#Shortstops: Janet Marie Smith’s ballpark designs have changed the landscape of the game

Written by: Anna Wade

Baseball stadiums are iconic for the fans who call them home.

The employees who work in the baseball front office are focused on the fan experience, laboring to ensure that the experience of those attending a baseball game is the best it can be for each fan.

But before the front office can provide an experience, there needs to be a hallowed ground for those fans to walk.

There are those whose job it is to make sure that the stadium itself captures the vision, essence, and personality of the team, the city, the players, and the fans who bring the game to life.

One woman working in baseball today, Janet Marie Smith, is known and respected for her skill at this job.

Smith, who holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Mississippi State University and a master’s in urban planning from the City College of New York, is currently the Senior Vice President of Planning and Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Smith has also held the positions of Vice President of Planning and Development for the Baltimore Orioles and the Atlanta Braves and the Senior Vice President of Planning and Development for the Boston Red Sox. Outside of baseball, Smith has worked on such landmarks as the Olympic Stadium and Phillips Arena (Atlanta), Pershing Square (Los Angeles) and Battery Park (New York City).

When working on a project, Smith is responsible for putting together a team of professionals to design a facility that takes into account such factors as comfort, style, and the building’s overall design and construction. Under her direction, concepts are designed, implemented, and built that allow for seamless integration between the facility and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (right) conducts his annual walkthrough of Fenway Park to see the "Year VIII Improvements" with CEO Larry Lucchino (center) and Janet Marie Smith (left). (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox)

A perfect example of how Smith weds the stadium to its surroundings is the complementary relationship between the city of Baltimore and Camden Yards that helped bring about a renaissance of the city’s warehouse district.

“The collection of attractions that were being added to Baltimore at the time was really what drove the design,” Smith said. “It is only 20 years later, in hindsight that you can say it really began a new era of thinking in ballparks. It certainly wasn’t our goal, expectation, nor would we have been presumptuous enough to say, ‘We’re going to change the trend.’ We just said, ‘We want to do the right thing for Baltimore.’"

Anna Wade is the former director of museum education for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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