Baseball season has officially begun! Here in Baltimore we’re rooting for the Orioles. To be honest, the past few years haven’t been great, but we do have Camden Yards. When I was online today looking for tickets to tonight’s Orioles / Yankees game I noticed something interesting on the website, a trademarked statement: “The Ballpark That Forever Changed Baseball.”
April 6, 1992—twenty years ago—Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened and, according the Orioles website, “a new era of Major League Baseball began.” The park changed ballpark construction and is the new standard by which other ballparks are measured. It’s new but still feels old-fashioned, able to bring fans back to days of hot dogs and cracker jacks… but with local microbreweries and much better food. It is, as USA Today aptly called it, “tradition based.”
USA Today continued to say, “The park’s success sparked a boom that has produced 20 new stadiums since it opened, a trend that has affected perhaps the greatest impact on the game since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.”
In addition to being new yet old, the stadium was smaller and built into Baltimore, not on the outskirts, to help with the revitalization of the city. And, at least to some extent, it has worked. Going to see the Yankees play in New York is extremely expensive. Fans can travel to Baltimore, stay in a hotel, go to a restaurant and attend the game for less money than New York tickets. It’s a lot more bang for your buck. It’s easy to walk to the ballpark from downtown and enjoy much of what the city has to offer—the Baltimore Aquarium, the Inner Harbor and the new, upscale Harbor East for starters. Having all the tourists in our city for baseball helps us in so many ways, and while Baltimore is more than The Wire, and while we have been getting better and better, we still need the help.
However, as Camden Yards celebrates its 20-year anniversary, Miami’s new Marlin Parks may be the end of the Camden Yard era. It’s modern, futuristic, shiny and full of technology. It may be the new mold for ballparks of the future but for those of us who have enough technology every time we open our doors and who crave a little more tradition, we’ll enjoy Camden Yards and the many parks which came after.