning style demonstrate proficiency. Students who struggle to assimilate suddenly look much worse due not to their learning capabilities but to an inadequate learning environment.

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    1. Yes! Exactly. We're building systems designed for what we think is relevant and in the long run, it turns out to be damaging.

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