Where the Stadium Once Stood

I guess the recent Ghost Signs got me thinking about the way things used to be in an earlier age. My memory circled back to a time when professional baseball didn’t exist in Washington, DC and we used to travel to Baltimore to see the Orioles play. This happened a lot when I was a kid, long before the Orioles occupied the beautiful, iconic Camden Yards that so many other ball clubs copied. The Orioles took the field on a much less beautiful and nowhere nearly as iconic Memorial Stadium before that. I even think we saw the Baltimore Colts play (American) football a couple times there too. The Colts left Baltimore in 1983 just to show how far back my mind wandered. What happened to Memorial Stadium after its replacement, I wondered.

Memorial Stadium; Baltimore, Maryland, USA

I drilled into a satellite image and discovered that the old stadium still existed. Well, not really. The city tore it down in 2001. However many fragments remained, spread throughout Baltimore. Its basic shape also remained. A new residential neighborhood occupied much of the land originally part of the Memorial Stadium property. It included a ring-road that approximated the circumference of the stadium itself. Inside that asphalt oval, an open field covered the spot where professional sports teams once played. It offered configurations for baseball, football and soccer.

That made me consider other stadiums wiped from the earth. In many cases new stadiums simply covered the exact footprint occupied by their predecessors. In other instances not a single sign remained at all. However, I enjoyed the ones like Baltimore the most, where people kept their memories alive. Those stadiums continued to exist in an odd ethereal way. The roar of the crowd now silenced, the crack of the bat or the kick of the ball no longer felt, but the stories remained in the landscape.

Some quick searching found several more examples.

Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium; Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Atlanta - Turner Field: Gold Parking Lot - Hank Aaron 715th Home Run Monument
Hank Aaron 715th Home Run Monument. Photo by Wally Gobetz on Flickr (cc)

Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium hosted both the Atlanta Braves of baseball and the Atlanta Falcons of (American) football at various times before a controlled implosion finally took it down in 1997. The brand-new Turner Field rose on an adjacent parcel, and the spot once occupied by Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium became part of its parking lots. The old footprint occupied a large section of the Green Lot (it looked awesome on satellite view). Even more of a bonus, the spot where Hank Aaron hit his historic 715th Home Run continued to be commemorated. Aaron accomplished that feat in 1974, surpassing the lifetime record of Babe Ruth, when Aaron hit a ball over an outfield fence and into the Braves’ bullpen. The memorial in the parking lot replicated the fence and the bullpen at the exact spot where it happened.

I realized that marker made little sense to much of 12MC’s international audience. Just understand that a really great sporting event happened there and its preservation was a nice touch.

Yankee Stadium; The Bronx, New York, USA

Once a ballpark, now just a park.
Once a ballpark, now just a park. Photo by Benjamin Kabak on Flickr (cc)

The New York Yankees baseball team played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx from 1923 until 2008 (map). The team left for a new Yankee Stadium on an adjacent lot. Then the city demolished the old stadium and created Heritage Field on the same footprint. As the New York Times described it,

… nearly every inch, from the pavement stones underfoot to the three natural grass ball fields, has been elaborately designed to pay homage to the Yankees and their celebrated former home. Even the sod is the same that the Yankees, professional baseball’s biggest spender, chose for their new stadium… Even the old diamond and outfield have been saved, delineated with five-foot-wide swaths of blue polymer fiber stitched into the sod by a Desso Grassmaster machine that had to be shipped over from the Netherlands.

Now amateur and high school baseball clubs from all over the city stand where some of the greatest professionals once played.

Milwaukee County Stadium; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Helfaer Field
Helfaer Field. Photo by Rough Tough, Real Stuff on Flickr (cc)

Combine the idea of a parking lot and a small ball field on an original footprint, and that became the fate of Milwaukee County Stadium. Miller Park replaced it in 2000 on an adjacent parcel. Although large surface parking lots grew completely around Miller Park, the former spot of Milwaukee County Stadium became a baseball field. It took the name Helfaer Field with room for 500 spectators in its bleacher seats. People can rent it for "softball, youth baseball, kickball, tailgates, meetings and much more." It looked pretty good on Satellite view sitting there, surrounded by parking lots.

Memorial Stadium; University of Minnesota, USA

McNamara Memorial on Wikimedia Commons (cc)

The Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota played (American) football at Memorial Stadium in Minneapolis from 1924 to 1981. The stadium became totally obliterated. An alumni center filled its former spot (map). However one vital feature remained, its entry arch, inside of the alumni center. People could still walk through the old entryway, although its passage no longer led to a gridiron. Instead it opened into a large room called the Heritage Gallery, "a multimedia museum … [that] honors the accomplishments of University of Minnesota alumni, faculty, students and staff."

Waverley Park; Mulgrave, Victoria, Australia

I found faded stadium footprints outside of the United States too. A prime example existed in Australia. Waverley Park in Mulgrave, Victoria once hosted up to seventy thousand Australian rules football fans. Concentric ring roads circled the demolished stadium, part of a masterplanned community, with a grassy centerpiece remaining at the spot of the original stadium now serving as a practice facility,

Today, as Hawthorn football players train on the oval, the sound of boots striking balls evokes memories of a sporting past. For some, the ‘Hawks’ are simply part of the scenery, for others they bring new meaning to ‘backyard footy’, with star players running junior clinics for tomorrow’s footy legends. Residents of Oval Front Homes have box seats, cheering on from their balconies during practice matches and training.

The original stadium no longer existed although a grandstand at one end still held room for a couple of thousand spectators.

Cathkin Park; Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Cathkin Park
Cathkin Park. Photo by Tom Brogan on Flickr (cc)

I found a particularly early example in Scotland, a football (soccer) stadium called Cathkin Park in Glasgow. Professional football there dated back to 1884 when the Queen’s Park club called it home. Third Lanark took over in 1903 and remained there for more than sixty years until the team folded.

Sadly there are no fond memories for Third Lanark fans of that era. They were shattered to witness the Cathkin gates being closed for the final time on 30th June 1967.

Much of the stadium was removed as it fell into disrepair (map). However, terraces ringing three sides of the stadium remained in place, as did the old field. The area became a public park and a home field to various amateur and student teams.

It Counts but It’s Pitiful

We’ve had a lively discussion in the comments to the "I’ve Barely Been There" article. I described the official 12MC Rules in the original article: if I touch the geographic area, no matter how briefly, I count it as having been visited. I defined "touch" as anything more than flying over it.

One doesn’t actually have to grab a handful of dirt. Automobiles, trains, horses, white water rafting or shoe leather would all be acceptable intermediaries. Helicopters, airplanes, hot air balloons, hang gliders or winged dragons would be excluded except for where they land. I’m conflicted with ocean-going vessels that bump into territorial waters although I’m inclined to consider those out of bounds too, except where they pull into port and one disembarks.

Those are my personal criteria. That’s the beauty of counting. Each participant defines his or her own rules. Here are some thoughts from a few readers:

  • Mike Lowe has flown through the Minneapolis airport four times. He figures it should count as a Minnesota visit after all those distinct layovers.
  • jlumsden has changed planes seven (soon to be nine) times in Texas. He counts Texas. He also wants to know if anyone participates in "mileage runs" to increase their frequent-flier perks.
  • Peter portrays airports as a "neutral ground" of a sort. They could be construed as conceptually removed from the physical geography underlying them.
  • Jean described an international flight that stopped in Toronto, Canada, briefly. The airport had a preclearance agreement with the United States. He passed through U.S. customs and immigration in Canada and continued forward on his journey to the U.S. as a domestic passenger. He states compellingly, "I was then legally in the United States and physically in Toronto, how would you count that? I personally consider I’ve never been to Canada."

Those are all valid points.

I noted that I have this issue personally with only two U.S. counties: Shelby Co., TN (Memphis airport) and Salt Lake Co., UT (Salt Lake City airport). Fortunately I’ve visited lots of other places within Tennessee and Utah so counting the overall state isn’t an issue. Shelby Co. and Salt Lake Co. might come into question, although I count them according to my rules.

My Pathetic Visit to Ireland

What should I make of my single pitiful trip to Ireland when I never left Shannon Airport? I have evidence that I was there based on this photograph from the early 1990’s. I could see the Irish countryside from a terminal window. I even collected a handful Irish coins (this was pre-Euro) since I had to exchange a few dollars to get a snack. Undeniably I’ve been to Ireland and I’ve marked it on my map.

However, when prompted, my response always includes a giant, flashing neon-red asterisk next to it. I may have visited Ireland in some exceedingly narrow technical sense but I’d never go so far as to say that I’ve experienced Ireland. That would be pathetic. I’ve experienced nothing more than a generic airport terminal fully removed from anything Irish except perhaps for a patch of the Emerald Isle that happened to sit beneath layers of concrete.

That, really, seems to be an underlying theme for all of our personal rules: where do we draw the line between technical exactness and more experiential considerations? Mine tend to fall closer to the technical side. Nonetheless I still want to go back to Ireland someday and do it justice. Right now it’s embarrassing, rules or no rules.

Rock Bands with Geographic Names

The idea started, as it often does, with a random search engine query recorded in my web logs. A member of the public, and it doesn’t matter who she was or where she lived, wanted to know something about an alternative rock band that she followed. The band was Bethany Curve and she was trying to find the actual Bethany Curve, not the band specifically but the geographic feature which lent its name to the band.

According to Wikipedia, members of the band "saw a local street sign reading ‘Bethany Curve’ and decided amongst themselves it would make be perfect name for their recently formed band" in 1994. That source and others note that the band came out of Santa Cruz, California so it doesn’t take a genius to drop the information into one of the map websites.

View Larger Map

Sure enough, there is a Bethany Curve in Santa Cruz. Google Street View doesn’t travel down it unfortunately, so we’ll have settle for peering down its length from a larger street. It looks like a completely nondescript suburban drive. Open the page in map view and one can observe that it’s composed of a single block straight section, a break, and then a two block curved section. The larger portion forms the western boundary of a really interesting section of streets aligned in concentric circles that kind-of reminded me of Corona’s Corona in miniature.

Holy Smokes! I just read the first comment on that Corona’s Corona page from reader "Jesse." and my response to him. The link he provided and my mapping of it go directly to the same neighborhood in Santa Cruz containing Bethany Curve! I swear I didn’t know that before I started typing this article. At the time I even mentioned Bethany Curve and I never even made the mental connection. Maybe it’s been lodged in my subconscious since September 2009? I also wonder if Jesse may have been a Bethany Curve fan and perhaps that’s how he discovered the circular geographic feature? Either that or this is one of the more bizarre coincidences of geo-oddities I’ve encountered.

This article took a completely unexpected, um… curve, but let’s see if we can get it back on track.

The bands as geography theme has been explored rather extensively, as I’ve discovered. This hasn’t been done by the geo-community but by the music community. Here are a couple of sites that you can enjoy on your own time for your amusement. Open them in another tab if you like and come back when you’re done.

As an aficionado of geo-oddities, I prefer bands that derive their inspiration from the most obscure locations. I’m not endorsing them musically — which is absolutely irrelevant for my purposes — so I’m simply referring to their geographic association. Some are named after cities (Chicago, Boston) or states (Alabama, Kansas) or even huge multinational swaths of land (Asia, Europe, America, Arctic Monkeys). I see no challenge trying to find a map of Alabama as an example, so I’ll put them in the discard pile with no disrespect intended to either the fans or the residents.

How about something a bit more out-of-the-ordinary like Linkin Park? The name hearkens to a geographic feature known originally as Lincoln Park which is now Christine Emerson Reed Park in Santa Monica, California.

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Holy Smokes #2. Again, I didn’t know this until just this moment, but I’ve been there! My wife had a business trip to Santa Monica several years ago and I took a week off from work to join her. My son, who was a toddler at the time, and I had a great few days touring around the Los Angeles area together. I took my baby to the playground at Linkin Park! I just informed him of his extremely tenuous brush with fame and he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about, as he stuck his face back within his Nintendo DS.

Let’s try one more. The band Marcy Playground was named after the grounds of the Marcy Open School in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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I have absolutely no connection with this location. Thankfully the weird coincidences end here.

If you have any favorite musical groups that are named after geographic locations, please reply in the comments below with a map link. Your challenge is to try to toe the fine line between a band so obscure that nobody has ever heard of it and a band so renowned that the geography becomes irrelevant.