The New York Times’ Ken Belson has been busy on the stadium beat; today he has a profile of how Janet Marie Smith has been re-hired by the Baltimore Orioles to help spruce up Camden Yards, the stadium whose design she helped oversee 20 years ago. (And which helped set off the whole retro trend that kick-start the stadium-building craze of the last 20 years.)
The most interesting bit, though, may be an aside about the kinds of rethinking that tenants of ’90s-era stadiums are considering as they see their honeymoon periods disappearing in the rear-view mirror:
The club levels at Camden Yards will get a second look because the corporate appetite for expensive suites has diminished. It hasn’t helped that the Orioles last had a winning record in 1997 and drew their smallest crowd ever at Camden Yards earlier this season.
The Orioles are not the only team thinking about makeovers. The Cleveland Indians, who opened Progressive Field in 1994 (it was Jacobs Field then), are among the 10 teams looking at ways to revive their parks, said Earl Santee, a senior principal at Populous, the architectural firm that designed Camden Yards, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Coors Field and other retro stadiums.
This has been an issue I’ve been wondering about for a long time: What do modern stadiums that are designed for the luxury market do when that market evaporates? In olden times, it was easy enough to just rejigger ticket prices, but today’s class distinctions are cemented in concrete and steel — you can’t easily take just one chunk of glassed-in seats with their own restaurant and private entrance and turn them back over to the great unwashed.
Cleveland is going to be an interesting test case for this, as it has that vertical wall of club seats separating its lower deck from its upper. I’d love to see the recent generation of class-segregated stadiums retrofitted for more egalitarian uses, but it’s going to be a challenge.