“Baseball stadiums are epicenters of community pride,” says Wayne McDonnell, clinical associate professor of sports management at New York University. “It’s an extension of who they [the communities] are; each park has something that the others don’t.” Take Miami’s Marlins Park. The swanky stadium, completed in 2012, features a South Beach-worthy pool, two 450-gallon aquariums, a retractable roof, and guacamole-jalapeno-topped Tater Tots. Just a few years old, the park already reflects its flamboyant hometown.
The best ballparks play to their particular strengths, whether it’s an easily accessible location with skyline views, exhibitions honoring bygone greats, or craft beers served by fire pits overlooking left field. Classics such as Fenway Park and Wrigley Field—each over 100 years old—still use hand-operated scoreboards and keep baseball’s history alive, while others have introduced decidedly modern features like the synchronized music and light show that follows every home run at Detroit’s Comerica Park.
The fusion of sports with entertainment has grown tremendously over the last decade, and as a result, you no longer need to bleed your team’s colors to embrace the ballpark experience. With over 70 million people pouring into parks each season, many stadiums are rivaling amusement parks. “When you walk through the turnstiles, you’re getting one-stop shopping for the entire family,” says McDonnell.
Kids can play mini-golf or ride a carousel at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, for instance, while parents can enjoy one (or several) of the 75 available craft beers. At San Francisco’s waterfront AT&T Park, children can tackle the Coca-Cola Superslide, 465 feet from home plate, as adults sip wines sourced from nearby Napa Valley and paired with Dungeness crab sandwiches.
The fun may not always be old-fashioned these days, but it’s still part of the all-American tradition of a day out at the ball game. As Walt Whitman put it: “Baseball has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere. It is the place where memory gathers.” So take yourself out to one of the best baseball stadiums and start building those memories.