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John Garrity
October 12, 1987
Buffalo's new ballpark is so modern it's traditional
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October 12, 1987

The Newest Look Is Old

Buffalo's new ballpark is so modern it's traditional

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?Asymmetrical shapes: The dimensions of old ballparks were often dictated by existing urban street plans.

?Switchback ramps or stairs, not spiral ramps. The planned White Sox park, for example, will have switchback ramps. "They're not quite as foreign to that period feeling," says Spear. "It's kind of hard to disguise a spiral ramp."

?Outfield upper-deck seating, which increases the overall sense of intimacy.

A period ballpark also demands an old-time paint scheme, which usually means blue and green. Modern stadium colors such as red, yellow and orange are inappropriate. Other authentic touches can include masonry arches, incandescent lighting and slanted roofs.

The functional demands of a modern ballpark are another story. "'Sometimes what people like in the old ballparks doesn't lend itself to fan comfort and convenience," says White Sox controller Terry Savarise. "It's exciting to see a home run hit into the upper deck, but except for Opening Day, people don't want to sit in those seats. They all want to sit in box seats behind first or third base or behind the dugouts." And it goes without saying that the modern baseball fan who grew up with replays and slomos isn't about to settle for a view spoiled by a steel column.

Ditto for eccentric dimensions, Fenway's charm notwithstanding. "Fenway's great because of its Green Monster, but if you start talking to people, they really don't want a Green Monster," says deFlon. "Look at the short walls in the Minneapolis Metrodome. They aren't that different from Boston's, but fans complain that they cheapen the game."

How far the period ballpark trend will go is hard to predict. "Not everyone is looking that way," says Wood. "The people who want a baseball franchise in New Jersey have expressed a preference for it, but Phoenix has shown no interest in an old-fashioned stadium."

Do the architects working on these projects have their favorite period parks? Doesn't everyone? DeFlon admits to a fondness for Chicago's other ballpark, Wrigley Field, while Spear votes for two structures that have already fallen to the wrecking ball—Philadelphia's Connie Mack Stadium and Brooklyn's Ebbets Field.

Refusing to date himself with a direct answer, HOK senior vice-president Ron Labinski tells of a recent conversation he had with a young reporter. " Ebbets Field?" the reporter asked. "Where's that?"

Labinski shakes his head sadly. "Makes you feel old."

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