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[The Hall Monitor] Building Shorter Economic Lives In Our Favorite Pasttime

Todd Huttunen began appraising more than 20 years ago with a few years off in between to pursue a career in cabinet making. He relegated that to hobby status and is currently an appraiser in an assessor’s office. His best friend dubbed him The Hall Monitor because of his rigidity and respect for rules. He offers Soapbox readers tongue-in-groove insight on appraisal issues. This week, Todd laments the out of sight cost and construction timing of the place of our favorite pasttime. …Jonathan Miller


Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923, was constructed in less than a year at a cost of $2,500,000. Yankee Stadium II is expected to take almost three years to build at a cost of $800,000,000.

Even if $2,500,000 in 1923 was equivalent to $800,000,000 today (and that’s a really big if) there’s been no inflation in the number of days in a year so how come it will take three times as long, using modern equipment and technology, to build it now as it did to build it then?

What’s more interesting than the cost or construction time of stadiums, however, is the difference in the economic lifespan of the old ones as compared with the newer ones. Fourteen baseball stadiums were built between 1881 and 1932. The average age of a decommissioned stadium from this era was 68 years. Twenty three stadiums were built from 1954 to 1982 and seven of these are still in use (though four, including one built in 1982, are slated for demolition.) Of the sixteen that have been replaced, the average age was just 29 years. In mere survival terms, the “old timers” have a batting average of .142 as compared to just .130 for the younger ballparks.

Without question, improvements in medicine and science have been instrumental in helping people live longer lives. Unfortunately for the buildings we are constructing however, including baseball stadiums, that trend is moving in the opposite direction. When did this happen? At what point did the economic life of buildings begin to decline? The turning point with regard to quality of construction, for many buildings and houses, is World War Two. Anyone even remotely interested in real estate, especially in a city like New York, knows the difference between “pre-war” and “post-war” and the connotation of those phrases.

With regard to The Fields of Major League Baseball [1], the golden age for stadium construction was the decade between 1905 and 1915, which saw the construction of ten new ballparks. As recently as 1990, four of the ten were still hosting games.

The next boom in stadium construction wasn’t until the period of 1965 to 1975 (the nadir of American architecture, in my opinion) when twelve were built. The good news for anyone who cares about beauty, style, grace, or even just good functional utility is that nine of those twelve have already been demolished.

By far the greatest period of new stadium construction, however, is the one we’ve been in since 1992, led by Camden Yards in Baltimore. Seventeen have been built since, and six, including Yankee Stadium II, are in the works. In terms of their designs, most replicate the best features of the ones which were built 100 years ago. As the song goes, “Everything Old Is New Again” [2].

Here’s hoping this latest crop will still be around when our grandchildren are taking their children to their first baseball game.