Downtown Illinois

Ahead of Being Behind the Times

by Michael R. Allen

Travelers taking Amtrak between St. Louis and Chicago pass two baseball stadiums. Both are of the souless “retro” style, with masonry panels and oversized steel entrance arches attempting to convey a supposedly old-time feel. One is in downtown St. Louis and serves as home field for the major-league Cardinals. The other one is in Joliet, Illinois and serves as home field for the minor-league Jackhammers.

The difference? The stadium in Joliet opened in 2002, while the St. Louis stadium is still under construction.

With the retro style, does that make the Joliet stadium more authentic because it is older? Or less, because it came earlier and is thus a less refined version of the product?

The rules of retro architectural style are determined by pastiche (more like parody), so perhaps Busch Stadium’s large and undistinguished bulk is more in keeping with the rather utilitarian stadiums of yore. (At least Joliet’s stadium has its main entrance at a chamfered corner, which adds visual interest.) Yet the references are so strained in each stadium that they come across more as tribute to the commercial architecture of the 1980’s than the baseball stadiums of the early 20th century.