Baseball’s oldest park, Boston’s Fenway, dates to 1912. One of the newer stadiums, SunTrust Park in Atlanta, opened its doors in 2017. That century-plus span of ballparks includes a wide range of architectural styles, from buildings that celebrate the past to buildings that, frankly, we wish were part of the past already. So let’s rank all 30 current MLB stadiums based solely on the buildings.
Oakland A’s: RingCentral Coliseum
The A’s are on the hunt for a new home, but for now they’re at RingCentral Coliseum, part of the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum Complex. A big reason for both of these facts is the coliseum, a multi-purpose mountain of concrete built in 1966. Oddly enough, it was this concrete block designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill that drew the A’s from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968. But today, the lack of design charm and general blandness land the stadium at the bottom of the list.
Chicago White Sox: Guaranteed Rate Field
Once called new Comiskey Park, the home of the White Sox was built in 1991, the no-man’s land of baseball architecture. It was a time when the era of concrete multipurpose venues was winding down but the retro ballpark craze had yet to heat up. Guaranteed Rate Field offers a cavernous, steep design. There’s little more than an arched façade to pay tribute to the nostalgia of old Comiskey, all without offering anything new or noteworthy.
Tampa Bay Rays: Tropicana Field
Opened in 1990, the Trop was not built entirely with baseball in mind, and you can tell. It’s most intriguing architectural feature is the fixed roof, which is currently the world’s largest cable-supported dome roof and the only fixed roof in MLB. The slant of the roof cut construction and cooling costs, but the look doesn’t do much to lessen the feeling that the Rays are playing in a warehouse. The catwalks that obstruct play and catch fly balls don’t help.
Los Angeles Angels: Angel Stadium
Angel Stadium is a long story in renovation. It originally opened in 1966, making it one of the four oldest parks in MLB, but the venue as we know it was largely formed in 1998. That’s when the L.A. Rams left, so the architecture firm Populous came in to make the park more baseball-specific. The Imagineering folks at Walt Disney Corporation were brought in to create the Outfield Extravaganza, giving the stadium an internal focal point that doesn’t take away from its lack of structural interest.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Chase Field
If fans know anything abut the home of the Diamondbacks, it’s probably the outfield pool, which makes frequent appearances during games as a goofy stadium quirk. Unfortunately, Chase Field, designed by Ellerbe Becket with a retractable roof over the steel-heavy rectangular building, doesn’t have much else to offer in the way of architectural intrigue.
Washington Nationals: Nationals Park
The concrete, steel and glass structure design from Populous was inspired by the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art. The park was positioned so neighbors could see elements of the field and fans could look out to the Capitol and Washington Monument. The 2008-opened stadium includes a nod back to D.C.’s old Griffith Stadium with an odd right-angled jog in the right-center-field fence.
Texas Rangers: Globe Life Field
When the Rangers needed a new stadium in the 1990s, HKS borrowed ideas from around the country, including a white façade reminiscent of Yankee Stadium and a right-field overhang paying tribute to Detroit, but infused them with brick and Texas granite. Oh, and there’s an office building. The 1994-opened stadium, called just The Ballpark at Arlington before someone bought the naming rights, brought business to Arlington by positioning a four-story office building directly into centerfield. The design helped create a focus and intimacy at the expansive park. While Globe Life Field is only about a quarter-century old, construction continues next door on Globe Life Field, the Rangers’ next home.
Texas Rangers: Globe Life Field
When the Rangers needed a new stadium in the 1990s, HKS borrowed ideas from around the country, including a white façade reminiscent of Yankee Stadium and a right-field overhang paying tribute to Detroit, but infused them with brick and Texas granite. Now that the new Globe Life Field opened across the street in 2020, its relatively plain design helps create a focus and intimacy at the expansive park.
Cincinnati Reds: Great American Ball Park
One of the cleverest structural elements in Cincinnati comes in the form of a 35-foot-wide gap in the second and third decks of the riverside stadium. This space between home plate and third base frames a view of downtown Cincinnati. The Populous design, opened in 2003, lets the lower bowl of the 42,000-seat park wrap the entire venue, but slotted the stacked second and third decks to align with Sycamore Street for views. A handful of Crosley Field throwbacks — the analog clock, smokestacks, and the terrace outside the main entrance matching the grass slop in Crosley’s outfield — tie history into the design.
Miami Marlins: LoanDepot Park
LoanDepot Park is the target of routine derision, but much of the stems from the team’s play and management and the lack of an energized fan base. Give the stadium itself some credit. It opened in 2012 and you can forget finding brick, limestone, or green padding—the signature materials in ballpark design. LoanDepot Park goes quintessential Miami and is one of the first efforts at a modern baseball stadium that didn’t embrace retro features. There are six massive glass panels in the outfield, a retractable roof, and a Populous design that sets the stadium apart. At least give LoanDepot Park points for going a different direction.
Philadelphia Phillies: Citizens Bank Park
The most intriguing aspect of the 2004-opened building from Populous comes in the creation of a special space within the confines of the ballpark. The Ashburn Alley spans the entire outfield to entice fans to roam through the open space, which offers views of the tiered bullpens, access to Philly’s baseball history, as well as stores and restaurants and rooftop bleacher seats that harken to the 1920’s-era Shibe Park.
Houston Astros: Minute Maid Park
The Astros are yet another team that fled a cookie-cutter mega-venue (in this case, the Astrodome) for a retro-themed ballpark. But the quirks of 2000-built Minute Maid Park aren’t just arbitrary, but were solution to true site constraints.
The Crawford boxes in left field play well into the odd design. The lobby recreates the original Union Station near the site and the building features a retractable roof. You’ve got a mix of architectural and engineering personality.
Toronto Blue Jays: Rogers Centre
The plus: the first major retractable roof stadium to actually work, and foresight in locating the stadium downtown, which wouldn’t catch on as a trend until the wave of 90s retro ballparks. The negative: plenty of bland multi-purpose concrete design. The design could have been cooler, as Rod Robbie wanted something spectacular inside the building to match his 11,000-ton, four-panel roof that exposes 91 percent of seats. But the multi-purpose requirements of the owners restricted that potential.
Detroit Tigers: Comerica Park
Opened in 2000, Detroit’s downtown steel, concrete, and brick ballpark from Populous offered the first new park for the city since Tiger Stadium opened in 1912. Comerica Park celebrated that change with carnival features throughout the park and views to downtown. The building also incorporates a fountain.
Milwaukee Brewers: American Family Field
The HKS design opened in 2001 with a fan-shaped retractable roof and giant glass curtain walls. The Milwaukee park included fun small touches, such as a left-field foul pole that pierces the seating deck and a giant yellow slide for Bernie the Brewer. The brick exterior merges with the glass and steel for a retro design that doesn’t feel overly contrived.
New York Mets: Citi Field
Citi Field uses architecture to tie itself to the city’s baseball history, particularly the legacy of the National League teams that preceded the Mets in New York City (the Giants and the Dodgers). The ballpark mimics the design of the old-time Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Citi, which opened in 2009, uses a bridge motif throughout the brick venue for that historic feeling. But don’t worry, the Mets brought along their famous home run apple from Shea Stadium.
Atlanta Braves: Truist Park
The newest park in MLB, opened in 2017, moved baseball out of downtown in Atlanta, reversing a decades-long trend of repositioning baseball downtown. The brick-laden design from Populous fits with the retro feel so many ballparks embrace, but the design of the stadium was determined as much by its orientation to The Battery development around the park as anything, with its look tying the structure to nearby restaurants, entertainment venues, and hotels.
Colorado Rockies: Coors Field
Coors Field opened in 1995 and has been evolving ever since, continually adding new features and amenities. The first baseball-specific venue for Denver is a black steel structure on the edge of downtown. The Populous recommendation was turned down to allow the building to seat 50,000 fans, and while the inside design has transformed with new party decks and restaurants, the exterior still embraces the decorative masonry at the entrance.
Cleveland Guardians: Progressive Field
Populous designers get extra credit for the light-colored steel of Progressive Field, built to resemble the same bridges and structures that cross the Cuyahoga River. The light shade gives the stadium, opened in 1994, a natural feel in downtown Cleveland. To celebrate the elaborate steel structure, designers exposed 19 vertical light stands 218 feet above the playing field.
Minnesota Twins: Target Field
Moving out of the Metrodome rejuvenated the Minnesota Twins, and moving into the Populous-designed Target Field in 2010 just punctuated that excitement. Using native limestone from nearby Kasota, Minnesota, Target Field meshes with the plazas and outdoor spaces of downtown Minneapolis. The design falls somewhere between retro and modern by embracing the busy downtown site and classic local design.
Seattle Mariners: T-Mobile Park
The house Ken Griffey Jr. built was designed by architecture and design firm NBBJ. Tucked next to a train depot, the stadium opened in 1999 and offers the only baseball park fitted with an umbrella. The 22-million-pound retractable roof keeps the stadium open-air, even while closed. The use of steel atop and throughout the structure highlights the stadium’s ties to the neighboring Port of Seattle and industrial district of the city. Expect some lovely views of Puget Sound along the way.
New York Yankees: Yankee Stadium
Replacing the baseball cathedral of the Bronx was a tough task for the designers at Populous. While building New Yankee Stadium, opened in 2009, they didn’t stray too far from the original. The new home of the Yankees includes replicas from the old stadium site, just a block away, as well as Indiana limestone and pearl blue granite from Finland. From the frieze to the façade, history repeats itself in the architecture.
Chicago Cubs: Wrigley Field
Let’s talk brick and ivy. Wrigley Field, opened way back in 1914, is a jewel box design of 20th-century steel and brick. Recent upgrades to the retro stadium have given it more modern amenities while maintaining the classic design from Zachary Taylor Davis. Defined by the urban area it was built within, Wrigley Field stands as a monument to old Chicago.
St. Louis Cardinals: Busch Stadium
The best thing about Busch Stadium, designed by Populous and opened in 2006, is that the building faces the 630-foot-tall Gateway Arch. That view defines the most open stadium in MLB, with opportunities to see in and out of the downtown stadium at multiple points. The later addition of a Ballpark Village further accented the stadium’s connection to the city outside. The heavy use of brick and steel perfectly matches the rest of downtown St. Louis.
San Diego Padres: Petco Park
Tucked into the Gas Lamp district of San Diego, Petco Park merges directly into the neighborhood. The stadium even incorporates the Western Metal Supply Company building, completed in 1909, by using the historic brick building as the foul pole for left field. The Populous-designed ballpark opened in 2004 and features steel, sandstone and stucco. The design blends into San Diego, and the concourses open out to the bay and city.
Kansas City Royals: Kauffman Stadium
One of only two modernist designs in MLB, the Kivett & Myers-built Kauffman Stadium really shouldn’t be in the upper echelons of MLB rankings—but it is. Located just outside of downtown, the stadium opened in 1973 and is still perfect for tailgate-happy Kansas City. The concrete structure lies hidden beneath seats, the upper deck strikes the proper steepness balance, and the outfield is marked by plaza seating and gorgeous cascading fountains.
Baltimore Orioles: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Opening Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992 marked a major shift in baseball stadium design. The retro architecture of the brick and steel ballpark sparked a non-stop trend that put concrete on the backburner. The location in the railyard just outside the Inner Harbor of Baltimore helps up the authenticity of the ballpark, as does the longest building on the East Coast, the 1,106-foot-long B&O Warehouse, incorporated into the stadium. While the warehouse doesn’t touch the stadium, a 60-foot cinder bridge connects the two and creates a social gathering spot above right field.
Boston Red Sox: Fenway Park
The oldest stadium in MLB comes with every element that made the decades of retro designs so loved. Opened in 1912, the James McLaughlin jewel box design required a tight left field to tuck the stadium into downtown—creating the famed Green Monster. The use of steel and concrete gives Fenway a distinct aesthetic, and the changes over the last century provide plenty of modern comforts without losing the historic feel.
San Francisco Giants: Oracle Park
You can thank microclimates for one of the most iconic designs in baseball. The plan to push right field up to McCovey Cove was almost nixed by marketing interests that wanted to turn the field 180 degrees and place retail outlets along the water. Instead, Populous designers won out thanks to a climate analysis that concluded the alternative configuration would be highly uncomfortable for fans. The ballpark, opened in 2000, nestles 27 feet from the water—the closest stadium to water in any professional sport.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Dodger Stadium
The third-oldest stadium in MLB took 300 acres of hilly land overlooking Los Angeles and turned it into a mid-century modern design unmatched in all of sports. The stadium, designed by Praeger-Kavanagh-Waterbury, opened in 1962. It includes wavy roof features, and every entrance is at grade—a first and only in stadium design. In the hills of the San Gabriel mountains, the stadium includes outfield pavilions and a multi-stacked level above home plate that provides unique views at all heights, especially the Top of the Park. The most beautiful baseball architecture and ingenious use of the natural site push Dodger Stadium high on the list.
Pittsburgh Pirates: PNC Park
Everything at PNC Park is tied to Roberto Clemente, starting with the orientation of the ballpark to look directly toward the bridge spanning the Allegheny River named in his honor. Built in 2001 and designed by Populous, the stadium keeps the Clemente bridge theme going inside with masonry arches across the entry façade, steel trusses, and decorative terracotta-tiled pillars. Relatively small in the baseball world, with the highest seat in the house only 88 feet from the field, the PNC Park’s connection to the river allows for a unique blend of downtown, stadium, and riverfront creation.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.
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