Name: Citizens Bank Park
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Opened: 3 April 2004
Architect: EwingCole, HOK Sport
Cost: $458 Million
Capacity: 43,500 (original)
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass
Citizens Bank Ballpark is a very nice ballpark. Like most of the parks built in the last 20 years -- most of them by HOK Sport/Populous, who really perfected the art and science of building a great ballpark -- it has everything you'd want in a ballpark: wide concourses, good traffic flow, excellent sightlines, lots of different "neighborhoods" (rather than one continuous bowl of seating) . . . the list goes on and on. It has an attractive brick facade for us traditionalists, but is not a carbon copy of the other "retro" ballparks, and -- like Coors Field -- manages to project a contemporary feel fashioned out of retro materials.
It has it's own field quirks, which also add a "plus" in our ballpark reviews . . . distinguishing characteristics whereby a baseball/ballpark fan can readily identify the park from a field detail without any other clues. (In this case, it's the straight/flat backstop wall behind the catcher. In every other ballpark in baseball (give or take Oakland Coliseum, which is kind of a hybrid), the seats behind home plate form a curve, so that the entire first row is essentially equidistant from home plate. Not so at Citizens Bank, where the center seats in the front row are not only closer than the rest of the row, but they're significantly closer to home plate than the pitcher!
Hey, look! It's the same weird shade of aquamarine that we see at Miller Park, Minute Maid, and Chase Field! I wonder if MLB got a volume discount from Benjamin Moore!
But, for all of the good elements that Citizen Bank Park has, the most significant aspect of the park is what it does not, but could have had: a prime downtown location.
The same trend in the 1960s and 1970s that brought us cookie-cutter, multi-purpose stadiums with concentric bowl seating (see Riverfront, Three Rivers, and Veteran's Stadium here in Philly) placed those stadiums in the middle of a desert of concrete, a vast swath of parking lot for the drive-everywhere, pollution-be-damned gas guzzlers of the same era. Philadelphia was so proud of their stadium parking that they made a damn POSTCARD out of it:
By the 2000s, people were once again falling in love with the urban ballpark, nestled right downtown, and walkable from the city center. As with the whole retro ballpark trend, Baltimore got it right with Camden Yards, followed by Progressive Field in Cleveland, Great American, PNC Park, AT&T Park, Petco Park . . . the list goes on. (Denver may have done it best with Coors Field.)
And Philadelphia was going to do the same, with a couple of sites chosen right downtown, walkable from Center City and the Liberty Bell. A leading contender had it across the street from 30th Street Station, one of the busiest rail centers in the country. How perfect would that have been? But it was not to be, and ultimately the park was relegated to the "sports complex" campus, like its predecessor.
And, having been there several times, there's something to be said for having ample parking and being near two major freeways. And there is a train line that runs from Center City to the sports complex, making it as convenient to downtown as Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, or even Guaranteed Rate on the South Side and the hallowed Wrigley Field on the North Side of Chicago.
But it's not the same.
Admittedly, you can kind of get a glimpse of downtown from Citizens Bank. Kind of. If you squint.
But it's just not the same.
Don't get me wrong. I love Citizens Bank. We did our "rehearsal dinner" before our waterfront wedding in Philadelphia at Citizens Bank. But, as good as it is, it could have -- should have -- been better.
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