Joe Michnuk and Tim Meloche stood behind the fence at Tiger Stadium Monday to bid a final goodbye to the field they loved and helped restore over the last six years. Michnuk, 57, and Meloche, 54, are members of the Navin Field Grounds Crew, a volunteer team that helped maintain the classic diamond since May of 2010, after the stadium’s 2009 demolition. The nostalgic stadium was home to Tiger greats such as Ty Cobb, Al Kaline and Lou Whitaker. A crew of around 30 volunteers led by Tom Derry refused to let the old Tiger Stadium site, which was filled with trash and weeds close to 6 feet tall, go to waste.
The City Council of Arlington, Texas, approved a plan last month to contribute half the $1 billion cost of a new, air-conditioned baseball stadium for the Texas Rangers. If all goes to plan, it will be the team’s third stadium since it relocated from Washington in the early 1970s. Taken together with other recent deals, it sure looks as though American cities are on the verge of another stadium building boom. The bad news for critics of publicly financed stadiums-and there are many of them-is that the outgoing cohort of Major League Baseball stadiums didn’t last very long. Of the 17 ballparks that opened between 1960 and 1982, only four are still in use. Among those that have already closed, the average lifespan was 31 years.
Yes, the Braves considered putting a retractable roof on their new stadium. “I think it was a relatively brief conversation,” Derek Schiller, the team’s president of business, recalled. After rejecting a roof for reasons of cost and baseball tradition, the Braves asked the architects of SunTrust Park for a design that “would have as many of our seats covered as possible, outside of having a roof,” Schiller said. One result of that directive is easily noticed at the stadium construction site in Cobb County these days: The steel framework for a wide canopy hangs above the upper deck, protruding as much as 60 feet over what eventually will be rows of seats. Whether protection from sun and rain will make many fans want to sit near the top of the ballpark remains to be seen. But the 108,000-square-foot canopy will provide the option, as well as an architectural element.
The final steel beam was lifted by crane Monday to the top of SunTrust Park as Braves executives, dignitaries and media members watched from what will become the playing field of the new Cobb County stadium. The 33-foot-long, 1,422-pound beam was bolted into position 155 feet above field level, completing a “topping-out” ceremony that Braves chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk called a “major milestone” in the building of the ballpark. In keeping with construction-industry tradition, the final beam had a flag and a tree attached to it — in this case, an American flag and an ash tree.
With a month to go before the first pitch, Fort Bragg’s Major League ballpark is nearing completion. In the last few weeks, crews have nearly finished bleachers that will hold most of the 12,500 fans set to attend the July 3 game between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. The warning track is all but done, and fencing around the field and dugouts is being installed. On Thursday, crews had begun working on the broadcast booth, where ESPN will nationally televise the game as part of its “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast. Next week, crews will install foul poles, backstop netting and begin work on the “tent city” that will form operational headquarters and clubhouses for the game.