Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When will we start hearing demands for a new stadium on the South Side?

Perhaps it’s just because I’m desperate to ignore the first snowfall that hit Chicago on Monday – more than a month before the official start of winter.

Already obsolete?
But I couldn’t help but be shaken up by wire service reports emanating from Atlanta; where the Braves plan to move their ball club from their city-based stadium to one based in the suburbs in just a couple of years.

THE EXISTING BALLPARK – Turner Field – came about in the wake of the 1996 Olympic Games staged in that southern city, then reconstructed into a modern ballpark beginning with the 1997 season.

Turner Field might not be among the stadia that gets people’s hearts all atwitter (like the ballparks in Baltimore and Pittsburgh). But it is among the modern round of construction – sports teams that saw themselves get new buildings in the 1990s and early 2000s that were meant to be more than just a place to sit while a ballgame is played in front of you.

There’s nothing structurally wrong with the current Braves’ building. It’s just that the officials in suburban Cobb County are willing to give more amenities to the ball club, if they can steal away some baseball business for themselves.

Now why should I care about this southern politicking taking place? It’s because these stadiums always seem to get built in groups. Which means that now that the current set-up of stadia can start to be thought of as obsolete, it makes me wonder how many more ball clubs are going to start screaming for new facilities from their home communities.

How soon will calls for "the Cell's" replacement start?
EVEN IF, IN some cases, those current facilities aren’t fully paid for yet.

And if that happens, how long will it be until our own city’s ball clubs start screaming.

Renovate Wrigley? This action by the Braves may convince the Cubs they’d be better off at a location in suburban Rosemont (since the Cubs could claim the same line of logic that the Braves are using to justify their move – it puts them closer to the geographic center of their fan base).

In need of replacement before it's rebuilt?
Or what about the White Sox? The building now known as U.S. Cellular Field cropped up in 1991. Making it possibly the oldest of these new-style ballparks.

BY THE BRAVES’ line of logic (Turner Field’s stint as a major league stadium will last exactly 20 years), the White Sox ballpark is an antique.

It’s also an antique that has never gotten much love from amateur architectural aficionados.

Will the White Sox get it into their heads that it’s time for them to get a building that will gain admiration – instead of mere functionality – from outsiders?

Now I realize the political reality locally is that the process leading to the construction of U.S. Cellular Field ate up a lot of political goodwill. There are people who are still bitter that the building was ever constructed and that they were unable to kill the bill that back in 1988 ensured that the 2005 World Series was played on the South Side – and NOT in St. Petersburg, Fla.!

BUT THE BUILDING is now part of an era that is being replaced. It’s just a matter of time before officials want to start talking up the replacement of “the Cell.”

I recently read an essay written by someone trying to have some fun – speculating about what professional baseball would be like in the year 2114. He guessed that the White Sox would have a new stadium by then – perhaps built across the street on the site of the old Comiskey Park – because the new building would last the same 80-year stint as the old.

Will the "Old Roman's" statue gather pigeon poop at another ballpark?
I doubt it! The cycle of replacement of the current stadia has now begun.

My guess is that U.S. Cellular will see its demise some time around the year 2030. By then, the demands to replace it with something “more modern” will just be too intense.

THE 2033 MAJOR League Baseball All-Star Game (the 100th anniversary of the original All-Star game played at Comiskey Park) could well be the first moment of glory for a new White Sox stadium somewhere.

The real question is will 2005 be the only World Series championship won in the current building, or will there be a few more before its demise? A part of me thinks that is more likely than a championship at Wrigley any time soon!


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