Randy Milligan concurred with the good feelings Oriole Park immediately exuded: “We went to [new Comiskey Park in] Chicago last year and it’s…just a stadium. It’s just like in the National League. They just have stadiums. This is a ballpark. It’s got the Mini Monster in right field. It’s got the tricky corners in the outfield. The Warehouse. Who can hit the Warehouse? Fans love that stuff.” Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson claimed Oriole Park ideally suited the character of Baltimore. “Any other kind of park wouldn’t have fit the personality of the city and the people,” he said. “It’s perfect.” (Tim Kurkjian, “A Splendid Nest,” Sports Illustrated (online archives), April 13, 1992.)
Oriole Park at Camden Yards was an instant hit with fans everywhere. Not surprisingly, attendance at Orioles’ home games rose dramatically. In the last ten years at Memorial Stadium, the Orioles drew an average of 25,722 fans per game. In the first ten years at Camden Yards, the team drew an average of 43,490 per game—a spectacular increase of almost 69 percent. The 50-millionth fan to walk through Oriole Park’s turnstiles did so in just its 17th season. By the end of the 2008 campaign, more fans had attended games at Camden Yards than had attended games at Memorial Stadium in the 38 years the Orioles played there. Simultaneously, the Baltimore waterfront enjoyed a renaissance as new enterprises sprung up in what had once been an economic wasteland.
Other cities soon smartly followed Baltimore’s lead and erected retro ballparks of their own. Cleveland’s Jacobs Field injected new life into an American League team that had largely been ignored for decades. After years of general malaise, the Indians too experienced record-smashing attendance. By 2010 Houston, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Diego, Detroit, Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati had happily followed suit with baseball-only ballparks that were classified as either “retro–classic” or “retro-modern.” Perhaps the most refreshing part of these new venues was the total rejection of artificial turf. By 2014 only Toronto and Tampa Bay had MLB stadiums with god-awful plastic fields—and only the Blue Jays and Oakland A’s shared their homes with pro football teams.
Even though the Orioles were struggling on the field at the time of his writing, ESPN’s Jeff Merron noted in his “report card” on Camden Yards, “Wiling away a Sunday afternoon in Oriole Park is itself worth the price of admission.” (Jeff Merron, “Camden Cooks Up Classic Feel and Food,” espn.com, June 23, 2006.) More than two decades after 1992’s grand opening, Merron’s statement still holds true.
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