As Major League Baseball heads into an almost unavoidable lockout, fans will continue to discuss the game they love, hoping for a quick end to the stoppage. The trash talk will invariably continue on social media, with fans of all 30 teams sharing their wish lists for their respective teams. Even in the face of the impending lockout, the Hot Stove League is filled with rumors, as well as a few free-agent signings. This has become an annual ritual, one that true baseball fans cherish, lockout or no lockout.
While fans will be discussing players from now until Opening Day (whenever that might be), today seems like a good time to look at something besides what happens on the field. Taking a break from the 24/7 free agent and trade scuttlebutt, let’s take a few moments and head off the beaten trail. How about trying to assess and evaluate an MLB stadium? Specifically, how does Guaranteed Rate Field, on the South side of Chicago, stack up against other MLB stadiums?
Guaranteed Rate Field: From An Aesthetic Perspective
If one goes searching for the intrinsic beauty of the Rate, he or she will be disappointed. The ballpark will never be considered an architectural masterpiece, at least not in this millennium. It opened in 1991, with a style that can best be described as in between the stadiums built in the 1970s and those built in the early 1990s and later. While it is a contemporary of Camden Yards in Baltimore (opened in 1992), it has neither the character nor the charm that makes Camden Yards special. The Rate (New Comiskey at the time) much more closely resembled the stadiums in the round that were built in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh a couple of decades earlier.
However, the architect of the new ballpark also built the stadium rather high, with true nosebleed seats. Before the park was remodeled later, the Rate had some of the highest seats in all of MLB. The park had zero character and also faced the wrong direction. Instead of being able to look at the brilliant Chicago skyline at night, Sox fans were treated to a view of housing projects. One can only wonder what the architect was thinking, or if he was thinking at all. In any event, from an aesthetic standpoint, Guaranteed Rate Field has nothing on any other MLB ballparks.
Guaranteed Rate Field: What Do Others Have To say About It?
Let’s look at some objective, independent assessments of the MLB ballparks. A survey in USA Today placed the Rate in 19th place overall, although they observed that the ballpark featured “great sightlines and great food.” That sounds like fairly high praise for a middle-of-the-pack stadium. Of course, the same survey praised the overrated relic on the North Side, so their assessment can be taken with a grain of salt.
A second survey from NBC Sports Washington placed the Rate at 28th, just ahead of universally panned Tampa and Oakland. While the author notes the Sox renovations, they conclude that “there really is little that (sic) can be done with an eyesore like this.” These guys do not pull any punches.
Finally, Forbes did their own evaluations in 2018, and also placed the rate at 28th, ahead of the same two teams, Tampa and Oakland. They do offer an excellent summation of the architectural deficiencies of the ballpark. They point out that “despite being the original ballpark in the wave of new designs, never had any charm compared with OPACY (which came just after).” This may be the best description of how flawed the Rate is architectually. In any event, neutral assessments of the home of the White Sox are not favorable.
Guaranteed Rate Field: How About The Cost?
One final measure of a ballpark has to be the cost for a family to attend a ballgame. At the end of the day, this may be as important as any other measure. Along with accessibility, convenience, and parking availability, fans want to know just how much it costs to go to a game. This will be the final criterion we consider.
The most recent available data suggests that the Sox are again somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to the cost to see a game. According to Policygenius, the top ten most expensive ballparks include Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, and Oracle Park, among others. The bottom ten include Arizona, Tampa, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. The White Sox average cost is in the middle of the pack. The top ten are generally contenders, while the bottom ten, with the exception of the Rays and Padres, tend to be also-rans.
The White Sox rank favorably in this evaluation. While the exact cost was not available, the cost for a family to attend a game at the Rate was between $201.60 and $250.14 . Consider this fact: the woebegone Cubs are at a whopping $368.28, while the tanking Nationals came in at $266.06. Attending a Sox game is not cheap, but imagine paying much more to see the Cubs or Nationals lose another game. Based on the fact that the White Sox are an up-and-coming team, we believe that their average fan cost compares favorably with most contending teams. In other words, they represent a good value for the money.
And The Final Answer Is:
Comparing different MLB ballparks is a subjective exercise at best. If you ask ten fans to compare ballparks, they will come up with ten different criteria and ten different assessments. There are several methods of comparing ballparks, and no one method is better than the others. Fans have different priorities when looking at ballparks, and let’s not forget that there is often an inherent bias towards one’s home ballpark. It is virtually impossible to objectively compare 30 ballparks, although some have tried. So, the final answer is:
The architectural defects cannot be denied. On the other hand, one surveyor did note the excellent sightlines and food, which suggest a good game-day experience. When we combine that description with the fact that the costs are reasonable, it seems to an objective observer that a day at the Rate is a good day. Again, that is applying our own criteria, but, hey, it’s our assessment. We conclude that, based on the quality of the on-field product, costs, and game-day experience, Guarantee Rate Field belongs somewhere in the top third of MLB ballparks. If they ever figure out how people can hit the parking lots before the third inning, they could go even higher. We will see about that.
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