By Roger Weber
This top five list was
computed statistically and subjectively. The study was approved for publication at Baseballparks.com and an explanation of
the top five is available both at SportsLibrary.net and on Graham Knight’s “Top Five Ballparks” section.
1. Jacobs Field
Cost: $175 Million
Opened: April 4, 1994
Dimensions: 325-LF, 370-LC, 405-C, 375-RC, 325-R
"The Jake," located in the heart of downtown Cleveland,
has a white steel design that mirrors the industrial side of the city and the three levels of luxury suites separated by thin
white dividers that give the park a uniform, classy look. Easy to access from anywhere downtown and with ample parking for
boisterous sellout crowds, Jacobs has one of the best environments in baseball on a sellout night. Unlike many modern parks,
Jacobs has a consistent look throughout the structure and does not rely on many forced features. It simply has a classy look
emphasized by sharp lines, the best scoreboard in baseball, and all the amenities a baseball fan needs. Cleveland baseball crowds and Indians' teams have adapted to this park and even 12 years
after its opening, Jacobs Field is still my favorite. It seems like the only "retro" park that may stand out in the future
like Fenway and Wrigley do today.
Based on what I see as important to a ballpark, and what I have
experienced, read about, and inferred about the major league ballparks of this country (and the one in Canada), I can conclude
that the best one for my tastes is Jacobs Field in Cleveland. It won by all four decision methods.
It has arguably the best scoreboard in the game (I would say Cincinnati's is better), and it is a simple, easy to navigate ballpark.
There are more food stands than I can count offering food of every variety. The Mad Drummer, the Singing Beer man, Chief Wahoo,
the dark infield dirt that used to be there, and the white Indians' uniforms with the sharp red trim made this park one of
the best looking in the league. Plus, the three levels of luxury suites and the sharp corner in the right field corner, along
with the mini green monster in left and the bleachers give this park a unique feel and look that is exciting and pleasing.
It is one of the older modern parks, but has seen a great
deal of history. An unobservant visitor might think it is too similar to Camden Yards or Coors Field, but it truly is unique.
Unlike those, which are encased with orange and red brick, the Jake is adorned with visible white steel, which gives it a
hip, modern, classy look. I enjoy the small lower deck. One of the problems I see with many new parks is that there are too
many seats at a too gradual slope in the lower deck.
The concourses are wide double concourses, and the lower one is
open to the field. The left field line social area is not the best social area in the game, but it is a fun place to be. The
catwalks are interesting, and the lights are the brightest in baseball, supported by industrial looking, unique light stands.
The location is not on the ocean, or on a river, nor is the view
the best in the game, but for the city it is in, this is the best location for the view, comfort, and functional accessibility.
There is no better park for access from downtown. It is right downtown, with tons of parking nearby, and there aren't even
a bunch of ugly parking lots surrounding the park. The park was designed nicely to use the location to its advantage for the
view. Seeing Gund Arena and Cleveland's most famous skyscraper
down the left field line is great.
It is perfect for Cleveland.
It has the memorable, classy design that could exist as a landmark for a long time, and it has the amenities and modern features
of the nicest new parks. This is perfect for Cleveland, one of the great old cities going through a new renaissance.
Amenities: It has everything a fan needs. There are different types of food stands at every corner of the park. The Jake has
a double concourse, which means it is wider than an average concourse, and it contains lots of space for food stands and restrooms,
both of which the Jake has in excess of need. The concourse on the lower level overlooks the field, and in the left field
corner, there is a nice large social concourse area. The scoreboard is one of the top two or three in baseball, as it is large
and in full color. It has a large videoboard, plenty of stats, and is all in large, clear writing. The out of town scoreboard
is just as nice, as it updates each score and what runners are on base. The sightlines are good. The upper deck is somewhat
higher than in many parks, but that only is because the park looks so classy with three levels of luxury suites. It is a simple
park and is easy to navigate.
History: It once sold out 455 straight games. This park is only 11 years old, but it has seen two World Series' and six division
titles by the Indians. Recently, the Indians declined a bit, but they seem to be back on the way to the top, so this park
should develop more history.
Location: This is about the most functional spot in the majors. The team claims there is enough parking in the area for every
fan in a sold out park to park his car. Whether this is true or not, there is plenty of parking nearby, and there are loads
of bars and restaurants by the park. For the location, the Indians did a great job choosing the best possible view without
sacrificing fan comfort, as Lake Erie can blow in some cold winds.
Atmosphere: When this park was selling out every game, there was not a more exciting atmosphere in sports. The Mad Drummer, John
Adams, was banging away throughout the game. The Singing Beerman was leading whole sections of the park in drinking songs.
Plus, the fans were loud and knowledgeable. These features still exist, just with smaller crowds. It is still a fun, urban
atmosphere great for baseball.
Aesthetics, Uniqueness: The iron and sharp corners give this park probably the sharpest, classiest look in baseball. On the
exterior, it is recognizable and beautiful. Inside, the sharp right field corner looks great. The green seats blend well with
the white iron, and having three levels of luxury suites give this a good look. The 19 foot left field wall also looks nice.
The light stands are sharp and old fashioned, matching the park well, supporting the brightest lights in baseball.
2. AT&T Park
Cost: $255 Million
Opened: April 11, 2000
Dimensions: 339-L, 364-LC, 399-C, 421-RC, 309-R
A compact intimate stadium, SBC Park is a perfect setting for big moments
or casual Saturday afternoon visits to the ballpark. While a nice park with amenities and comforts about as good as any other
park, SBC gets vaulted to the top of the list because of its miraculous view. Some say PNC Park's river and skyline view is
more impressive, but seeing the mountains, the Bay Bridge and a sparkling bay above the sights of a giant Coke bottle and
Barry Bonds splashing bombs into McCovey Cove is one of baseball's "can't miss" experiences.
Amenities: The food is some of the most unique fare in baseball. Fresh fruit and garlic fries are available in many locations.
The seats are average, but some have internet connections. The scoreboard was only average, which is really the only major
negative of this park. There are plenty of food stands, although the concourse is somewhat dark and dirty. I felt a little
cramped, and there are a lot of bleachers, but after all, the land on which this park is build is smaller than the footprint
of Coors Field.
History: It opened in 2000, and the Giants made the playoffs that year. They made the World Series in 2002. San Francisco won 2 of 3 at Pac Bel. The biggest piece of history here, though, has obviously
been Barry Bonds. What a perfect park for a hitter like that. The bay is the perfect setting for a left handed power hitter.
Bonds home runs numbers 71 and 700 were the most memorable nights at this park.
Location: Best in baseball? Maybe. I prefer this setting to Pittsburgh's.
The bay and the bay bridge are beautiful. Plus, the park is only a short walk from the center of downtown. The park is still
a little subject to heavy winds, but it's really not that bad.
Atmosphere: It has remained a consistent big draw for fans. Plus, with so many bleachers, this park can look sold out even when
it's not. The fans are loud, decked in Bonds gear, and ticket prices can get expensive. Mine was $100, for a game against
the Brewers! The female public address announcer is also a unique touch.
Aesthetics: The outside is done in a unique brick style different from that of Camden Yards or Coors Field, and it looks really
nice. There are palm trees on the concouse behind home, and the bay even made Candlestick look nice. The seats are
usually filled, so their green color isn't a problem. The Giants did a nice job tucking the luxury boxes under the third deck,
so they don't show very much. It is a typical three deck park, but with the brick and bay, it doesn't look bad in any
3. PNC Park
Cost: $216 Million
Opened: April 9, 2001
Dimensions: 325-L, 389-LC, 399-C, 375-RC, 320-R
Park was the first retro park to actually be a little different. The
Pirates' fan base isn't huge, so PNC is a small park, and especially designed to give fans great sightlines. The highest seat
in the place is just 88 feet above the field. The design is nice, and the way architects opened up right field to a movie
set-like view must be applauded.
“Finally what appeared to be a step in the right direction.
A ballpark meant to emulate a Minor League ballpark more than a Major League one…It’s a great original”
-Eric Pastore, webmaster of Digitalballparks.com
Amenities: This is another park that is average, but not overly excellent, in amenities. The concourses are nice. It would be
better if the right field concourse were more open to the field. The scoreboard is one of the better ones, but it lacks a
real info board, and can only display one lineup at a time. Views are excellent, as the top row is only 88 feet from the field.
For me, though, that leaves something lacking. I like to visit really high seats, but obviously it isn't a real problem. I'm
sure most fans would rather sit close to the field. The spiraling ramps in right are also interesting places from which to
view the game. This park is only two decks, which is unusual for the new parks. One thing I don't like is that to ensure that
the seats are so low and close to the field, the sloping of the decks is very gradual, which can make for bad views. Food
is good. There are two full service restaurants under the scoreboard.
History: The Pirates themselves have a long, storied history. Unfortunately, this park opened at a bad time in their history,
and at a time when Pittsburgh was really becoming more of
a football town. This park was built small, but even so, attendance has been low. Luckily, it's a nice enough park not to
need great attendance. The Pirates have performed poorly here.
Location: Well...I guess it's o.k. No. Actually, this is one of the best views possible for a ballpark. The bridge, the skyline,
the river, the hills of Pennsylvania...those don't come
in combination very often, and this park includes all of them. The walk to the park can take time, as it requires crossing
a fairly narrow bridge, but once inside, the view makes the park.
Atmosphere: It isn't great. Crowds are small, but the fans that do come are pretty good baseball fans. Occasionally
the Pirates will draw big crowds, and on those nights, this is a very fun place to be.
Aesthetics: Outside, it is beige stone. It is unique, and it does look nice. Inside, the seats are blue. It seems strange they
would choose blue when the team's colors are black and yellow. The field is nice, but I think the infield dirt is too light
a shade. The green of the outfield walls is a little lighter green than most parks, so that is nice. Other than the view and
the ramps in left, there aren't really any unique features in this park, but when you have that view, what more do you need?
Park at Camden Yards
Cost: $100 Million
Opened: April 6, 1992
Dimensions: 337-L, 417-LC, 406-C, 375-RC, 320-R
It was the original. More recent parks have improved upon its
amenities, sightlines and overall designs, but Camden Yards was the original. Its concourses, even if they don't have a view
of the field, are jammed with the smells of crab cakes and the right field concourse is an attraction even without the ballpark
next door. The design isn't overdone and brilliantly mirrors its location.
“The beginning of the end. This retro park was perhaps interesting
because of its usage of view and the buildings surrounding it for an impressive display.”
-Eric Pastore, webmaster of Digitalballparks.com
Amenities: As the second park of the modern era, Camden Yards was the one that really kicked off the amenity fight. The concourses
are wide, although they don't overlook the field. The right field concourse is one of the best social areas in the game. Crab
cakes and other regional specialties make the food decision tough. The seats are comfortable, and most have good views, but
for a small portion in right center. The scoreboard is attractive, but not that informative.
History: The Orioles, ready to leave decaying Memorial Stadium, asked fans where to build the ballpark, and the warehouse district
was chosen over 11 other possibilities. In 1992, the park opened to much fanfare. In 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. set the games played
record, and the Orioles' new home was cemented as one of the great parks. By the way, in center field, just outside the park,
is the spot of Babe Ruth's original home.
Location: The park is accessible from downtown, though it's not an easy walk. There is plenty of parking nearby, as the football
stadium is right next door. We couldn't mention location without mentioning the warehouse. This park wouldn't be the same
without the giant orange warehouse in right. There is also a small view of downtown out center field.
Atmosphere: The Nationals were expected to take away some revenue from the Orioles, and that does look to be the case, but the
Os will survive. They get large baseball-saavy crowds, many of whom still wear Ripken gear to the games.
Aesthetics: I won't fault the park since it was the original to do so, but having a brick exterior isn't unique. Green seats,
unpainted cement, metal old fashioned gates, three decks...all very typical of new parks, but mostly because Camden did them so well. The field is nice enough, but nothing special. It's a clean park,
at least cleaner than some others its age. Again, though, what makes this park unique is pretty much the warehouse.
5. Wrigley Field
Architect: Osborn Engineering
Opened: April 23, 1914
Dimensions: 355-L, 368-LC, 400-C, 368-RC, 353-R
Its concourses are dark, smelly and the concrete occasionally
crumbles, but this is a cathedral to many baseball fans. There are few sights more pleasing than the marquis board in front
and the wide open outfield view of Wrigleyville as one walks into the stands. The atmosphere, the history, the ivy and the
bleacher bums can be overwhelming. It wouldn't be a list of great ballparks if Wrigley Field was not on it.
“If I were a Cubs fan, it would probably be my favorite.”
-Brian Merzbach, webmaster of BallparkReviews.com
“A great ballpark to me is one that would be considered
“classic” regardless of how new or old it is. Wrigley is the very definition of this.”
-Joe Mock, author of “Joe Mock’s Ballpark Guide”
and webmaster of Baseballparks.com
Amenities: What amenities? It's Wrigley Field! Actually, the food is pretty good, even if the concourses are dark, dirty, and
down a set of steps from the field. With the recent concrete falling incident in the concouses, you may want to wait for the
vendor to come around. The scoreboard, although historic and unique, is just about the most pathetic, least informative in
baseball. I try to overlook that, remembering that this is Wrigley Field, even if it does have posts blocking some views.
I rank this park 11 out of 30 because for a fan who has to come here many times per year, the lack of amenities and discomfort
of some of the park can get irritating.
History: In 1914, this park was built for the Chicago Whales. In 1916, the Cubs moved in. The park was renovated in 1920,
and again in 1926, when an upper deck was added and the field lowered. In 1937, the scoreboard and bleachers were added to
the outfield. In 1942, lights were supposed to be installed, but Phil Wrigley decided they would be better used in the war
effort. As a result, it was 1988 when lights were installed, and in the first night game...there was a rainout! So, after
around 90 years here, the Cubs still haven't won a World Series! (Thanks Bartman). In 1945, the curse was started, when the
Cubs wouldn't let a local businessman bring his goat to a world series game. The effects have been felt numerous times, notably
in 1984 and 2003.
Location: Wrigleyville is a unique neighborhood shaped by the ballpark. Residents fought to keep the lights off the park, but
for how much Wrigley has done to help them, I think they'll live. With so many bars and businesses around, Wrigley is
viewed as some as the best park ever built. Rooftop bleachers and great views make Wrigley's location one of the best, although
there is virtually no parking, and it's a ways from downtown.
Atmosphere: Mostly, it's a bunch of rowdy, stupid college kids, but there are some real baseball fans. It's an interesting mix,
and it makes for a loud, crowded park. The bleacher bums are the most talked about fans in baseball, with their
shirts off, and their drunkenness and tradition of throwing back opponents' home runs. The park usually sells out.
Aesthetics: The red info board outside is very recognizeable, and improves a dull exterior. Inside, it can be beautifully lush
or coldly brown depending on the weather. The ivy doesn't come in until late may, so there are differing opinions
on the view. Wrigley has just two decks, so it feels smaller than it is, and you can see the outside world
under the upper deck, which is unique. The brick walls have been duplicated at new parks, but Wrigley is still the classic.