The 2014 season marks the 10-year anniversary of the opening of Citizens Bank Park. Since 2004, the Philadelphia Phillies have been one of the MLB’s best and most relevant teams. Moving on from the doldrums of Veterans Stadium, the change in venue also marked a change in organizational timbre.
First thing’s first, Citizens Bank Park is a beautiful structure and a fantastic venue to play and watch a baseball game. Following the mold first set by Camden Yards, many cities around the majors decided to scrap their multi-purpose cookie cutter stadiums in lieu of a modern, city-specific home. Around the same time, new stadiums went up in Seattle, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Washington, Houston, Milwaukee and Queens, and each featured a local touch that was missing with its incumbent structure.
The Bank offers not only an excellent view of the downtown skyline, but also a wide array of local features that only Philadelphians can appreciate. Ashburn Alley highlights each All-Star the team has ever had on its team and has a long strip of fantastic eateries. One of those is famed Tony Luke’s, where you can get the best cheesesteak in the city, as well as Bull’s BBQ, the Phillies’ Wall of Fame and the exposed bullpens that are available for heckling – a feature unique to Philly and one fans take full advantage of.
The most underrated feature, however, according to fan and stadium aficionado Ben Youngerman, are the metal ledges that line the complex. “The metal ledges around the entire lower level are the most underrated and my favorite amenity in all of baseball. It allows you to hang out and watch batting practice before heading to your seats and makes having a standing room only ticket tolerable,” said Youngerman. “Plus, it keeps your pants nacho-cheese free.”
Citizens Bank Park has also seen its share of historic moments in its young 10-year history. For example, it was the stadium that saw Jim Thome hit his 400th career home run. The Phillies notoriously became the first professional sports franchise to reach 10,000 losses in a nationally televised game at CBP. Interestingly, the Bank was also the first National League stadium to use the designated hitter when the Toronto Blue Jays ‘hosted’ the Phillies during the G-20 Summit in 2010. The Bank hosted the 2012 NHL Winter Classic, which saw the Philadelphia Flyers lose to the rival New York Rangers. CBP was also famously home to the national game of the week when news broke that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, and footage of fans shouting “USA!” was repeatedly shown as a sign of national unity.
Most importantly, however, CBP was the site of many playoff games and of the 2008 World Series Champions. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, news of a new baseball stadium represented a shift in organization philosophy. Prior to the 2003 season, the last year at the Vet, the Phillies went on a shopping spree and signed Thome, David Bell and traded for Kevin Millwood. During courtship, which took place simultaneously with the construction of the new ballpark, Thome famously toured the new construction zone with a hardhat and met many of the workers who were giddy at the thought of him joining the team.
The signing of Thome and the opening of the stadium were instrumental in turning the Phillies from the punching bag of the NL East into perennial contenders. Philadelphia and Citizens Bank Park by extension became a destination spot for free agents and helped elevate the status of the Phillies organization to what it is today. Moderate success, which started in 2002 under manager Larry Bowa, swelled in the new park. It turned the Phillies into World Champions, the cream of the baseball crop in subsequent years, a legitimate power team on the field and in the hot stove, and turned Philadelphia into a baseball town.
New stadiums are supposed to invigorate a city, fire up its fanbase, and motivate the team to produce. Not only has it done that, but it has changed the course of baseball in Philadelphia. There’s no telling if the team would have been as successful if they had never built CBP and stayed at the Vet, but it is clear that The Bank was a catalyst for where they are now. The Phillies clearly hit a home run with this stadium.
Happy Birthday, CBP Bank.