The Daily Helmet: An Ode To The Cookie-Cutter Stadiums
As pro football’s popularity grew in the late 50s, so did the crowds in attendance. Up until this time many of the NFL team’s played their games in stadiums primarily built for baseball. this made for awkward configurations and sightlines for football, as well as a lot of dirt. Once most of those original ballparks started to age beyond their usefulness, new stadiums were planned and in an effort to save money the multi-purpose stadium was created. The multi-purpose stadium could host both football and baseball with movable stands that would allow the staff to to easily switch from one sport’s configuration to the other in a short amount of time. This of course, also led to the popularity of the original Astroturf which was much more forgiving to the multiple changes to the playing fields.
The new stadiums popping up in the early sixties were built with both sports in mind. Places like Shea Stadium in New York, RFK in Washington DC and the Astrodome all could accommodate both sports with mixed results. The multi-use stadiums that stick out the most in my mind from growing up watching football were the “cookie-cutter” or concrete donut stadiums that were in multiple cities and looked almost exactly the same.
The first thing that always stuck out to me about the cookie-cutter stadiums was the size of the fields. On TV, they looked massive. So massive, that they could and would fit multiple full sized gigantic 1970s vehicles on the field. This sounds dangerous, but there was so much space between the boundaries of the field and the cars, that no one was in any immediate danger. They also looked exactly the same. As a kid it was hard to keep track of Riverfront and Three Rivers Stadium. I mean they looked alike and both had river in their names.
Other stadiums that were of similar design were Jack Murphy, Fulton County Stadium, Busch Stadium II, Veterans Stadium, and the KingDome, which was basically a cookie-cutter with a roof. The only one still in use today from this era is the Oakland Coliseum which still hosts the A’s and Raiders, for at least one more year anyway. Once the Raiders finally move to Vegas, it will end the era of playing football on a baseball infield, which used to be so much more common.
The multi-purpose stadium quickly fell out of favor as teams like the Orioles and Camden Yards switched to retro-style baseball only stadiums. As the baseball teams all slowly moved to their new homes, the football teams were left in a stadium that was basically obsolete and slowly the Falcons (twice), Steelers, Seahawks, Eagles and Bengals would get new Football only stadiums.
While these stadiums were horrible, especially in comparison with the multi-billion dollar palaces that are being built today for teams, they still bring back great memories of watching football back in the 70s and 80s. I was only around for the 80s period, but I can remember many a game played in the giant stadiums on green concrete known as astroturf, that looked as bad as it probably felt to get tackled on it. In the end they are just another thing that no longer exists, for better or for worse.
Let us take a moment of quiet reflection as we watch our beloved cookie-cutters crumble to the ground.