What the future of the American ballpark should look like

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The American stadium is in retreat.

Across sports, broad swaths of unoccupied seats have become a common sight. The reasons why can be debated — the cost of attendance is rising, fans are busier with other forms of entertainment, or many simply prefer watching from a bar or a couch than a stadium seat — but the sinking numbers at the gate can’t be denied. And teams seem to be out of ideas on how to make the stadium atmosphere more enticing.

When the Cleveland Indians opened Jacobs Field in 1994, it was packed to capacity on a daily basis, selling out 455 consecutive games from 1995 to 2001, even with an expansion to the stadium’s capacity in 1996 because of this overwhelming demand. By 2015, the club, despite a run that included multiple playoff appearances leading up to an American League pennant in 2016, removed thousands of oft-unsold seats for the installation of still-rarely-used “party decks.” This story isn’t unique to Cleveland. Multiple clubs have actively reduced seating, and where a capacity over 45,000 was once commonplace, new stadium proposals rarely top 30,000.

Nowhere is the gap between possibility and reality more clear than in baseball, the sport with the most room for innovation in design and capacity to fill, with 30 teams playing 81 home games a year. The sport’s non-standard field of play should mean more unique experiences for fans, yet few teams are daring enough to take advantage.


Watercolor illustration looking down on an empty baseball stadium The American stadium



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