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Ballpark Changes in the Majors

Ballparks come and ballparks go.  Sometimes you feel like you can't tell the changes without a program!  Well, here's your own "program," compliments of BASEBALLPARKS.COM.  Make sure you check BASEBALLPARKS.COM's home page often for all of the latest ballpark developments! For our synopsis of the 2015 changes, click here.

New parks and changes for 2016 and beyond (or maybe never)!

THE ASTROS and NATIONALS  expected completion: likely for 2017

The owner of the Astros wanted out of Kissimmee for spring training, desiring to move to Palm Beach County down the Atlantic Coast of Florida. The Blue Jays initially indicated that they were quite interested in leaving Dunedin to join the Astros in a two-team complex. However, before plans could be finalized, the Blue Jays decided that they wanted to stay in Dunedin after all. This didn't change the Astros' minds, who then looked for another MLB partner. Attention then moved to the Nationals, who hadn't been fully satisfied being in Viera, which is pretty far away from the other teams in Florida. Palm Beach County designated a site for the complex, and earmarked $5 million as a "down payment" on the project, which is expected to cost around $135 million in total. When the State Legislature agreed to ease restrictions on the desired site, that started a timetable that should allow the complex to be completed for spring training in 2017.

THE RAYS  expected completion: very iffy for 2018

The Rays used to play their springtime games on the waterfront in St. Petersburg, but when they moved their spring operations down to Port Charlotte, the team thought seriously about constructed a new ballpark on that picturesque location in St. Pete. By implementing a plan where the land where their current home, Tropicana Field, and its parking lots are sold to developers, the team had hoped to create one of the most unique, picturesque sports facilities anywhere. Joe Spears and the team at HOK (now called Populous) designed a one-of-a-kind beauty that, if it were ever to be built, would be unlike anything anywhere. By integrating a nautical theme, a huge "mast" structure beyond center field would support cables that would allow a covering to be moved depending on the weather. Further, the right-field foul pole will be close enough to the bay so that sluggers would have a shot at hitting home runs into the water (see site plan below right).

Enormous opposition to the plan immediately materialized, much of it from environmentalists who didn't like the idea of putting the stadium so near the Bay. Many were also opposed to the way Tropicana Field would be disposed of. The team and its architects still hoped to build a ballpark like this along the waterfront somewhere in St. Pete -- perhaps farther to the south. A citizens advisory panel was formed, and their initial reports said (a) that no matter what, any new stadium needs air conditioning and (b) in a ranking of which municipality should be the new park's home, St. Pete didn't rank highly. Talk then focused on downtown Tampa as a possibility. While few argue that the Rays deserve a nicer home than Tropicana Field, much work remains before that becomes a reality. In an encouraging development on January 14, 2016, the City Council of St. Pete voted to give the team three years to look for a site for a new stadium in either Pinellas or Hillsborough County.

The ballpark once called Al Lang Field (left) is where the Rays played their spring exhibitions through 2008. That's the site where the team hoped to construct a new park with a gorgeous, novel design. Its proximity to the water (right) would have made "splash" HRs possible. Alas, it was that closeness to the bay that eventually doomed this plan. (Center and right images courtesy of Populous)

THE ATHLETICS  expected completion: very iffy for 2018

When all of the contraction talk was heating up earlier this decade, there was some sentiment to eliminate the Athletics, since many felt that the Bay Area could only support one Major League team.  Well, the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority was serious enough about building a new ballpark for the Athletics that they commissioned a major study by architectural heavyweights HOK-Sport to recommend sites.  A report delivered to the Authority in late 2001 presented findings on seven possible sites, three of which were later ruled out by the Oakland Alameda Joint Powers Authority.  All of this was in hopes that a new baseball-only facility for Oakland would be ready by 2006, but that was ridiculously optimistic. The momentum of that push, though, emboldened the new managing partner of the A's, Lewis Wolff, to propose a massive mixed-use development surrounding a new ballpark for his A's. The location was just north of the site of their current home, McAfee Coliseum. Renderings of the new park and commercial "village" were widely circulated, and were fairly well received.

However, the city of Oakland couldn't come up with the money or land to make this happen, so the proposal died. Wolff, though, remained determined to find a location for the "ballpark village" he yearned for. No doubt San Jose (which has seen such astronomical growth that it is now larger than either Oakland or San Francisco) would have been a natural destination, but since the Giants claim Santa Clara County as its territory, it wasn't so clear that the A's could move there.

Iin the fall of 2006, though, Wolff found a partner that could provide land, naming-rights money and technology. That partner was Cisco Systems, and the company entered into a complicated arrangement with the team to sell them land in Fremont, which is just to the east of San Jose, on which a new ballpark and that "village" could be constructed. The company also agreed to pay for naming rights to the ballpark, which would've been called Cisco Field, and to sell high-tech niceties to the team to integrate into the park. For the next two years, all of the focus was on that site (see below) ... but when progress stalled, the A's turned to a different tract of land in Fremont, but locals shouted that down, too.

That forced the team to shift its hopes and aspirations to the city of San Jose to the south. That city had a site in mind for a new park, but not only was local opposition well organized, the Giants made a lot of noise about owning that territory. While that was being sorted out, MLB decided to assess the feasibility of locating another site not in San Jose, and Fremont raised its hand and said that they'd found a parcel of land that would be perfect for the new park. Ironically, it was directly in between the first Fremont site and the second. The new site is on the northern edge of the sprawling New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) complex, closed in mid 2010.

This was an early look at what the A's new park in Fremont might've looked like. Note how close it is to the buildings surrounding it. On the right is the first site in Fremont where the team wanted to build.

The owner of the A's, though, had his heart set on San Jose. A location for the to-be-built facility was selected, and it is shown below. In the meantime, San Jose's Redevelopment Agency was hard at work trying to purchase all the parcels of land that would be needed for the new park here, while fighting off legal challenges that seek to shut down this activity.

In an effort to push along the stalled plans, the City of San Jose filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball to force them to decide on the issue of territorial rights, which the Giants claim are theirs. Those in the know maintain that the Giants won't ever give in on their claim to this territory.

The A's hope one day to have a ballpark on this site on South Montgomery Street, which is just a couple of blocks south of San Jose's HP Pavilion, where the NHL Sharks play.

In the end, construction never started, or was ever close to starting. This has the A's again looking at locations in Oakland, including in the parking lots of their current home O.co Coliseum.

THE BRAVES  expected completion: 2017

This one is not iffy. The Braves shocked the baseball world (and perhaps the mayor's office in Atlanta) when it announced in November 2013 that they would only play three more seasons at Turner Field. This marks the end of the lease that the team signed originally there. They would then move into a brand-new stadium to be constructed northwest of Atlanta at the intersection of I-75 and I-285, to be completed by Opening Day 2017. The Braves, through a subsidiary of the team called BRED Company (Braves Real Estate Development), acquied 57 acres of largely undeveloped land just to the northwest of the interchange of those two major Interstates, with about 15 acres being earmarked for the new stadium. The team announced that they expect to invest about $372 million in this project, while another $300 million will come from public sources that include hotel and rental-car taxes. The Braves note, by the way, that 90% of the up-front costs are being borne by the team, not governmental entities. Mixed-use development is being built around the park (including a hotel that the Braves will partially own), even as the ballpark is being constructed (instead of arriving sometime later, like in Houston and St. Louis, where it happened years after the ballparks opened). HKS did a lot of the work when while the project was still under wraps, but Populous was ultimately chosen as the architects on the ballpark, which the team announced will have about 9,000 fewer seats than Turner Field.

The first step in preparing the site for the Braves' new stadium was to drain a pond along Circle 75 Parkway, which is quite close to the interchange of I-75 and I-285. When the project is finished, you'll be looking at the southern edge of the ballpark from the scene on the left. On the right is the first rendering that Populous and the team released to the public (courtesy of the Braves and Populous).

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