Grand Slam Ballparks
Sunday, May 25, 2003
Cincinnati, Louisville and Lexington -- three of the latest entries in America's new golden era of baseball parks -- are ideally clustered for a three-bagger weekend. Our family did just that last month, driving to Cincinnati for a Saturday-afternoon Reds game, then heading 90 minutes southwest to Louisville the next morning to see the Louisville Bats, and finally going an hour east to Lexington, Ky., for a Monday-night game of the Lexington Legends. The eight-hour drive back to D.C. sped by as we thanked the baseball gods for grouping such fine ballparks into a triple play.
Cincinnati: Great American Ball Park
Any ballpark in Cincinnati has to deal with the big shadow of Crosley, a 1912 park (then called Redland Field) that was squeezed into the angled streets of the city's industrial West End. It hosted the major league's first night game in 1935, two All-Star games and four World Series.
Fans are hoping the new $330 million ballpark will build on that storied history. By August, the Reds' Hall of Fame and a team merchandise shop will be under construction. The Reds have even promised their fans a Rose Garden on the spot where Pete Rose's 4,192nd hit landed on Sept. 11, 1985.
The best feature of the new ballpark is Crosley Terrace, a nostalgic tribute at the main entrance with statues of such Crosley stars as 1950s slugger Ted Kluszewski. Handsome red banners recall Crosley's most historic moments. "Spirit of Baseball," a 50-foot-tall art deco limestone relief of a young fan and three ballplayers, greets fans as they enter the venue. Inside, marble mosaics portray the original nine Cincinnati Red Stockings and the 1975 World Champion Big Red Machine.
Beyond the right centerfield wall, 64-foot-high riverboat-inspired power stacks light up the sky to celebrate home runs, great plays and victories by the Reds. And red is the color throughout, with bright red seats contrasted against the white structural steel.
Great American Ball Park doesn't compete with Camden Yards or San Francisco's Pacific Bell Park, but it's a step forward, with its fine art and real grass.
Also on the square is the Netherland Hilton (35 W. Fifth St., 800-HILTONS , www.hilton.com; doubles from $107), an art deco beauty that's on the National Register of Historic Places. Try the breakfast specialty -- pecan French toast with blueberries -- in the Palm Court Restaurant.
Carew Tower (441 Vine St.; $2), the city's original skyscraper, has an observation tower (not handicapped accessible) on the 49th floor. The building is now a downtown shopping mall.