Learning from Miami's Mistake

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 In forty years, when the stadium is finally paid off, the "contemporary" look will be faded and outdated.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 If we push toward innovation without thinking about sustainability, we end up with "contemporary" schools that become outdated and useless within a few years.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?

John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler.
He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard
and the co-founder of Write About .

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