Wednesday, June 19, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: LoanMart Field, Rancho Cucamonga, California

LoanMart Field is the home of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the single A minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.   Opened in 1993, it’s a suburban ballpark located on the southern edge of Rancho Cucamonga, California…close to the Ontario city limit.  The name of the team comes from the frequent earthquakes that hit the area.

You’ve probably seen it…as the closest minor league ballpark to Los Angeles, it sees a great deal of filming from Hollywood.
Here are the stats…
Year opened: 1993
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $20 million
Capacity: 6,588
Field dimensions: Left field – 326 ft.; Center field – 373 ft.; Right field – 297 ft.
Home teams: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 1993-present
Events attended: dozens of games

The first big change for 2013 is the name. An awful naming rights name, you see it up above but it had such a cool original name that I will from this point on only refer to it by that name. The Epicenter fit the entire theme of the team. It is a very nice stadium that just misses being a top-tier single A stadium by a couple of flaws in design.  It’s situated with some very good views of the nearby San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountain ranges but also has the ugly backside of an adjacent shopping center beyond the outfield wall.
The seating bowl consists of one deck bisected with an aisle that separates the lower field level seats from the upper view section just above them.  There are also about a dozen enclosed suites on the top level surrounding the press box that is separate from the main seating area.  Bleachers are added to the area along the left field foul line and a restaurant with its own seating area is near the right field foul pole.  There is no outfield seating.
The design flaws are a closed concourse…you can’t see the game action when you go to the snack bar…and the long route wheelchair users must take to their seats. 
The park entrance is directly behind home plate, with another separate entrance around first base for season ticket holders.  Wheelchair users enter the seating area at either end of the seats in right or left field.  If you have tickets behind home plate, that is a fairly long route to get there.  Ticket prices run from $6 to $13 or you can rent a suite for $400 (works out to about $35 a person for 12 people). 
Buying tickets here pose no problems for wheelchair users.  The games rarely sell out, so feel free to go to the box office before the game.  Otherwise, call (909) 481-5000 and ask for accessible tickets.  They keep your preferences on file so the next time you call and give your phone number, they’ll usually respond with “you want the same seats you had last time and would you like to use the same credit card?” saving you a huge amount of time buying the tickets.
There are no bad seats here and the game views are excellent.  At only $13, the most expensive seats, very close to home plate, come with waiter service and free backrubs from Tremor, the Quakes’ mascot.
Food choices are mostly the regular ballpark fare consisting of hot dogs, pizza, and burgers.  There is also a good dessert bar across from the gift shop behind home plate.  Beer selection is excellent on weekend games with a couple of very good microbrew bars on the concourse with excellent bartenders.  On lighter attended games, these stands are left closed and the selection of brews drops dramatically.  Beer prices are good here.
Public transit is almost non-existent with the closest bus service about a half mile away and train service over a mile away.  Parking is tight but manageable and relatively inexpensive.
A good park, excellent staff (one of the best), great fans, the best mascots in minor league baseball, highly entertaining, and great game action.  Over all, a very good place to watch a baseball game even if you do have to go a ways to get to your seats.

Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated for 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona

Chase Field in Phoenix is currently home to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team won a World Series three years after becoming a team in 2001 and gave us such stars as Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. By 2004, however, the good times were over and the team lost 111 games. Then, former Tiger and one of the all-time Dodger heroes, Kirk Gibson took over as manager and led the team to the playoffs last year.

Their fortunes are blooming June, 2013..they are 2 games ahead of the world champions San Francisco Giants in first place.

Chase…formerly known at Bank One Ballpark - or the BOB…has a retractable roof and air conditioning to shade spectators from the brutal Arizona summer heat. This was the first U.S. baseball stadium to be built with one. Toronto was the actual first, but it’s in Canada, and Montreal’s stadium also had a retractable roof but never worked right. Even with a roof, the Snakes play on real grass, a special hybrid that doesn’t need as much sunlight to grow. The roof is kept open as much as possible for the health of the turf.

Here are the stats:

Year opened: 1998
Surface: Bull’s Eye Bermuda Grass
Construction cost: $354 million
Capacity: 49,033
Field dimensions: Left field – 330 ft.; left center – 413 ft.; Center field – 410 ft.; right center – 413 ft.; Right field – 334 ft.
Home team: Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB National League) 1998 – present
Events attended: One game

From a distance, the stadium looks like a hangar at the airport, especially if the roof is closed. For night games, if the temperature outside is comfortable, the roof is opened just before the game giving fans a starlight view. Due to being mostly indoors, there is much echo noise here.

Wheelchair seating is plentiful and evenly distributed in all levels except the Dugout Club. We went to a nearly sold-out game and were provided seats in the front row in right field next to the visitor’s bullpen. Only a chain link fence separated us from the coaches and pitchers warming up and it was easy to get a few autographs. Another chain link fence in front of us was the only thing keeping us off of right field.

Ticket are priced dynamically and run anywhere from $9 to $150. Call (602) 514-8400 for accessible tickets. The team also maintains an extensive Guide for Guests with Disabilities on its website.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
thegordon under CC-BY-SA license

Some of the signature features of this stadium are the keyhole…a strip of dirt leading from the pitching mound to home plate, and the swimming pool in right field. Up to 42 guests can rent this out on a per-game basis for $3500 - $4,500 (it is sold out for 2013 but deposits are being taken for 2014). The pool also features a pool lift for disabled guests and an accessible locker room with roll-in shower (notice the lift at the far end of the pool in the picture above).

Food is good here but expensive. Tacos were available when we were there and were the lowest price option. The Mexican food is pretty darn good here. Other food options, beyond the usual ballpark fare, include sushi, barbecue, and comfort food like meatloaf and mac ‘n cheese. You may want to go to Alice Cooper’s adjacent restaurant, Cooperstown, before the game for some pre-game, lower priced specials. Try the Big Unit hot dog if you’re hungry. Come back afterward for the concert…your game ticket stub gets you in free.

There are plenty of parking lots next to the stadium and light rail goes right to it.

Not a bad place to see a game at all, check it out next time you’re in the Valley of the Sun.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated for 2013