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90's Nostalgia

“Cookie Cutter” Stadiums: A blast from the past

How many of you remember watching football games in the 90s, and one end of the field had dirt from the baseball diamond? I literally thought this was the coolest thing. Even the well to do sports complex in my suburb sort of did this, where infield dirt stuck out from the 30 to the 10 yard line, maybe 20 feet onto the field. I had a good view of this course, because I was on the sideline. This concept though of using shared space in technical terms started in the 1930’s in Cleveland, when the Browns and Indians shared their playing field for over half a century. LA Colesium and Baltimore had this going as well, but that was about it.

And you wonder why the movie Major League made fun of the Indians

So wait. Why does everyone have nice Stadiums now?

In the post WWI and WWII era, baseball was the America’s top sport. Though primarily East of the Mississippi, it had made inroads to California post WWII. The NFL had got going in a few select cities in the 20s and 30s, but for the most part played at smaller stadiums or colleges. Baseball then was able to erect pretty fancy stadiums for the time at least, that lasted decades. Once the post WWII boom hit, expansion hit for football, with the AFL coming to existence in the 1960s, which would then become the get this…AFC as you know it today! Also by the 1960’s, baseball had expanded a bit too (with teams in Texas, etc.) and more importantly, what we call “shrines” today with the likes of Fenway and Wrigley Field, needed to be replaced.  How could a major city afford two large facilities? Here is the perfect situation. Let’s save money some money and double them up. What is unique about this, is that most of these stadiums were all built.

Oh, so you’re doing that too?

When I think of multipurpose facilities, I first think of domed stadiums, where it would be the likes of Seattle, Minnesota, but those were built at the tail end of the shared stadium spree. (Toronto and Montreal had a dome, but it was strictly for baseball.) However, they were designed off of the “granddaddy of ‘em all” (copyright….Keith Jackson) of them all, the Astrodome. After this opened in 1965, then you see a spree of buildings, starting in the late 60s with the likes of Busch Stadium in St. Louis, and Candlestick in San Francisco.

Then right when the 70’s hit, the “Big 3” were constructed. These were in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia, and hence the term “cookie cutter stadium” was coined. Also, least we not forget, Oakland, which by the way somehow hung well until the 2000’s and was the last one standing, (the A’s still play there!). In San Diego the Chargers played at their facility for nearly 50 years until moving to L.A. and playing for 5 people. For a time Miami during the 90’s, and Atlanta during the 70’s and 80’s, shared their facilities. (Technically, Milwaukee counted, as the Packers played 3 of their 8 home games there).

Think about that one time you the basic bro/basic white girl you have have talked to a bar once, or maybe try to stitch together thought provoking conversation on social media, but they have the personality of a doorknob. It’s hard to stadium to “have a personality” per se, but these buildings that came to identify the last decades of the previous millennium were definitely short of it. They are as basic as you can get.

Clockwise: Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Riverfront in Cincinnati, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, and Veterans Stadium in Philly.

The 1980’s. When everyone wore light blue uniforms on the road.

Most importantly, with all of these buildings sporting AstroTurf, the facilities themselves started to change how the game was played, especially in the 1980’s. Now I am just a shade to young to remember when every read team seemingly wore blue uniforms on the road instead of grey, but that concept bled into the early 90’s, and I definitely remember it. I just feel like any 1980’s highlight video is a bunch of tiny players running around on AstroTurf somewhere. Unbeknownst with Astroturf, it’s not really good for your knees and back. Ask Andre Dawson, who played on the carpet in the 80s for the Expos. Or anyone who played at Veterans Stadium in Philly. Yeesh. In fact, the years of complaints from the turf, not to mention playing on it on a hot middle of the day game helped the new stadium building phase of the 2000’s.

Oddly enough, as much as these fortresses came into existence seemingly all at once, they all fell by the wayside in a similar fashion, right about the turn of the millennium. Think about how many new NFL stadiums were built in the early 2000’s. Pittsburgh, Philly, Seattle, Houston and Cleveland as expansion cities. In some cases, it was new digs for baseball, like St. Louis, Detroit, or San Diego in the mid 2000’s. Some cities went off the “early 70s to 2000s” timeline in the case of Miami with Joe Robbie Stadium (87-15), or Minnesota and the Hubert H. Humphrey Dome, or ”Humpdome, to those in the know. (82-13).

This is where the Vikings and Twins played for twenty years from 1961 to 1981. I bet it got cold out there!

Along the lines of “going on their own schedule” two or cities that kind of skipped out on all that madness and did their own thing early were Baltimore and Chicago. The Orioles built beautiful Camden Yards, with that cool looking factory in right field. The Sox of course built Comiskey Park, which during the 90s looked like a blue spaceship. Once the 2000’s hit, they made the seats green, brought in the fences, and got it up to code. Ironically enough football and baseball stadiums built in the past twenty years are now made for the fan “experience”, but it’s too darn bad, because everyone is just looking at their phone anyways.

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