Urban Decay

A Photo Essay

With the limitations caused by Coronavirus work from home changes and social distancing mandates, it’s more important than ever to focus on your mental health. For me, that means going on a daily bike ride to keep my body and mind sharp. To stave off boredom, I decided to explore every side trail I came across, which resulted in my “discovery” of this Urban Decay in the Chicago suburbs. Fields that were once full of laughing children and stiff inter-office competition are now left to slowly rot.

If These Fields Could Talk

If only these urban decayed sports fields could talk, they’d no doubt have a story to share. Located behind a large, now mostly defunct corporate park spanning tens of acres, I like to think these fields were once home to the annual company-wide picnic. Think back to the golden days of American business, when the bottom line was not the most important metric, when employees were seen as people rather than numbers. Back when the company was your second family. 

One can easily imagine hundreds of employees, with their spouses and children in tow, arriving at these fields with arms full of the day’s potluck meal and coolers filled to the brim with soda, lemonade and beer. Softball, soccer and baseball teams would form their everyday work groups, perhaps with custom-made uniforms, and compete for that year’s company picnic title, winning possession of a trophy and bragging rights until next year. Families would line up folding chairs to support the team, their plates piled high with fried chicken, potato salad and fresh sweet corn. 

Via Top Shelf, colorized by DeepAI, made 3D by LucidPix

In between overly competitive baseball and soccer games, family members would wander the fields, partaking in traditional picnic games like tug of war, potato sack races, egg tosses, and games of horseshoes to their heart’s content. Clowns, magicians and face painters would patrol the site, putting on quick magic shows, bending balloons, and painting intricate face masks to make a child’s day. 

Colorized 1960s egg toss photo
Via Top Shelf and colorized by DeepAI

The corporate picnic is a great piece of American history that, for the most part, has become a thing of the past. In this instance, the company that would have hosted this picnic has fallen on hard times, being unable to keep pace with an ever-changing business landscape, leading to the odd mix of urban decay and maintenance of their picnic fields.

Urban Decay: A Mixture of Maintenance and Abandonment

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this example of Urban Decay is the mowed grass. This giant corporate park is still maintained by the grounds crew, despite clear evidence it has not being used for sports or gatherings for some time. It’s a weird experience seeing a bench dugout that has not been sat on for years, with the surrounding grass fully trimmed and ready for play. If only there were some abandoned buildings, to round out the experience.

Tell-Tale Signs of Decay

There’s no hole by the pitcher’s rubber, dug deep by nervous pitchers kicking the ground. No worn patch of grass where the center field would pace back and forth, awaiting his chance to rob a home run. No litter of shelled peanuts and sunflower seeds piled high below the bench in the dugout. All that has been replace with a giant manicured lawn. 

Can you imagine mowing this field?

While exploring the fields, I stumbled across an old baseball that has fallen victim to these hungry lawnmowers. This felt like a perfect example of what the field is experiencing; slow decaying abandonment paired ironically with freshly cut grass.

As you can see from this Google Maps photo, not only do the bases remain where they belong on the baseball field, but you can still make out the dirt infield if you look closely. It’s almost as if the field’s soul is still there, even while its physical form is decaying into nothingness. This once proud field is now relegated to patiently waiting for the next game to be played. 

In stark contrast to the worn-smooth benches at active baseball fields, the benches here no longer serve to give tired ball players a rest. Instead, the benches are roughly painted a bright shade of yellow due to the presence of some sort of lichen or moss, and each support has heaved in the seasonal freeze/thaw, making the benches rise and fall, twist and turn.

Adding Life to an Abandoned Field

Using LucidPix, we are able to bring these photos to life, adding the missing third dimension and allowing the user to interact and “look around” a specific point in time. 

Along with the benches in the dugout and bases, the field’s backstop is still intact and prepared for play, and the drinking fountain stands at attention, ready to quench a tired player’s thirst. 

Imagine the intense games of volleyball that were once played here, while the kids played the day away on the jungle gym.

Urban Decay at the Park

Moms used to sit here in the shade while their children tried their skills on the rings. How many times do you think kids were scolded for hanging upside down from the rings?

These shade trees provide shade no more

Even the trees seem to understand that the company picnic is a thing of the past. Their once-cooling shade is slowly disappearing as the trees succumb to age and disease. Even the benches placed under these shade trees are showing signs of urban decay. 

In addition to baseball and volleyball, these fields were once home to soccer matches as well. Nowadays, no more balls are being chased and the goals only serve as crumbling reminders of what once was. 

Fallen soccer goal in disrepair, a victim of urban decay

There was more to these picnics than just baseball, soccer, volleyball and food. It looks like there was an archery range at the far end of the field, as evidenced by the urban decay remnants of targets. 

I can easily imagine Patricia in her romper trying for a bullseye while hotly competing against fellow employees for the title of Top Archer at work. 

Living with Urban Decay

Nowadays, this corporate playground has switched from counting outs and goals to counting instances of vandalism. Instead of broken bats, this urban decayed land deals in dumped tube TVs, cut fences, and holes in the field created by burrowing animals. 

Time has not treated this park well

If you come across an abandoned property, do us all a favor and take only photos, leave only footprints. Plenty of companies will happily take your electronics recycling, and cutting fences to access fishing spots is not only illegal, it could result is injury to you or someone else.

A great example of urban decay

Make Your Own 3D Photos with LucidPix

If you’ve enjoyed these 3D photos, we made them with an app called LucidPix. It can convert your regular photos into interactive 3D photos with a single tap. Why not give it a try for yourself? Here’s a quick start guide to get you making your own 3D photos in no time.