Name: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Opened: 6 April 1992
Architect: HOK Sport (now Populous)
Cost: $110 Million
Capacity: 48,876 (original)
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass
Camden Yards. It’s hard to imagine a more important and influential ballpark or stadium to be built in the history of humankind. The Roman Colosseum? Maybe. The Astrodome? Perhaps.
It’s sometimes hard to remember the state of major league ballparks 30 years ago. (Is 1990 really 30 years ago??) The 1970s and 80s were the heyday of the cookie-cutter multi-purpose stadiums, exemplified by Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, Busch Stadium in St Louis, Veterans in Philadelphia. Giant, impersonal bowls, built out of concrete and ready to accommodate baseball, football, concerts, monster truck rallies, or anything else.
These stadiums (it’s really not appropriate to call them ‘ballparks’) had cement floors with a thin layer of carpeting laid down, leading to very fast playing conditions and an entirely different style of baseball.
When the original, small ballparks built in the golden age of baseball started to wear out and/or cities looked toward modernity and multi-use facilities, baseball had a building boom. Between 1964 and 1976, twelve new parks opened, from Shea Stadium and the Astrodome through the Kingdome in Seattle.
Then nothing much happened until the early 90s, when a few more parks came due to be replaced. The White Sox opted to build a modern, futuristic Comiskey Park across the street from the old jewelbox park (that’s another profile for another day), and the Orioles set out to replace Memorial Stadium.
The initial plans (by the same architects, the ubiquitous HOK Sport) were similar to New Comiskey, but the Orioles had wisely brought in an architectural consultant to serve as VP of Planning and Development. Janet Marie Smith made the decision to go retro, with a nod to the Orioles turn-of-the-century origins, the Babe Ruth birthplace a few blocks away, and with design inspiration from Fenway Park.
The park was an instant hit, and the age of the ‘retro-ballpark’ was born, with Jacobs/Progressive Field in Cleveland, Coors Field in Denver, Comerica Park in Detroit, Oracle/AT&T Park in San Francisco, Petco Park in San Diego, Busch Stadium in St Louis, and Citi Field in Queens all carrying on some elements of the classic/retro look.
Camden Yards is a beautiful ballpark, inside and out. It is a wonderful place to see a game, and I was fortunate enough to have visited the front office in the old warehouse beyond left field a few years ago. (One of the greatest bathrooms I’ve ever been in, you can be standing at a urinal in the baseball operations wing and look out of one of those arched brick windows onto the playing field. The actual officers are even more spectacular.)
Eutaw Street, which runs between the warehouse and the ballpark, is closed down and is a pedestrian plaza on game days, and the whole neighborhood has an old-time baseball field. The park has every modern amenity, great sightlines, and good baseball ambience.
This should definitely be on every baseball fan’s bucket list. Camden Yards offers everything you need for a great baseball experience.
(It’s also a bit hard to fathom that two ballparks that opened AFTER Camden Yards – The Ballpark in Arlington (opened 1994) and Turner Field in Atlanta (opened 1996) – have already been replaced by even newer parks.)