Of the small handful of reasons a sports stadium needs to be turned into a rubble, disgusting, old bathrooms may top the list. Or is it a single-purpose arena turned into something totally wrong for its configuration? Perhaps it’s the fact that the location is so awful no one wants to make the pilgrimage to an old park sheltered from the elements for no particular reason. Whatever the cause, here are three formerly great athletic cathedrals that have more than outlived their usefulness.
1. O.co Coliseum
It’s a challenge to think of any redeeming feature of this ballpark/football stadium that just celebrated its 50th birthday. When considering the basic amenities that make a game-day experience memorable, O.co Coliseum is far from OK. If ever the naming rights suited the sporting facility, O.co is the overstock of modern stadiums. Attending the game, however, is no bargain. Having seen the Oakland A’s at home numerous times — I am not brave enough to attend a Raiders game — firsthand experience puts me on the petition to turn the park into a pile of bricks.
Thanks to Al Davis, the park is semi-enclosed with a giant set of bleachers in center field, making the place dark and dreary. The bathrooms are prehistoric, a large number of the seats are in disrepair, and the seat-numbering convention defies logic. In the case of reserved boxes, the numbers do not correspond to tickets. Take my word for it.
O.co is serviced by Bart, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, with a stop right at the Coliseum. That’s the good news. The bad news is that after the game, the narrow-gauge platform becomes the scene of roller-derby action with fans elbowing each other to get on the train cars. Not a pretty sight. It gets worse. The Athletics are held prisoner by the MLB and San Francisco Giants. Due to some rules made in the dark ages, the Giants hold rather wide territorial rights that reach down into San Jose. Neither the league nor the Giants will concede and allow the A’s to move to a modern facility in a more affluent area. Even an attempt to get the Supreme Court to step in failed.
The future is bleak. One option is to nuke the Coliseum and build a new park there, but then you have the issue of where the team would play during reconstruction as well as getting the Raiders to go along with the plan. The AFC West team (and their loony fans) seem OK with staying put.
2. The Trop (aka Tropicana Field)
Completed in 1990 with the goal of attracting an MLB team, the park had to wait five years before moving the Rays into this throwback stadium. The Trop is classified by some as a “time warp” with a massive interior resembling many of the (torn down) parks of the ‘70s, such as Riverfront Stadium and Veterans Stadium. The biggest difference: The home of the Rays is indoors (much like the Astrodome) with the majors’ only non-retractable roof-based playing fields.
As a place to watch a game, the reviews are decent to favorable. Despite the cavernous nature of the facility, fans cite good concessions (plus you can bring in your own food) and solid sight lines from nearly every seat. Because the park keeps the Florida elements at bay, those who attend get a break from the blistering summer humidity.
The bad news is that the park is poorly located, and the team is stuck in an iron-clad lease agreement with the city of St. Petersburg. Despite threats from the team owner that the team will relocate without the ability to move to a new stadium, the city is steadfast in its position.
The current location of the Rays’ home is within the proximity of only about 25% of the area’s population, and attendance has dropped to all-time lows as of late. For 2015, the Rays finished dead last with 1.24 million in total attendance, which is about 45% of capacity. With a metro area of close to 3 million, such numbers are shameful. This is the sort of situation where other owners need to step in for the good of the game and force St. Pete’s hand. Dump the Trop and move to better pastures.
3. Wrigley Field
Having to choose between Wrigley Field and Fenway Park as old ballparks that purists hold onto like security blankets, the home of the long-suffering Cubs and their fans is the one that needs to fall like a house of cards — and be rebuilt. Same location, better park. Instead of biting the bullet and tearing the place down, team owners and the city are involved in a peculiar gentrification process called “Restore Wrigley.” The term “putting lipstick on a pig” comes to mind.
Take a tip from the San Francisco Giants; a park in the city can be wonderful, accessible, and a delight for the fans without hurting the city’s charms. Until you have waited in a line for the men’s room at Wrigley, you cannot fathom the horrors of experiencing a game on Chicago’s North Side (especially after a few beers).
Tear the place down, play a season on the South Side at U.S. Cellular Field — another place that could make this list — and let the folks at Populous (the former HOK Sports) design a place worthy of the Cubbies.
Fun fact: Wrigley Field comes with no money for naming rights. Some speculate that the team leaves $15 million-$20 million on the table for those rights. It’s a sad state of affairs when your spring training home is more modern that your regular season home. In the case of the Cubs, it’s not even close — Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona is a gem.