Sports stadiums can be things of beauty. But they can also be architecturally unpleasing, outdated or utterly insane. CDH’s Ian Brickey looks at six of the craziest stadium designs ever proposed by American professional sports teams.
The primary function of an athletic stadium is to host sporting events. In that regard, all stadiums are similar. But similarity does not mean all stadiums are the same. There’s a reason we lament the destruction of Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds more than half a century after their demolitions and not, say, Veterans Stadium (although the sightlines for battery-throwing were unparalleled). The difference is architecture. Stadiums can be beautiful buildings — even works of art. But they can also be architectural atrocities. American sports teams have considered a lot of stadium design proposals over the years. Here are six of the craziest.
New Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis, Mo. (1949)
It’s hard to believe it now, but there was a time when St. Louis was a Browns town. Despite their occasional World Series appearances, the Cardinals hadn’t had their own stadium since the burning of Robison Field in 1920, and played at Sportsman’s Park as tenants of the Browns. After the 1944 World Series featured both St. Louis clubs in the “Streetcar Series,” the Cardinals proposed to build their own stadium. The design was a three-deck horseshoe in the Streamline Moderne style that was popular in the 1930s and 1940s, featuring sweeping curves and long horizontal lines.
But before construction could begin, the Browns relocated to Baltimore to become the Orioles, and the Cardinals, now owned by Anheuser-Busch, bought Sportsman’s Park in 1953 for $800,000.
Images courtesy Stadiumpage.com
Monogahela River Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pa. (1958)
By the 1950s, Forbes Field was showing its age. Built in 1909, the stadium was the fourth oldest in Major League Baseball going into the first round of post-World War II stadium construction. Combined with more than a half century of wear and tear hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates, Steelers and Pitt Panthers, the stadium was a prime candidate for replacement. As early as 1958, the Pirates considered alternative sites for a new stadium. The 1958 proposal featured a round multipurpose stadium to be constructed on an artificial platform spanning the Monogahela River. The platform would have included hotels, a marina and a 100-lane bowling alley.
However, the platform stadium design had to be abandoned due to cost issues. Later that year, the University of Pittsburgh agreed to purchase Forbes Field from the Pirates until the team could construct a new stadium. The Pirates eventually moved to the newly constructed Three Rivers Stadium at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monogahela and Ohio Rivers.
Image courtesy Stadiumpage.com
Brooklyn Dodgers Domed Stadium, Brooklyn, N.Y. (1950s)
The 1950s were a good decade for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The team claimed four National League pennants, and won their first world series over the rival New York Yankees. But the Dodgers’ home stadium, Ebbets Field, was one of the smallest in MLB, seating only 32,000. Itching for increased revenue, Brooklyn owner Walter O’Malley began to push for a new stadium. O’Malley commissioned the noted architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller to design a domed stadium for the Dodgers to be located at Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. The design included Fuller’s signature feature: a massive geodesic domes 300 feet tall and 750 feet in diameter. Fuller’s design was not fully detailed, but could have featured a sightseeing tram above the dome, an in-stadium parking garage and an interior subway and train station.
However, the plan encountered an obstacle — as so many New York buildings did — in the person of city Construction Coordinator Robert Moses. Moses opposed the Brooklyn site for fear of disrupting the city’s subway system. Instead, he proposed a construction site at an open space in Flushing Meadows, Queens. With his dome hopes dashed — and perhaps using the unfeasibility of the plan as leverage — O’Malley moved his team to Los Angeles in 1958. The Dodgers won the World Series in the second year in Los Angeles playing at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Meanwhile, Moses’s proposed location became the site of the New York Mets’ Shea Stadium, and later, Citi Field.
Upper image courtesy Stadiumpage.com
Lower images courtesy Blog.modernmechanix.com
Boston Domed Stadium(s), Boston, Mass. (1960s)
The Dodgers weren’t the only MLB team that flirted with the idea of a domed stadium in the 1960s. Fenway Park’s condition combined the age of Forbes Field with the limited seating of Ebbets Field. The Boston Red Sox considered several proposals for replacing the venerable Fenway Park with a dome. A 1960 proposal featured a domed stadium, along with a hotel, convention center and theater.
In 1965, another proposal called for a multi-purpose domed stadium complex with a retractable roof — the first of its kind — that could host baseball, football, basketball, hockey and dog racing. The stadium roof would have been made-up of 12 sections that moved outward to retract and inward to reform a covering.
A 1967 proposal called for the construction of a domed stadium just south of Boston near the Dedham-Needham line, surrounded by parking lots.
None of the proposals were acted on, but talk of demolishing Fenway Park continued through the 1990s. A 1999 plan called for the construction of a new Fenway Park adjacent to the original ballpark, updated for the 21st century but retaining the original aesthetics of the first park. Ownership rejected the plan, however, and opted for renovations instead.
All images courtesy Stadiumpage.com
San Diego Floating Stadium, San Diego, Ca. (1964)
In 1964, San Diego didn’t have an MLB franchise, and its professional football team played in 34,000-seat hole called Balboa Stadium. William Barron Hilton had a plan to change that. That year, the Hilton Hotels magnate proposed a multi-purpose stadium for the city that could host both baseball and football. There was just one catch — it floated on the goddamned water. Hilton’s plan called for a stadium floating in Mission Bay near Fiesta Island. Seating for the stadium was based on the baseball aspect, with a three-part grandstand around first base, home plate and third base.
The home plate section was stationary, but the first base and third base sections were movable and would serve as seating for the football stadium.
The plan was rejected due to its high cost, constituting the second-biggest embarrassment in Hilton family history.
Images courtesy Stadium page.com
Pontiac Sports Complex, Pontiac, Mich. (1970s)
Things were looking good for Pontiac in the early 1970s. Its population was growing, it was home to General Motors, and Americans still loved big goddamned cars — of which, General Motors produced the biggest. Times were good, and Pontiac was ready to take a risk. That risk was professional sports. In the early 1970s, the city proposed the construction of a sports complex. The plan called for a baseball stadium and a football stadium, presumably for the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions. But the design’s signature feature was a retractable roof that could be transferred from one stadium to the other, or left in between and create a shaded park area.
The proposal was too expensive to be implemented, but Pontiac did attract the Lions to the newly constructed Pontiac Silverdome in 1975. That stadium now looks like this:
But hey, it still hosts an ultimate Frisbee team.
Upper image courtesy Stadiumpage.com
Lower image courtesy Fieldofschemes.com