Play Ball

Happy Opening Day 2014 everyone! To celebrate the occasion, we chose this new addition to our ‘Midwest Collection’. Enjoy this view of the long gone Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, OH, home to the Reds (MLB) and Bengals (NFL) between 1970-2002. Riverfront_F Enjoy its grandeur, its roundness, its symmetry. Its integration of lighting, flags, structure, and pedestrian circulation into the overall building organization. Enjoy the structural diagram and exposed skeleton of this late 20th Century fortress. There is no artificial historicity to this building (well maybe its reference to this), no conforming to non-existent context or references to past stadia. Riverfront_B Was Riverfront a great place to watch a game? Debatable. Were its sight-lines perfect? Depends who you ask. It was ambitious though, and for being a trailblazer it gains our respect and admiration. May it rest in peace. Play ball!

Click on the images to see them in all their glory.

BASEBALL-FLORIDA

Stadiafile just received a major haul of postal wonders, including this very informative card (below) showing the Florida Spring Training sites of the 16 Major League Baseball teams who participated in the Grapefruit League, sometime after the Mets started playing in Port St. Lucie in 1988 and before the Boston Red Sox moved to Fort Myers in 1992. Since then, the lure of the Cactus League has pulled the Dodgers and Reds to dryer pastures in Arizona and now only the the Tigers, Mets, Astros, Blue Jays, Phillies and the Pirates remain in their respective locales as depicted below. The Red Sox and Twins now train in Ft. Myers on the Gulf side and the Nationals and Marlins have entered the league and train in Viera and Jupiter respectively.

There are many things to love about this card: the simplicity with which the information is communicated, the cartographic clarity  of reducing the state of Florida to a large, green landmass with a mysterious, gold “glow”, whose main roadways access exclusively the spring training locales. The lack of team logos and title ‘FLORIDA BASEBALL’ give a nice, generic feel, while the baseball ‘O’ and the old-timer swinging the bat add to the its timelessness.Fl_Sp_F

In an age when information, especially sport-related, is often instantly delivered via multi-layered, dynamic, over-saturated displays – be they on mobile devices or in-stadium display – postcards slow this all down. Their diminutive size, limited graphic capabilities and reliance on the postal system make these cards a wonderful counterpoint to our current sport world. Enjoy.FL_Sp_B

Click on the images and you’ll be able to see them in all their glory.

GOING POSTAL

We at Stadiafile have been scouring flea markets, antique shops and, well, mainly ebay, in a concerted effort to expand our collection of  vintage stadium post cards. We’re now featuring these postal wonders on Stadiafile for your viewing pleasure.

Feast your eyes on our inaugural offering –  ASTRODOMAIN, as it was known back in 1971. As an arena, one is still struck by the ambition of The Astrodome, aka the 8th Wonder of the World, but as an urban zone/hospitality experience, we’re not sure whether the Howard Johnson and Astroworld Hotel in the foreground excite. Viewing the Houston skyline in the distance, one is reminded of the suburban nature of this and many Mega-projects from the 1960s and 70s.

Astrodome_F1Astrodome_B1

Enjoy these and look forward to more pocket sized stadia classics to come!

Click on the images to see them in all their glory.

THE KIDS IN THE WHALE

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INGALLS  RINK
Yale University
Architect: Eero Saarinen
1958
New Haven, CT

This fall we took a field trip to the campus of Yale University and were absolutely blown away. The quality of modern architecture on the Yale campus is incredible, a Who’s Who of the great Modernists: Louis I Kahn’s Center for British Art, Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building, Gordon Bunshaft’s Beinecke Library, but our true affection was for Eero Saarinen’s Ingalls Rink, an absolute gem of a hockey facility which opened in 1958. The most striking feature of this 3,500-seat venue is the 90-meter long concrete arch that spans the entire length of the space creating a column-free interior and inspiring the Ingalls Rink’s nickname “The Whale”. The Ingalls’ roof is quintessential Saarinen, whose more well-known structures, such as JFK Airport’s TWA Terminal and the iconic St. Louis Gateway Arch, also feature bold, organically inspired forms. Located on the North end of Yale’s urban campus, Ingalls is home to the 2013 NCAA Division I Mens Hockey Champions, the Yale Bulldogs as well as weekend youth hockey teams from across the New England region, as I saw one Saturday afternoon last Fall:

Click to view slideshow.

BOXING DAY IN BOGNOR

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BOGNOR REGIS TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB
Nyewood Lane
Bognor Regis, UK
26 December 2013

Boxing Day in England is an incredible day for any football fan. Unlike other European countries such as Italy, Spain and Holland, English football leagues continue play through the Holiday period. After a one-day hiatus on Christmas Day, Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) is an all-out onslaught for fans of the old game, in which nearly every team in the country, barring a soggy pitch or freezing temperatures, are in play. It is kind of how New Year’s Day was for college football fans back when Bowl Games were all on the first day of the year, kind of.  Fortunately for me, I am in England for the Holidays and so for the third year attended the Boxing Day match at nearby Nyewood Lane in West Sussex where  local club Bognor Regis Town played Lewes Football Club from neighboring county East Sussex. Here is what we saw at this great little ground.

Click to view Slideshow
Click for full Flickr Set from this year, as well as previous visits to Nyewood Lane.

A SOGGY SOCCER SATURDAY IN SUSSEX

The Brighton ultras.

The Brighton ultras. (Photo: Stadiafile)

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION V HUDDERSFIELD TOWN FC
American Express Community Stadium
Brighton, UK
21 December 2013

A year since our first trip to Falmer (aka Amex) Community Stadium in the hills north of Brighton, we returned to the still new building for a cross-country Championship League match-up with Yorkshire’s Huddersfield Town Football Club. It was great to see that since our last visit, all the seating sections have now been installed bringing the overall capacity of the Amex to 30,750.  The additional seating and incredible momentum Brighton has built, despite missing out on promotion to the Premiership in 2013, have given the club the highest average attendance in the League, at over 26,000 per match. With the perfect weather for Christmas-time football - mild with a stiff wind and misty rain – and our Canon G12 in tow, here’s what we saw from our goal line seats.

Click to view slideshow
Click for Flickr Set

THE COOKIE MONSTERS (1961-1975)

Postcard of RFK Stadium via Mears Online Auction

To mark the beginning of the 2013 Major League Baseball season, we’re celebrating an era in baseball stadium design that is often maligned by fans, architects and pretty much everyone else. Fifteen new stadiums were built between 1961-1976 and of those only three (Dodger Stadium, Candlestick Park and Anaheim Stadium) were not round. Often called “Cookie Cutters”, for their geometric similarity, they were also similarly situated outside city centers, were designed to host multiple sports, and had a modern, Pompidou Center-esque ‘form follows function’ approach to their design, now sadly long forgotten in modern stadia design. In our celebration of the round ballpark, we’ll investigate the unique design features of these often misunderstood buildings. First up, the one that started it all – to the Nation’s Capital, RFK Stadium:

RFK STADIUM
Location: Washington, DC – 2.3 miles due west of the US Capitol, on the banks of the Anacosta River.
Capacity: 43,500
Design Team:
George Dahl (Architect) Osborne Engineering

Washington Senators/MLB (1962-1971), Washington Nationals/MLB (2005-2007), Washington Redskins/NFL (1961-1996), DC United/MLS (1996-Present)
Owner:
District of Columbia

Operator: Events DC

Baseball (left) Football (right) (Graphic: Stadiafile  Information: Andrew Clem)

Baseball (left) Football (right) (Graphic: Stadiafile; Information: Andrew Clem)

One of only two stadiums of this era still standing, RFK Stadium was the first major American stadium designed specifically for both baseball (Senators) and football (Redskins) and started the run on such multipurpose buildings. The general challenge for Dallas-based architect George Dahl and Osborn Engineering was how to design a stadium for two sports – football and baseball – with such contradictory shaped playing fields. The football field’s 100-yard-long rectangle and the baseball diamond are so different that the circle was the shape that offered the most flexibility and best suited the overlay of these two fields.

Aerial view of RFK Stadium c. 1988 via Wikipedia

Located on the Anacosta Flats on the banks of the Anacosta River, the spherical RFK Stadium is on axis with the Washington Monument and US Capitol. The fully enclosed, two-tier seating is kept low, including integrated stadium lights so as not to visually interfere with its more famous axial neighbors.

RFK Stadium exterior via Andrew G. Clem

Because of its low-slung character, RFK is more intimate than many of its cavernous, multipurpose contemporaries and its sombrero-like upper tier gives the cozy RFK a sweeping, identifiable feature. The curved profile of the roof is counterbalanced by the strong horizontal of the exterior ramps and structure to form a very clear, elegant facade.

The exposed RFK structure via DC United

RFK worked better as a football stadium than as a baseball stadium. Temporary seats were installed to fill in behind the end zones and the luxury boxes and suites separating the upper and lower tiers were few compared with current ballparks, keeping the two tiers close and the upper deck close to the playing field. For baseball games, these temporary seats were removed to make way for the baseball diamond and as such there were no lower tier seats beyond the outfield fence. This created a condition where the fans in the upper deck were strangely removed from the action.

RFK Stadium c 1992 via American Hertage

RFK Stadium c. 2005 via Ballpark Pilgrimages

One of the great aspects of these ballparks was that their no-frills, bare-bones character kept construction costs down. RFK Stadium was built for $24 million ($18o today), a cost unheard of in modern stadia design. One reason for this was that these were often public buildings. The city of DC paid for the construction and Events DC – a quasi public organization -  now runs and operates the stadium. The connection between the privately-owned tenants – the Washington Redskins – and the landlord – the US Government – is famously told by Thomas G. Smith in his book, Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington RedskinsThe Redskins were the last major American sports team to sign a black player as in 1961, in order to continue their lease in the publicly-owned RFK Stadium, President John F. Kennedy’s interior secretary, Stewart Udall mandated the Redskins sign a black player. The next season, the Redskins drafted Ernie Davis out of Syracuse University and signed five additional black players and were allowed to keep playing at the new stadium.

Today RFK is primarily home to Major League Soccer’s DC United and seating is normally limited to the lower tier.  The seating, much of which sits on rollers originally intended to give the seating the flexibility to be reconfigured, now bounces along with fans in the raucous Bara Brava supporter’s section.

The future of RFK probably won’t be long. DC United are in talks of moving to a soccer-only facility and though there are rumors of the Redskins moving back to the District, it would no doubt be in a new facility. So enjoy it while it lasts, RFK Stadium is a true living legend.

Pre-game DC United via The Viper’s Nest

Next up: Shea Stadium. Flushing, NY
Special thanks to Andrew Clem for information provided on his truly remarkable site Andrew Clem’s Baseball

COMING SOON

Busch Memorial Stadium via Mark 2400 Flickr

Sometimes life as a young architect, dad of one – soon to be two – girls, takes over and life as a stadium blogger takes a back seat.  Now is one of those times.  But don’t worry, we are putting together a series on the fascinating multi-purpose baseball / football stadiums of the 1960s-70s. These are the buildings I grew up in and so many American sport fans consider their sporting homes. The oft-maligned era in stadium design was actually a hotbed of some very creative ideas, inspiring thought about how we watch, build and manage sport facilities in America. So stay tuned for more from Stadiafile – until then, go see a game!

AMERICA’S NATIONAL SOCCER STADIUM: THE TOP 5 CONTENDERS

The Rose Bowl hosted 1984 Summer Olympic soccer matches via KCET

On March 22, the US Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) hosts Costa Rica in the final round of 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying at Dick’s Sporting Goods (DSG) Park in Commerce City, CO.  This is a huge game for the USMNT but unfortunately, at just 18,000-seats, DSG Park is undersized and the Colorado Rapids’ home lacks the gravitas needed for the upcoming Qualifier.  In order to match the magnitude of these international fixtures, to intimidate the visiting side and for the US to be taken seriously as a soccer nation, US Soccer needs its own home park – its cauldron, its Azteca, its Maracanã, its National Stadium.

As a young soccer nation without a tradition of big games being played on our soil, such a stadium has yet to emerge in the US … or has it? Great moments, like Brandi Chastain’s famous celebration of the US Women’s 1999 World Cup victory at the Rose Bowl, Bernie Feibaher’s 79-minute strike in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final at Soldier Field and the 1994 World Cup begin to paint a portrait of a nation with a genuine history of big games played at big venues, suggesting a National Stadium might already be somewhere out there.

American Soccer fans are as passionate as the best of them, via US Soccer

 So, here are the top five contenders for the title:

1. The Rose Bowl. Pasadena, CA

Why it works: Already the de facto National Football Stadium, home to the UCLA Bruins and the annual Rose Bowl Game, could the Rose Bowl also fill the bill for soccer? It has hosted many big international matches, including the 1994 World Cup Final and the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final. The Pasadena climate is wonderful year round and the natural grass surface meets US Soccer standards. The lack of a regular tenant would make the Rose Bowl readily available and its location within metropolitan Los Angeles provides a large fan base.

Why it doesn’t work: The Rose Bowl might just be too big. With a capacity of nearly 100,000, filling the Rose Bowl, even for a match as big as USA v Costa Rica might be difficult. While playing such a match before a crowd of 18,000 might not be enough, playing in front of a two-thirds full Rose Bowl could be worse. In addition, although 12.8 million people live in the Greater LA area, the population is so diverse that getting a core group of American soccer fans out to regularly support the US team might be easier said than done.

The Rose Bowl, via guatemalo Flickr

2. Jeld-Wen Field. Portland, OR

Why it works: Jeld-Wen Field, home of the Portland Timbers, is fast becoming the most intimidating home field in the MLS. Although small in comparison with its Pacific Northwest neighbor to the north Century Link Field in Seattle, the former minor league baseball stadium that backs up onto the Multnomah Athletic Club in downtown Portland was converted into a soccer-only venue in 2011 and it is spectacular. The opening game of the 2013 season between the Timbers and the New York Red Bulls was a scintillating 3-3 draw and TV viewers can attest to the energy and passion in the stands. Although it is a new venue for soccer, Jeld-Wen is nearly 85-years-old and this history, along with its rabid fan base, create an atmosphere and patina to the stadium that makes it feel bigger than its 22,000 seat capacity.

Why it doesn’t work: Two words: artificial turf. US Soccer has made it quite clear that their home matches will only be played on the natural stuff and Jeld-Wen is outfitted with Field Turf – admittedly high quality but nevertheless artificial grass. The Northwest’s extended rainy periods keep the Timbers and many of Oregon’s facilities from using natural grass surfaces. One alternative might be the Desso Grassmaster surface, currently used at the Emirates Stadium in London and Lambeau Field in Green Bay, that blends natural with artificial grass to get the best of both worlds.

Jeld-Wen Field, via i’m not giving up

3. Soldier Field. Chicago, IL

Why it works: Along with Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Soldier Field is one of Professional Football’s great shrines. It is home to the Chicago Bears and - until its 2003 renovation - its neo-classical facade and single bowl seating gave it an aura of pure Americana dating to its opening in the 1920s. The Wood + Zapata renovation significantly modernized the building, giving it a kind of rebirth. Like few other US stadiums, Soldier Field is now an aggressively modern, exciting building that could be the perfect home base for the New World’s full embrace of the Old World’s traditional pastime. In addition, at just 61,500-seats and located within the soccer hotbed of the Midwest, loyal American soccer fans could easily fill Soldier Field for the big matches. 

Why it doesn’t work: The aura of Bronco Nagurski, Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka and Walter Payton might just be too much to overcome. This is an American Football stadium and always will be. Additionally, the severe Chicago winters would take Soldier Field out of contention to host matches for nearly half the calendar year, much of it the exact time the National Team plays its qualifying matches.

Soldier Field, via Skyscraper City

4. RFK Stadium. Washington, DC

Why it works: It’s a no brainer - locate the National Soccer Stadium in the Nation’s Capital. Simple. Done. The 40-year-old RFK Stadium has aged and is rough around the edges but we kind of like that – it gives visitors an unsettled feeling. DC United fans regularly fill the lower bowl of its two tiers and the stands literally bounce when the Screaming Eagles are in full force. With a capacity of 45,000, RFK might just be big enough for the grandeur of a qualifying match and small enough to easily fill for a big game in this soccer-rich region.

Why it doesn’t work: RFK’s age means it lacks the modern amenities of luxury suites and club seating to make it a viable competitor with  more modern buildings. Barring a very unlikely renovation, given the Washington Redskins already abandoned it for the 90,000-seat FedEx Field, RFK Stadium is only going to get rougher with age. A new stadium for DC United is likely in the near future, making RFK’s run certain to end. Shame - if only the money was there, it could be the perfect spot for Jurgen Klinsmann & Co to call home.

RFK Stadium, via Screaming-Eagles

5. MetLife Stadium. East Rutherford, NJ

Why it works: MetLife Stadium – home of both the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets – stands just feet from the former Giants Stadium, the site of some of the greatest moments in American Soccer. Home to the New York Cosmos of Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer, five matches from the 1994 World Cup including the famous battle between Ireland and Italy, several of the 1999 Women’s World Cup matches, as well as a long list of other big soccer matches, Giants Stadium was arguably the unofficial American National Soccer Stadium until it was torn down. So, the bigger, glitzier, $1 billion MetLife Stadium took its place in 2011 and is ready to fill its shoes. Although neither building is special architecturally, both feature three tiers of seating – unforgivably enclosed, blocking views to New York City.  However, being located in the New York City Metro area, home to so many Americans with roots in soccer-mad countries, MetLife Stadium could quite easily take over where Giants Stadium left off.

Why it doesn’t work: Like Jeld-Wen Stadium, MetLife Stadium uses FieldTurf and though the USA’s near sell-out game against Brazil in 2010 was played on a temporary grass pitch laid atop the artificial surface, US Soccer prefers a permanent grass pitch for their big matches. Like Chicago, New York is awfully cold in the winter, leaving much of the calendar year unplayable. Also, having been to MetLife Stadium, it is extremely banal and lacks the essential atmosphere the National teams require from their home field.

MetLife Stadium via A Big Juicy Van

All of these buildings have their positives and negatives.  So, as none of them fits the bill perfectly, could the answer be a rotation between all five? Such a solution would give each region of the country access to major matches and ensure that all games were played in historically significant buildings packed with hostile crowds.

So there you have it – a five-headed monster of a National Stadium befitting our diverse, expansive – and growing – soccer-mad nation. Or we could just play it at Dick’s.

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