The complexion of Major League Baseball’s ballpark landscape offers an interesting array of facilities, ranging from the classics to the modern. In fact, the story of MLB’s ballparks can be told in phases—ones that often span multiple decades, and see numerous ballpark make their debuts.
To put some of the developments around baseball into prospective, we are presenting our Ballpark Booms by League series. The series of articles will eventually cover every league down to the Rookie levels, but is beginning with MLB.
The Ballpark Booms story for the majors will look at the period in which a great number of active ballparks —and perhaps some of the most influential in the game—made their debuts. Debuts are an important point of emphasis, as we are taking those into account rather than the year in which a venue designed for baseball opened. (As an example, Tropicana Field was completed in 1990 but did not make its MLB debut until the Tampa Bay Devil Rays arrived in 1998.)
The series will also provide some quick facts, including the oldest and newest ballparks in each league, something that we explored in-depth at the major league prior to the 2017 season. Without further ado, here is a look at the ballpark boom period of Major League Baseball:
Major League Baseball
Oldest Ballpark: Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox (1912)
Newest Ballpark: SunTrust Park, Atlanta Braves (2017)
Boom Period: 1991-2001
In a sense, this period could be moved a few years in either direction—going back two years covers the debut of Toronto’s Rogers Centre in 1989, while adding two years would include Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park’s inaugural season in 2003. Yet, the more condensed period of 1991-2001 is notable for a few reasons. Over this 11-season span, 13 new ballparks were constructed and two others—Tropicana Field and Joe Robbie Stadium—began hosting teams on a permanent basis.
The era began with the opening of the White Sox’s new Comiskey Park (now Guaranteed Rate Field) in 1991 and spans up to 2001, a year that saw the introduction of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park and Milwaukee’s Miller Park. PNC Park has been among the most widely acclaimed ballparks in baseball since its opening, while Miller Park was the first fan-shaped retractable-roof facility in North America.
It was also over this period that a shift in the design of ballparks took place. When Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992, it ushered in an era of new retro-inspired parks that would open around baseball.
As baseball shifted from the 1990’s into the 2000’s, the league prepared for one of its busiest years. In 2000, a total of three ballparks made their debuts—San Francisco’s Pacific Bell Park (now AT&T Park), Houston’s Enron Field (now Minute Maid Park), and Detroit’s Comerica Park. Seattle’s Safeco Field also hosted its first full season after debuting during the 1999 campaign.
From 1991 to 2001, there was only one season—1996—in which MLB did not debut at a facility. The 1993 season saw the expansion Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies make their respective debuts at Joe Robbie Stadium and Mile High Stadium, while 1998 saw another pair of expansion clubs—the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays—begin play. The two ballparks to debut in 1998 remain active, while the Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995 and the Marlins—after many years of trying to secure a new ballpark—opened Marlins Park in 2012.
Of the 13 facilities that were constructed from 1991 to 2001, 12 remain active. The only one to close for baseball is Turner Field, which opened as a stadium for the 1996 Olympics before being converted into a ballpark for the 1997 season. It is now retrofitted as a football stadium for Georgia State University. The Texas Rangers are also planning to replace Globe Life Park in Arlington—which debuted in 1994 as The Ballpark at Arlington—with a new retractable-roof ballpark that is expected to open in 2020.
MLB did experience another, slightly smaller boom after this period ended. From 2003-2012, nine new ballparks debuted.
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