To the Editors:
I’m sure the Reader has received plenty of suggested additions to the list of bad architecture compiled in Cate Plys’s “Building Boom” piece (August 5). I was disappointed to see that none of the architects that were surveyed wanted to blow up new Comiskey Park.
Most White Sox fans center their complaints about new Comiskey on the height of the ballpark’s upper deck, which is pushed skyward by three layers of club boxes and underused luxury suites, thus producing one of the worst vantage points in baseball from what is essentially a fifth deck.
However, new Comiskey Park’s problems go well beyond the distant reaches of its last row. There’s the four towering ramp structures that suffocate the stadium’s exterior, making it look more like a multilevel parking garage than a place where baseball is played. And the structure’s bland symmetrical layout is typical of the generic multiuse, AstroTurf stadiums built during the architectural abyss of the 1960s and ’70s. Not to mention the electric-blue seats, walls and roof, that are almost as ugly as the James R. Thompson Center’s nauseating color scheme.
But to me, an avid Sox fan, the worst feature of new Comiskey is its cocoonlike design, which shelters spectators from the urban landscape and contributes to the facility’s sterile, shopping mall feel.
Fans might find the altitude of the upper deck a little more tolerable if they could look out beyond the outfield seats and view one of the world’s most spectacular skylines in the background. Instead, new Comiskey Park symbolically turns its back to downtown Chicago.
White Sox management, in a bogus attempt to preserve the team’s historic association with the corner of 35th and Shields, had home plate and the entrance to the new park’s executive offices placed on that intersection. This meant new Comiskey’s 42,000 seats would face the CHA’s Stateway Gardens to the east and the low-rise Wentworth Homes to the south, which prompted the architects to design a visual barrier behind the outfield seats.
Thanks to their shortsightedness, spectators at new Comiskey Park face a pointless geometric configuration of steel beams and a collection of oversized advertising billboards, all designed to shield the beautiful people in the sky boxes from the not so pretty world of public housing.
By simply designing a stadium that faced north, the White Sox could have had a ballpark that was at least a little like Camden Yards in Baltimore, a brilliant new stadium that has what architects call “a sense of place.” Instead, generations of White Sox fans are stuck with a tax-supported civic embarrassment that is more appropriately designed for the parking lot of Gurnee Mills Shopping Center than the heart of a proud city.