Tom Lohr has eaten a hot dog at all 30 MLB ballparks and is the author of "Gone to the Dogs: In Search of the Best Ballpark Hot Dog."
A Sad Death
Every ballpark must eventually be replaced. Even Wrigley and Fenway will eventually see their demise, it's only a matter of time (and money). After the wild success of Baltimore's Camden Yards when it opened, it seemed nearly every team wanted new digs. And with the exception of a few ball clubs, most got a new facility. Even teams with relatively new stadiums wanted an even newer one (I'm looking at you Rangers and Braves).
To get a new ballpark, something has to happen to the old one. Most were built on expensive real estate, and having an empty behemoth of an abandoned structure sucking up all of that commercial real estate revenue is not pleasing to the money gods. Therefore, after a new ballpark opened, the previous one was destroyed.
The destruction of a ballpark is a lengthy matter. There are thousands of tons of concrete to raze and dispose of, seats, scoreboards, and a slew of other soon to be garbage to get rid of. Many former baseball fields were knocked down the traditional way by using cranes and wrecking balls, but when a city wanted to get rid of an old structure quickly, they resorted to a more modern and efficient way of bringing down the house: implosion demolition.
Nothing is more exciting than seeing a few tons of dynamite go off, but it is doubly exciting when it involves seeing a huge structure implode. It is both terrifying and amazing, and it attracts thousands to witness the violent demise of a historical baseball stomping grounds.
You too can witness many of the recent implosions of ballparks. Thanks to living in the age of video and the magic of YouTube, you can relive the final moments of some of the most famous baseball venues in the history of the game. Here are six you can watch over and over while sharing in the excitement and sadness.
Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Home of the mighty Pittsburgh Lumber Company team that dominated much of the 1970s, Three Rivers Stadium also sat near the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers that make the Ohio River. Unfortunately, you could not see any of the rivers from the ballpark as you can in the current home of the Pirates, PNC Park.
PNC Park was built next to the site of Three Rivers Stadium, and the ground that the former ballpark sat on was needed for the new home for football's Pittsburgh Steelers. It would be dangerous for anyone to mess with the status of a new Steelers' facility, they take football waaaaay too seriously in Pittsburgh. The city needed to clear the old concrete ashtray that was Three Rivers Stadium out quickly. In 2001, after the opening of the highly rated PNC Park, Pittsburgh said goodbye to the old girl with a spectacular implosion.
Implosion of Three Rivers Stadium
Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Much like Three Rivers Stadium, Riverfront was one of the old, ugly multi-purpose stadiums that, while practical, looked worse than a festering zit. It also sat on the Ohio River and was as despised as Three Rivers Stadium after Baltimore sent every team on a quest for a new ballpark. It was also home to a 1970s baseball powerhouse team dubbed “The Big Red Machine.” The likes of Rose and Bench spent the bulk of their careers in the confines of Riverfront Stadium. But even with their historical pull, no one could save the ballpark from impending doom.
On December 29, 2002, the citizens of Cincinnati were treated to a late Christmas present and early New Year's Eve fireworks show when Riverfront Stadium was imploded to make way for Great American Ballpark.
Implosion of Riverfront Stadium
Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Before the Braves slick new ballpark, it played at Turner Field. A mere 16 years prior to that, the Braves were hitting homers in Fulton County Stadium. This ballpark was famous for being the place where Hank Aaron hit the home run that broke Babe Ruth's career record for homers. In addition to Hammerin' Hank, it was also home to the great Chief Knockahoma. This chieftain would emerge from his teepee in the outfield stands area and do a victory dance every time the Braves knocked a homer.
Eventually, the sorry Braves became a powerhouse in the 1990s, and champions deserve new digs. A new stadium facility was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and after the international games, it was converted into Turner Field. Shortly after, in August, 1997, Fulton County Stadium was imploded.
Fulton County Stadium Implosion
Veteran's Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Veteran's Stadium had a rough life. Anyone or anything growing up in Philadelphia had a rough life, and Phillies fans were testament to that. Known for their rambunctiousness, the fans were the reason that Veteran's Stadium was the only ballpark in baseball to have it's own holding cell. That's something; not sure what, but something.
Despite the fans' best efforts, they could not destroy the concrete monolith of a ballpark, but modernization could. Philadelphia finally caved and planned a new ballpark that was filled with the latest amenities. As a result, the rough and tumble ballpark (and temporary jail) was imploded in March of 2004
Implosion of Veteran's Stadium
The Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota
There was nothing ordinary about the Metrodome, including its destruction. Undeniably one of the ugliest stadiums ever built, it didn't even have a proper dome. The weather in Minneapolis can be brutal, and an indoor ballpark was needed. Instead of building a stadium with a hard dome, the Metrodome featured a fabric dome held up by the pressurized air in the ballpark. This worked well, except when there was a lot of snow; and Minnesota gets a lot of snow. Numerous times throughout its life, heavy snowfall accumulated on the roof and caused it to deflate.
The destruction of the Metrodome was no less weird. Originally, it was to be torn apart piece by piece, like many other ballparks, after a controlled explosion would collapse the dome. The destruction of the dome went off without a hitch, but during the structural removal process, some of the pieces did not fall as planned and it began to become a safety issue. It was decided to reduce risk, what was left of the Metrodome was to be imploded, and on February 23, 2014, explosive charges brought down the rest of the structure.
Partial implosion of the Metrodome
Kingdome, Seattle, Washington
Want a new ballpark? Just have yours nearly kill some fans. That's what happened just before a Mariners' game in 1994. Some of the domes tiles fell onto fans seating area just before that gates opened. Had fans been in the seats, they would have undoubtedly been killed. This prompted both the Mariners and the NFL Seahawks (who shared the stadium with the Mariners) to seek out new facilities. If that wasn't bad enough, during the roof repairs, two construction workers were killed in a crane accident.
In March of 2000, the seemingly cursed Kingdome was imploded. As a shining example of how stadiums are funded and how expensive they are, the county-owned Kingdome was finally paid off 15 years after its destruction.
Implosion of the Kingdome
It is a sad day for baseball fans when the ballpark they spent so many days in and experienced so many memories are finally put out to pasture. And it never ends well for any of them; either by conventional means or implosion, they all get destroyed. Even the history laden Yankee Stadium, the house that Ruth built, eventually succumbed to time. The excitement of a new ballpark is of little comfort for those that spend a good part of their life watching their team play in the old stadium.
Someone once said, “when you go, go out in style.” If a ballpark has to be destroyed, give it one last opportunity to entertain its fans and send it out with a blast.