Teams: Baltimore Orioles

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Baltimore Orioles
Major League
Final Score

TL;DR?  Here’s the long-form piece in a nutshell:

Camden Yards, aptly said to be of equal significance in baseball history to the breaking of the color barrier and the development of free agency, inspired decades of “old-fashioned ballparks with modern amenities.”  The venerable sensibilities associated with generations of “retro” ballparks—the asymmetrical dimensions, warm brick facades with exposed steel, green seats, and various historical nods—were born here.

However, the importance of Oriole Park transcends conversations about its superficial stylistic treatment.  Not only did it pioneer many subtle design elements that are commonplace today, but it ushered in a broader trend of American urban rival, reinvigorating the country’s downtown cores.

Camden Yards’ brilliance lies not with its old-fashioned design, but with its philosophy that ballparks can be made better by abandoning templates and constructing something contextual.  Camden’s retro architectural treatment was authentically inspired by its urban surroundings, not conceived of in a vacuum like some of its retro cookie cutter successors, and therein lies its ingenuity.  The building is in perfect harmony with Baltimore.

Successor ballparks that “got it” by crafting something contextual, red brick or not, have been most well-received.  Others that oh-so-ironically used Camden as a template without urban contextual appreciation have not.

Despite receiving few significant enhancements in its 30-year history, Camden Yards still holds up well today inside and out.  Surrounding views may happen to be better at parks in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, but one could argue Camden’s interior aesthetics have never been eclipsed.

With the B&O Warehouse serving as a landmark on par with Wrigley’s ivy or Boston’s Green Monster, Camden’s interior design is simple, coherent, authentic, and attractive, lacking the busy distractions of the newer ballparks, while also having that organic, uncontrived “signature feature.”  The authenticity of the warehouse remains unmatched.

A charmingly simple red brick façade, skyline views, local grub, Legends Park statues, Eutaw Street, and brass baseball designating every home run to land on Eutaw Street also define the park.

Significance doesn’t equal perfection, and Camden falls short of the newer parks in a number of respects, hence its placement at #8.  Just in terms of essentials, the main concourse is dark and almost entirely closed from the field, the seating geometry down the lines can be terrible, upper deck seats lack cupholders, and the videoboard is the smallest and among the most outdated in MLB.  Camden’s food and beverage department is okay, but it’s also generally lacking the amenities of newer parks or renovated contemporaries.

Be on the lookout for Camden Yards to receive renovations similar to other 1990s ballparks in Cleveland and Colorado, perhaps opening up the concourses, adding more social spaces, upgrading the tech, etc.  Just make some tweaks, and there’s no reason Camden couldn’t catapult to the top again, because the underlying aesthetic is timeless.