U.S. Cellular Field isn't really a bad ballpark, it is just underwhelming, and the biggest things that stand out about it are bad location and timing. The ballpark was built the year prior to the Camden Yards
renaissance that transformed the modern ballpark. As such, U.S. Cellular Field
was the last baseball stadium to be built without the throwback frills and unique amenities that Baltimore first wowed the public with in 1992.
New stadiums in Baltimore, Cleveland
, and on and on, are clearly better than their predecessors. Although I never saw a game at the old Comiskey, I doubt the new version is better, which is the point of a new ballpark to begin with.
The new stadium, originally named Comiskey Park, did retain a version of the famous exploding scoreboard and features an old-time facade with arches in the upper deck (a nice touch). But the ballpark has undergone numerous "fan friendly" renovations costing millions of dollars since opening in 1991, making it a continual work in progress.
After the 2003 season, eight rows of the upper deck were eliminated (along with 6,600 seats) to give the ballpark a more intimate feel. I had heard how high and far away the upper deck was, but in my visit to U.S. Cellular I didn't feel further away in the upper deck there than most any other Major League ballpark. Of course, the renovations probably had a lot to do with that.
One thing to remember when buying a ticket for the upper deck is that those tickets provide access to the upper level only. There is no way to get down to the lower level without a lower level ticket. This change went into place after a few White Sox fans went on the field and attacked a player and coach, in separate instances.
The way U.S. Cellular is laid out, most fans enter through back and forth walkways attached to the sides of the ballpark. The main entrance is behind third base, where the walkway and ballpark are across the street from each other. They are attached by a covered bridge with connections to the three levels of seating: lower, club, and upper. The only way to get from the walkway to the lower or club levels is to show security your ticket.
The White Sox are one of a handful of teams that have flexible ticket pricing, meaning that some games cost more than others. In the ChiSox's case, all weekend games are $4 more than weekday games.
As part of the continuing renovations, the White Sox recently added a fan pavilion in center field. It's a first come, first serve deck above the batter's eye backdrop with three layers of metal seating (think restaurant countertops). The pavilion was the only part of the ballpark that was windy, but it gives fans a heads on look at the press box located behind home plate, where the "Welcome To U.S. Cellular Field, Home of the Chicago White Sox" is laid out on the facade exactly like Turner Field in Atlanta.
The only other distinct area of the ballpark is the large concourse that wraps the outfield seating from foul pole to foul pole. You can get a pretty good view of the action from the open and airy walkway, but there are a lot of smokers that hang out there. In fact, of all the ballparks that I've been to, U.S. Cellular is the first I've noticed the presence of cigarette smoke.
Another change that showed a sign of the times, but wasn't cosmetic, occurred in 2003 when U.S. Cellular purchased ballpark naming rights. After 12 years as being known as the new Comiskey Park, the name Comiskey was no more.
The "old" Comiskey (1910-1990) was located directly across the street at the corner of 35th Street and Shields Avenue. I still don't know why they chose to build a new ballpark where they did, as there is absolutely nothing around U.S. Cellular other than a few low-income high rise apartment buildings. There are no bars or restaurants and the South Side continues to maintain its reputation as a place you don't want to be after dark.
Chicago is such a great city to be in during the summer that it is no wonder the team struggles to draw fans to the city's outskirts to see the perennially hapless White Sox. Although the city skyline is behind U.S. Cellular Field, it is not visible from any seat within the stadium. Even if you could see beyond the outfield's advertisements there wouldn't be anything to take notice of, as the ballpark is literally five subway stops away from anything of note.
The one thing that hasn't changed over the years is the best way to get to a White Sox game. Just take the CTA subway's red line to Sox/35th. It gets backed up a bit after the game, but like New York and Boston, the subway is the best way to get to the ballpark and the one "throwback" to another era that the White Sox have.
While I didn't think U.S. Cellular Field was a bad place to watch a ball game, the choice of bad location and drab atmosphere guarantees that the White Sox will always remain a second class citizen in Chicago to the Cubs and their beloved Wrigley Field.