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Alternative Ballpark Realities

Yankees West Side

The best Major League Baseball ballparks are products of their surroundings, presenting a style and atmosphere reflective of their locale. While it is hard to picture some of the game’s premier venues at other locations, many of these ballparks were once considered for ultimately unused sites.

To recount some of the more memorable alternate sites, here is a look at current ballparks as planned for other locations. In some cases, the final designs of these facilities were hardly changed, while others were completely overhauled to adapt to their eventual locations.

Citizens Bank Park: A City Center Ballpark

As the Philadelphia Phillies pushed for a Veterans Field replacement in 2000, the team wanted a modern baseball-only facility that adhered to the trend of retro-style designs. In another move that reflected recent developments, city officials considered a City Center location at 12th and Vine Streets.

Though the project initially had political support—including from mayor John Street—it was stifled by protests from residents of the Chinatown neighborhood, and the Phillies raised doubts that the site would work. It was eventually determined that their new home would be constructed next to Veterans Stadium, keeping the team in the South Philadelphia Sports Complex. Despite its location, Citizens Bank Park is designed to be more open than its predecessor—allowing for a better view of Philadelphia’s skyline—and follows the pattern of the retro parks that were built over the 1990’s and 2000’s.

The Dallas Rangers

By the late 1980s, the Texas Rangers were fully engaged in finding a replacement for the aging Arlington Stadium. At one point, a move to downtown Dallas was mulled by the team and local officials.

Last year, the Dallas Morning News recalled a 1988 pitch for a new stadium in downtown Dallas. HOK (now Populous) was brought in to look four locations: adjacent to Reunion Arena, the Farmer’s Market area, the Northeast corner of the city, and a parcel north of the Woodall Rogers Expressway. Plans called for either an open-air ballpark that seated 50,000, or a domed venue.

The proposal eventually petered out, with Eddie Chiles selling the Rangers in 1989 to a group that included George W. Bush. In the early 1990s, the team struck a deal to remain in Arlington—and while talks about the Rangers making the move to Dallas resurrected last year, it seems that they plan on calling Arlington home for the foreseeable future.

A New Home at the Astrodome

The Houston Astros were once the verge of striking a deal that would have prevented Minute Maid Park from becoming a reality. Following the departure of the NFL’s Houston Oilers, the Astros evaluated their own future in the city. At one point, the leading contender for keeping the Astros in Houston was a new ballpark next to the Astrodome.

The tune suddenly changed when Enron CEO and chairman Kenneth Lay offered to form a group to financially back the project on one condition: that it be built it at Union Station in downtown Houston. Initially, the Astros feared that the downtown concept would take longer to complete, but they warmed to Lay’s proposal. Following a narrow 51%-to-49% margin of approval in a 1996 referendum, the ballpark moved forward. Enron obtained the naming rights to the new venue, but its 30-year contract was terminated as a result of the Enron scandal.

Oriole Park at Port Covington

It is hard to picture Oriole Park at Camden Yards without the signature B&O Warehouse looming over the right-field wall, but the Baltimore Orioles once considered a different plan altogether. Intrigued by the idea of a waterfront ballpark, team and local officials worked with HOK on a project in Port Covington, the former site of a railroad terminal in south Baltimore.

Port Covington offered a few advantages over the Camden Yards site, mainly its size—136 acres compared to 85. However, as the Baltimore Sun recently recounted, the extra land was not necessary once it was determined the Orioles would play in a baseball-only facility. Furthermore, planners feared that Port Covington’s proximity to the water would force an enclosed stadium, effectively squelching any visions of a retro-style ballpark.

For those reasons, Camden Yards was selected. And with Port Covington set to become the home of a development that includes a new headquarters for Under Armor, the final decision was best for both sites.

Big Plans in the Big Apple

The openings of new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field brought an end to a long process that saw the Yankees and Mets consider just about every location in the New York area. At one point, the Yankees were threatening to move to the Meadowlands while the Mets considered a new home on Long Island.

Perhaps the plans that gathered the most steam before the dust was settled were the proposals backed by Mayor Rudy Giuliani. As he worked to keep both teams in the city, Giuliani pitched two ballparks—one for the Yankees on the West Side (see the featured image above), and another for the Mets, who considered several locations in New York before settling on the land around Shea Stadium.

Though often discussed over his final years in office, Giuliani dropped the West Side idea due to a lack of public support –shifting the Yankees back to the Bronx—and pushed for a pair of retractable-roof stadiums, nearly making them official over towards the end of his term. What derailed those plans the election of Michael Bloomberg, who wanted a better financial agreement for both ballparks, leading to the cancellation of the retractable-roof proposals.

Worth Noting

  • Before staying in downtown St. Louis at new Busch Stadium, the Cardinals threatened to move across the Mississippi River to Madison, IL, where a new ballpark would have been constructed next to Gateway Motorsports Park.
  • There were plenty of proposals for a Comiskey Park replacement from the White Sox and city officials in various places in the city in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Two intriguing proposals called for a sports complex with new homes for the Sox and the Chicago Bears sharing a moveable roof (a la the original plan for Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium), while another proposal had a new ballpark, football stadium and arena built on the same site.
  • The Toronto Blue Jays considered several sites and concepts for their new ballpark in the 1980’s, with a new domed stadium at Exhibition Place seen as a leading contender. Eventually, local officials settled on the current Rogers Centre site, with the new retractable-roof ballpark anchoring the redevelopment of the Railway Lands.
  • Two major renovations projects were also close to never happening. Before deciding on an extreme makeover of Kauffman Stadium, the Kansas City Royals considered a move into downtown KC. During the 1990s, the Boston Red Sox were also poised to replace Fenway Park with either a new ballpark across Yawkey Way, or with a facility at the Sports Megaplex in South Boston. However, following the sale of the team to John Henry and his ownership group, the decision was made to undertake an extensive, multi-phase overhaul of Fenway.

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