Virtual Voices

Evaluating ballparks

Marvin Olasky's America

NEW YORK---After visiting six ballparks in seven days, here are some of my questions about stadium design and scoreboard use:

1. Does the ballpark make use of a distinctive location? In St. Louis the ballpark has the Gateway Arch behind centerfield; in Cincinnati, the Ohio River serves as the backdrop. Washington's Nationals Park, however, misses the opportunity to point to the Capitol or the Washington monument.

2. Does the scoreboard entertain people by pointing to baseball or away from it? Boston's Fenway Park is fine, as my last post noted; most other scoreboard displays seem based on the idea that kids are bored at games and must be distracted from baseball.

3. Since almost everyone has a dot race, how about connecting it to the locale? Washington does well in this regard, with George, Abe, Teddy, and other presidents racing. Milwaukee does well, with brats, hot dogs, and other favorite food items racing.

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4. Is the grass real (these days, almost always yes) and is the mowing pattern subtle, so that the greenness is beautifully overwhelming? St. Louis subtlety---the grass is cut so that an outfield arch mirrors the big Arch outside---is sweet.

5. Does the scoreboard contain valuable information like pitch speed, pitch count, and all out-of-town scores? Most do the first two, some fail on the last.

6. Is there some assumption that fans aren't so stupid that they have been told when to cheer and when to applaud? Again, Fenway is fine on this, others aren't.

7. Do all seats have good sight lines? Old Fenway has posts; new parks don't need that.

Other observations: Money spent on a retractable roof in rain-prone parks is well spent. (Congratulations, Milwaukee.) Both to increase intimacy for spectators and to reduce the number of foul pop-ups caught for outs, keep the stands close to the field.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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