Maybe it's just me. Maybe I just don't understand the concept of ballpark design. But, for years I've heard about what a dump Chicago's New Comiskey (a.k.a U.S. Cellular Field) is -- well, except from my friend Vicki who "just love(s) New Comiskey." I've heard about how the White Sox missed the boat and built an albatross of a stadium based on an outdated-80s mold, when it should've been based on the new retro-craze sweeping the country.
I don't get it. What is it about bricks and girders and funny angles that makes a good ballpark? One of the best baseball stadiums that I've ever been to is Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium -- the Royals suck, but this stadium, built in the early-70s, is still tops -- I place it behind only Camden Yards, AT&T Park, and Coors Field for the best ballpark in baseball. And I've got to confess, I don't get it with New Comiskey. I thought the place was okay.
My favorite ballpark is Camden Yards in Baltimore. It was the first of the retro parks. My least favorite park is a three way tossup between Minute Maid Park, Shea Stadium (sorry, Mike), and Tropicana Field. I don't care if the park if full of brick and girders or steel and concrete. I just want a good seat. And a comfortable environment. I want to be around knowledgeable fans. I like a scoreboard that's easy to read and full of relevant stats. I want the baseball to be the important thing.
I enjoyed New Comiskey. I sat in the field boxes way up the right field line. I had a good view of the field. Yeah, the seats were a bit cramped, but no worse than the seats at Shea or Minute Maid Park. I took a walk around the park, and it seemed as if there was a good view of the field from every seat. Now, I didn't make it up to the upper deck, and it's my understanding that there's been a lot of renovations up that way -- I think a few row of seats were lopped off and that the steep incline of the aisle was lessened a bit.
The food was plentiful, with lots of options and good, cheap prices. I was even able to get a 20-ounce bottle of Pepsi for $3.75. At Minute Maid, that easily runs close to $5.00. The concourses were wide, and I found the place very easy to navigate. All of the scoreboards were full of stats -- the out-of-town board even had room for game stats. Sure, the stats weren't as comprehensive as what I saw at Milwaukee's Miller Park, but I've never been to park that has as a comprehensive a set of stats for each play as Miller Park.
I don't recall there being a lot of loud, canned music. There was an organist, and I got a kick out of his playing Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" whenever Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton came up to bat -- I just thought that it was a nice play on the guy's name, and not something that many people would catch.
The people that I was sitting next to really knew the game. They knew the players, and they knew who'd been slumping, who was coming out of a slump. And they were loud, especially with boos. And I like that. I like fans who make their opinions known. There are many of fans in Houston who think that a player shouldn't be booed, especially if he's trying. I also liked that the ChiSox aired Ozzie Guillen's post-game press conference on the DiamondVision. Since Ozzie's not exactly known for his ability to censor himself, airing his press conference is a big risk. And Drayton would never try anything like that in Houston -- he wants the people out of Minute Maid before the last pitch, because the sooner the fans are out, the less he has to pay the people working the game.
Now, I do think that the Sox could've done a better job of making New Comiskey more readily reflect South Side Chicago. And since I never made it to the original Comiskey Field, I can't say how much New Comiskey reflects the original. It was also kind of surprise that the park is completely enclosed. It seems like the Sox could've found a way to work the park so that that fantastic Chicago skyline was visible out past left field.
What else can I say? It's an okay park. It's definitely not disaster that I've been told that it was. Sure, it's not Camden Yards, or ATT&T Park, or Coors. But it's definitely a step above Minute Maid Park, Tropicana Field, Shea Stadium, and the Metrodome. I'd put in the same category that I place Turner Field and Miller Park. It's a fun place to watch baseball. There's nothing else to do there but watch the baseball. It's not an architectural wonder. There's no great scenery in the outfield. It's just a nice place to watch baseball.
And if you ask me, that's not really such a bad thing.