The Cookie Crumbles

A little baseball talk this afternoon. The playoffs start today and, once again, the Reds aren't in them. My father-in-law is in a good mood because the Braves made it in again [sigh], but all eyes are on the St Louis Cardinals who dominated the regular season. Adding to the excitement of their postseason run is the fact that their stadium will be demolished at the end of the playoffs; they'll begin play in a brand new ballpark in the spring. Old Busch Stadium, a "cookie cutter stadium," is last one of its kind to be destroyed.*

A "Cookie cutter stadium" describes multiple sports structures built in the 1960's and 1970's, seen as an affordable way to satisfy all of a city's stadium needs. Buildings like this were built in St Louis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and, of course, Cincinnati. All had a similar look and feel to them. I had no idea that there was any other way to watch professional football and baseball than in such a stadium. I thought little league was worse because we didn't get to play on artificial turf. At Riverfront, concrete was king. It was always an adventure finding your seats because the stadium was perfectly round, every gate identical. By the 1990's, ballparks like Camden Yard in Baltimore ushered in a new wave of stadium construction. Teams held cities hostage, demanding their own stadiums and thus ended the cookie-cutter era.

However much these structures were loathed at the end of their existence, they weren't when they were built. As quoted in USA Today, "In souvenir magazines commemorating their openings, Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium was described as a 'palace' and Pittsburgh's Three Rivers was hailed for its 'style, sweep and brilliance.'" How quickly those days passed. Have you heard anyone around town talking about how much they miss going to games at Riverfront? Out in Blue Ash, they even made a replica of Crosley Field [the Cincinnati stadium preceding Riverfront]. I doubt we'll ever see the same done for Riverfront.

A few lessons we can learn from this:

- Just because something seems economically sound, doesn't mean it is. I'm sure the people that built these cookie-cutters didn't think it was a fad. Cincinnati spent almost $50 million to build Riverfront Stadium in 1970 and, just 30 years later had to spend about $800 million to build Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark. It would've been cheaper to build two stadiums back then.

- Aesthetics do mean something. People underestimate the value of a good looking product. Sure they want performance, but also something more. Look at the dominance of Apple.

- Everyone wants some old school in their lives. Fenway Park [go Sox], Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field are national icons. Retro will always be cool. It just depends which era is cool at what time. I can't wait until the 1990's becomes retro. Hammer pants, here I come.

- The Cardinals still suck. Nuff said.

*It should be noted that the actual plural noun of "stadium" is "stadia." I just used it throughout this post because I didn't want to weird anyone out.