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Major League Baseball’s five oldest ballparks
Since 2000, 13 Major League teams have opened new ballparks. An additional 10 franchises debuted new digs during the 1990s, meaning that Toronto's Rogers Centre (formerly the Sky Dome) is now the 25th oldest stadium in Major League, despite being built in just 1989. One reason for the boom in stadiums is the ability to rejuvenate a franchise and fan base with added game day amenities and conveniences. However, not every team has followed suit; at least not yet. Here is a look at the five oldest ballparks still in use at the Major League level.
#5 - O.Co Coliseum (1968)
The O.Co Coliseum (originally the Oakland-Almaeda County Coliseum) has undergone several name changes since it first opened in 1968. In addition to the Oakland A's, the stadium also is home to the NFL's Oakland Raiders, a partnership that has caused much angst among baseball fans. Expansions to accommodate NFL attendance figures, ballooned the coliseum to 60,000 seats (34,077 for baseball). Given the A's struggle to fill 20,000 seats on any given night, the appearance of a primarily empty stadium has taken away from the baseball atmosphere on game day. Oakland A's ownership continues to push the idea of a new stadium with smaller capacity, but the team has met opposition with the surrounding communities. As of 2011, no new stadium agreements have been reached.
#4 - Angel Stadium of Anaheim (1966)
Known as "The Big A," Angel Stadium of Anaheim has been housed several sports franchises and events over the years, but currently serves as the exclusive home of the American League's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Despite being the fourth oldest stadium in the league, the stadium has received several renovations to help it present a modern appearance. Around 1996, the Walt Disney Company took control of the franchise and implemented a major renovation project to return the stadium back to a baseball-only configuration. Prior to this, the stadium had been expanded to house around 65,000 NFL fans before the Rams moved to St. Louis. Currently, the Angels have an agreement to remain in Angel Stadium through 2016, and in Anaheim through 2031. Due to high levels of fan support and modernized revisions to the stadium, there is little need for a new ballpark any time soon.
#3 - Dodger Stadium (1962)
Dodger Stadium is situated in one of the most picturesque natural settings in baseball: Chavez Ravine. Originally built in 1962, the stadium has undergone several facelifts to ensure it remains one of the best places in baseball to watch a game. Despite a complete replacement of all ballpark seats in 2005, the stadium has never wavered in capacity, due in large to a legal permit that restricts capacity at 56,000 seats. Yet, despite having the largest baseball seating capacity in the Major Leagues, the Dodgers fan support has routinely kept Dodger Stadium in the top 10 stadiums for percentage of seats sold per game. Current renovations to the stadium complex include a surrounding Dodger village, which will feature a franchise museum, restaurants and shopping. The Dodgers seem content in renovating rather than moving, at least for the foreseeable future.
#2 - Wrigley Field (1914)
One of the two standing ancient relics of baseball, Wrigley Field is unique and yet also typical. Occasionally described as the quintessential ballpark, Wrigley Field has very few of the quirks found in other ballparks. A first glance at Wrigley might leave many to believe they are looking at a baseball park frozen in time. A manually-turned scoreboard serves as a backdrop to the center field bleachers and few corporate advertisements litter the pristine park. Currently, Wrigley Field is the only Major League ballpark to feature ivy on its outfield walls. The vegetation grows thick as the weather warms over the season, but even then it provides little protection from the brick walls behind it. Prior to 1988, Wrigley Field had no lights, which meant that the Chicago Cubs had to play all of their home games during the day. Even today, with lights, the Cubs maintain the tradition of day games with more matinees than any other team in baseball. Although not officially part of the ballpark, many surrounding buildings around Wrigley have become popular areas to watch the games, with some buildings going as far as to add premium rooftop seating overlooking the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field. Beloved by its fans, Wrigley Field has moved beyond the classification of old ballpark into the realm of historical treasure and is in no danger of being replaced.
#1 - Fenway Park (1912)
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a powerful movement to save Fenway Park grew support throughout New England when former Red Sox CEO John Harrington announced plans for a new ballpark to be built. Despite the intention to keep many of Fenway's unique features, fans were up in arms over their baseball home being replaced. In 2002, the franchise introduced new management and new plans for renovations. By 2005, the team had announced that the Red Sox would not be moving from Fenway Park and any renovations could be handled within the walls of the existing stadium. Part of the uniqueness of Fenway is its odd geometric layout. Fenway Park has very little foul territory, and grandstands that jut out alongside the foul lines. This allows fans to get right on top of the action, but also creates a number of bizarre ricochets on balls hit down the lines.
Just right of centerfield is known as "The Triangle," which extends to 420 feet from home plate at its deepest point. Possibly the anti-Wrigley Field, Fenway Park is filled with quirkiness. From the garage doors built recessed into the field walls, to the suspended ladder in left field and the 302 foot Pesky's Pole in right, it takes an experienced player to navigate the ballpark, both from a fielding and hitting perspective.
Easily the most recognizable feature of the ballpark is known simply as "The Green Monster." Standing 310 feet from home plate and over 37 feet tall, the left field wall is the tallest in Major League Baseball. At the base of the Green Monster is a manual scoreboard that is still operated by hand and features scores from both leagues and the AL East standings. Inside the wall, signatures from players past and present can still be found, making it a historic icon of baseball history.
According to current ownership, Fenway Park has at least another 40-50 years of structural durability in its current state, and they intend to use every one of them.
Ballparks of Baseball, Ballpark Profiles, Ballparksofbaseball.com
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