2017 – The Ballpark Year in Pictures

Big Stories of 2017: a ballpark that had never seen its tenant win a World Series can now hang a banner; the oft-delayed, way-over-budget ballpark for downtown Hartford opened to rave reviews; the home of the Little League World Series welcomed big leaguers for the first time; and the Braves not only opened a ballpark, they created a community to surround it.

Text and photos by Joe Mock, BaseballParks.com
All rights reserved

It was a fascinating year in the world of ballparks. Join us as we take a look back at the stories that made news in 2017. If you’d like to peruse our pictorial essays from past years, there are links to them here. As always, to stay on top of the biggest ballpark news of the day, follow us on Twitter.

Dunkin’ Donuts Park was supposed to open in downtown Hartford in April of 2016. A series of construction delays (followed by lawsuits) and runaway costs prevented that from happening. In fact, for several months, work stopped completely, and the 95%-complete stadium sat empty. With a change of construction companies and the City of Hartford’s steadfast commitment to the project, the park was completed in time for Opening Day 2017. BaseballParks.com was there to cover it — and were we ever impressed! That’s why it was named our 2017 Ballpark of the Year.

The same weekend that Hartford was rejoicing over its new park, Atlanta was opening the doors of its new showplace. SunTrust Park is a beauty, and it raises the bar on what “state of the art” means in big-league baseball. Not only that, the community of restaurants, hotels, apartments and shops surrounding the facility started opening at the same time as the park. Remarkably, the Braves not only drove the planning of SunTrust, they headed the development of the mixed-use space. Very impressive! (Check out our review.)

It had been awhile since the sport had welcomed a new spring-training complex onto the scene. When March arrived in Florida, though, a spectacular new facility had arisen in Palm Beach County. The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is the new top-of-the-line spring home of the Astros and Nationals — both of whom found the training facilities highly effective, since both raced out to insurmountable leads in their respective divisions.

Nowhere close to being top-of-the-line is Lake Olmstead Stadium in Augusta, GA. For 23 summers, it’s been the modest home of the GreenJackets of the South Atlantic League. It’s now seen the last of pro baseball, as the franchise is moving into a sparkling new park across the Savannah River in North Augusta, SC. BaseballParks.com will be there when its doors open in April.

Many have forgotten that a World Series champion was crowned in Houston’s Minute Maid Park. On October 26, 2005 the White Sox completed a four-game sweep of the Astros in the home team’s first Fall Classic. Fast forward a dozen years, and Texas’ largest city once again had a World Series team. After years of 100-loss seasons and lagging attendance, the retractable-roof facility was again hopping. Although the Astros won Game 7 in LA, Minute Maid will soon have a banner to hoist.

By far, the worst MLB parks belong to the A’s and Rays. 2017 saw optimism skyrocket for both, as locations for new stadiums were pinned down … or were they? The A’s announced they wanted the site of community-college offices (see photo), and hired architects to start the planning. Oops! The college’s board subsequently voted that idea down. In the Rays’ case, a spot near downtown Tampa looked perfect … until the local governments announced the team would have to chip in far more than they wanted to. Might it be back to square one for both teams?

One team that isn’t facing that kind of uncertainty is the Rangers. Thanks to a victory at the polls, the City of Arlington and the team are partnering on a new retractable-roof stadium, scheduled to open in 2020. Construction of the facility started this year, as did work on the Texas Live! entertainment district, located directly between the current ballpark, the new park and the Cowboys’ football stadium (seen in the background in the photo).

Another city building a new ballpark is Amarillo, TX (see photo). In a fascinating game of dominoes, the Texas League’s San Antonio Missions will move here in 2019, while the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox are supposed to move to the Alamo City. Meanwhile, the Pioneer League team in Helena, MO will fill the vacancy left by the Sky Sox. Great plan … except that the City of San Antonio has very little interest in building the new park the Sky Sox covet. Might San Antonio get left out in the cold and the Triple-A team move elsewhere?

There were also some unusual franchise shifts prior to the 2017 season. Two teams from the California League were “contracted” while two were added to the Carolina League. One team moved into a park previously used in this league in Kinston, NC. The other, now called the Buies Creek Astros, transferred into temporary quarters at Campbell University’s Jim Perry Stadium (see photo). They are waiting for a new park to be completed in 2019 in nearby Fayetteville.

Just as The Fort Bragg Game in 2016 resulted in a joyous event that transcended the sport, so too did the MLB Little League Classic on August 20, 2017. In this event, the big-league game between the Pirates and Cards originally scheduled for Pittsburgh was moved to Historic Bowman Field, where they’ve been playing baseball since 1923. The tiny park is normally the home of the Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League, but for this game, the stands were full of players in the Little League World Series, which was taking place across the river in South Williamsport. During that afternoon, the Major Leaguers took time to become fans themselves as they watched the youngsters play. It was hard to tell which set of players was more excited to be there! Since I had the great fortune to cover this event for USA TODAY, I was able to provide our readers here at BaseballParks.com a behind-the-scenes look at that momentous day.

Visit our 2016 Ballpark Year In Review here.

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What do you think was the biggest ballpark story of 2017? Have any thoughts about the news items above? Post a comment below:

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