Baseball Parks of Tomorrow

“Take me out to the ball game,
Find a place we can see!”

As a 40-years-ago past member of The World Future Society, I’m still getting over how far we all missed in our accurate predictions of the world-to-come in which we all now live. As I’ve written in these pages earlier, Alvin Toffler, the noted observer of human behavior as an always evolving critical mass, did a pretty good job of selling us on his theory of “future shock” that we were all on the downward cliff ride as a culture due to this major dynamic: Our everyday world was now changing faster than our ability to adapt to these new requirements for individual change on a daily basis. In brief, paraphrasing Toffler, we were all on the road to extinction as the pattern became the new normal problem of everyone who make up the majority-driven critical mass of our culture.

Didn’t happen. All the big social behavior minds back then missed on the coming, the power, and the everyday presence of the personal computer and the Internet in our daily, often 24/7, new normal lives. We became the masters of “multi-tasking” on levels of thinking and daily action that no one – and I mean no one – back in 1975 could have possibly begun to envision in theory – unless their names were Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or a select few others.

Because of the always advancing digital, silicon microchip innovation that is behind our high-tech tools, it just gets easier to use these little marvels – and harder to imagine – how we got anything done prior to the home availability of these new tools. – That’s simply a less scary way of saying: “The more we learn to depend upon the “computer”, the harder it becomes for us to be separated from it. But that’s OK, the creative minds behind these products already have taken that “user addiction” into consideration. Now many people carry all this technology with them on their smart phones. As long as they stay within the range of those microwave towers, they shall be able to avoid the chills and sweats of “product user withdrawal” – the symptom that usually manifests in different people as a quiet to loudly expressed question along the lines of  “No signal? What do we do now?”

I’m not that bad off. Yet. I don’t initiate texts, nor do I Tweet or actively Facebook on a regular basis. The Pecan Park Eagle is the place that holds my heart and daily high-tech enjoyment – along with my other articles and book projects – even if I’m simply writing to get it out of my system. The muses will not let me stop. For me, writing is the thing that removes me from all distraction of purpose. It is my most enjoyable portal into the “here and now” – even if my subject matter sometimes, to often times, seems light and trivial.

My energy tank doesn’t run on hubris, nor did it so much so even forty years ago, the year I completed my doctoral degree. Other than the usual human mistake of thinking that I had a pretty good idea in 1975 of how the rest of my life was going to go from there, I was just as swept up in surprise as almost everyone else by the high-tech revolution that began in the early 1980s. Bought my first home computer, an Apple IIe, with no hard drive and floppy disk access only in 1983. By the year 2000, my first year on the Internet, I had graduated to PC usage, but finally returned to Apple in 2009, the same year I started The Pecan Park Eagle.

As for the future, I have some hunches, but no conclusive predictions. Here are two – about the high tech impact on the future of movie and baseball venues:

Movie Venues

Technically speaking, movies already are better to watch at home. With the big HD screen brightness and clarity – and great quality sound, plus all the consumer control we have over pauses, playbacks, and closed captioning, to say nothing of the fact that we don’t have the dark house, bright phone screen distraction at home that exists in the movie houses, watching movies at home is far more preferable to people like me. – The old “big screen/little screen” little screen dichotomy that had been in place since the 1940s is now dead.

Home movies on satellite or over the computer are the future. Movie Metroplexes may either shrink or disappear as date night places to go as more movie houses combine food and drink in comfortable surroundings that more closely represent restaurants and clubs.

The best drama will continue to be written for the home consumption older crowd. The cartoon, action, and special effect movie themes will continue  to dominate the public screens that more and more continue to exist to serve the tastes of younger audiences.

Baseball Venues

The day is coming when MLB will get the full message of why those big venue screens are so important. It’s because that’s how fans watch sports today. With all the HD factors at work in sports, there are many parallels to the changes that are forthcoming in movie-watching. Sure, it’s great to be there for the live action, but you don’t have the multi-faceted view of the action that is available at home “for free”.  How much longer will people choose to put out all the big bucks to go to any game at any stadium for the old sacred value of “being there”.

Being there for what? You can’t see anything up close unless you are sitting with the club owner. And, even then, it’s the  same limited look at the live action from wherever you happen to be sitting. And forget stadium seating at Minute Maid Park. I had pretty good seats for a game last year – until this 6’6″ giant bald-headed guy arrived and sat down in front of me. I had to crane my neck to look around the back of his head to see home plate. I tried standing up on big plays, but he stood up too. I didn’t get see much of that game, but I could draw you a pretty good map, even today, of the vein and artery patterns that traversed the back of this giant’s dome. “Being there” technically didn’t do me any good. In fact, it was the last game I saw of the season in person on my own, except for one other that I attended as the a guest of a friend.

I watched all the other games at home on my beautiful big screen TV, the same one I use when I am multi-tasking on the computer that sits to the right of it. Right before the game, I don’t have to go outside and pay someone $20-$40 to let me park my car in my own driveway.  And once the game starts, I don’t have to worry about the big bald giant walking in to sit in front of me – nor do I have to leap to my feet in the hope of seeing all of a  big play. It’s all mine – with all of its many perspectives.

I don’t know about the other sports, but when enough baseball fans around the country begin to feel more like some of us already do, I think we will begin to see a real change in baseball venue architecture. Clubs will need to bite their greed for “cram-seat” structures that take away the beauty of live vision. Parks will have fewer seats, more spacious rows, and true stadium-seating placement – similar to the  best seating in modern movie theaters today. If a 6’6″ giant comes in and takes a seat in front of you, the remarkable story of his bald head will remain a secret when he sits down. His head will completely disappear from your line of vision.

In time, true stadium seating could cure the amount of standing that occurs just when a player hits the ball. Fans don’t always stand because of excitement. Most of the time, they stand because they think they are going to miss the play, if others before them decide to stand. As a result, only the really tall people get to see the action. That will change over time – once the threat of blocked sight-lines is removed over time by a conditioning to the new reality. – People will be able to save the standing for things that really do excite them – and still keep their sight-lines because of true stadium seating.  It may raise the ticket cost, but it will be worth it to those fans who still want to watch their baseball in person.

And, of course, the big screen availability to as many fans as possible is important. Those multiple perspectives on the same play are a big part of today’s game-watching enjoyment. By recreating the comforts of home at the ballpark, a club will be working to keep the fans from simply staying at home – where comfort seems to be “free”.

____________________

eagle-0range

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6 Responses to “Baseball Parks of Tomorrow”

  1. mikemccros@hotmail.com Says:

    Bill,

    Yes, nice, cushioned stadium seating in colors of red, orange, black, gold or purple would be great. Like say we had at the Astrodome. Did you say World Future, or Back to the Future Society?

    Another good point, which you hit on; but did not get to experience. Was the $ 50 to $80 parking for lots 6 to 8 blocks away for the Astro playoffs. With more parking lots going away with all the new buildings, fans are going to start staying away in droves unless management reaches some kind of understanding with the surrounding vendors. Definitely the first time I thought my
    $25.00 parking burden, was a comparatively good deal.

    Some of my seat partners had already decided not to attend some of the scheduled playoff games had we advanced, just because of the escalated parking fees. Literally as much or more
    than a game ticket, Ridiculous!

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      ” Did you say World Future, or Back to the Future Society?”

      A sharp observation, Mike. – I chose not to use “Back to the Future” because I’ve already hung that cultural bell-ringer on a new piece I’ve already submitted for future publication elsewhere on a slightly different subject. More on that later, but only after its publication next year.

      Regards, Bill

  2. Anthnony Cavender Says:

    Bill: It seems as if baseball is using airline seating specialists to design stadium seating. Also, the Astros ware using “dynamic pricing” on most home games–whatever that portends.

  3. gregclucas Says:

    Nothing changes until the fans actually start staying away. One interesting note is from Tampa Bay. Did you know that despite the attendance woes the club has has for years the TV ratings percentage for the team are in the top third in all of baseball in the neighborhood of triple or more the Astros numbers.

  4. shinerbock80 Says:

    Mike McCroskey is spot on with the parking gouging. Those surface lots around MMP will soon ALL be gone. Garages will take their place in a very few cases. The Astros are allegedly working on garages of their own, but that ends the quick getaway from downtown that made MMP so much more attractive to me than parking at the Dome was. In 1905 West End park’s biggest feature was the ease of public transportation. It’s what some of us experienced at Philly.

    As for Tampa Bay, the enormous problem there is that the area is geographically divided between two counties separated by a giant bay. The Pinellas County folks go the see baseball because it’s close, and the Hillsborough County folks have the football stadium. With traffic, it might add an hour to your game time commute to the other side of the bay. That is why so many people choose to watch the Rays on TV.

  5. Bruce Says:

    Bill, where are your tdecu seats? Bruce

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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