Tuesday, July 30, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri

Busch Stadium is home to the National League’s Cardinals. The team was formerly owned by Anheuser-Busch, makers of such forgettable beers at Budweiser, Busch, and the various Bud brands. They were bought out in 1995 by a partnership headed by William DeWitt, Jr. of Cincinnati. This is the third stadium to go by the same name. The current stadium opened in 2006 and sits slightly to the southeast of the former stadium…part of the new stadium occupies what was the left field corner of the old stadium. There is a large, vacant lot where the old stadium stood and you can follow the outline of the old park.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Kevin.Ward under CC-BY-SA license

St. Louis is known as a baseball city. Its fans are acknowledged at some of the smartest baseball people around. Cardinal Red is a prominent color in the city. The team has won 11 World Series and is in 2nd place, a mere half game behind the Pirates. Here are the stats:

Opened: 2006
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $365 million
Capacity: 43,975
Field dimensions: Left field – 336 ft; left center – 375; Center field – 400; right center – 375; Right field – 335
Home team: St. Louis Cardinals (National League – MLB) 2006 – present
Events attended: 1 game

Accessible from all sides. There is one stretch outside from center field to right field that is unwalkable (no sidewalks), at least that’s what we were told – we didn’t test it. If so, it’s inaccessible for everybody, not just wheelchairs. There is an adjacent accessible (by ramp) subway station on the first base side of the park so transit access is excellent. It’s in a downtown location, 3 blocks from the Gateway Arch. There are several hotels within easy walking distance.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Matthew Black under CC-BY-SA license

If you want to drive, there is a lot of parking available in the area. Rates seemed to range from $5 to $10.

Wheelchair locations are mostly at the top of each level but there are some that are more midway on the level such as the field level and the upper deck. There are plenty of wheelchair spaces spread across all levels of the park. Getting more than one companion seat was not a problem. Just call (314) 345-9600 for tickets.

There are several “clubs” here where ticketholders have some exclusive access to certain perks such as restaurants and bars. Infield Redbird Club, Home Redbird Club, Homer’s Landing, Leftfield Landing, Legends Club, Bank of America Club, Champions Club, and the Cardinals Club are examples. We sat in the Infield Redbirds Club on the third base line and had access to a private food court and bar area. 

The team has moved to "Dynamic Pricing," where ticket prices fluctuate depending on the demand for a particular game. Current (July 2013) prices range from $5 to $195. Our club tickets cost $57 dollars each, the most expensive tickets of our Midwest baseball tour. That is enough to drop it down a notch on our Fields of Dreams list, behind Denver.

Food selections are vast. Several types of sausages from hot dogs to polish; bacon wrapped dogs to bratwurst; and on and on. There were “sausage bars” where several varieties were grilling and you took your pick. Barbecue, chicken, pizza, salad bar, and a cooked-to-order Asian bar were but a few of the types of food available to us. Beer selection was poor. On-tap selections consisted of several varieties of Budweiser but there is some Sclhafly beer to be found on tap at a few locations. Better selections were available but, mostly, only in bottles. 

Both food and drinks were expensive, the most expensive of our trip.

(See the St. Louis baseball trip report here.)

Overall, the stadium has great access, easy transit, great team, and great lodging close by. The knocks are expensive food and beer and a very limited draft beer selection.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Chukchansi Park, Fresno, California

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
YAHQQLIGAN under CC-BY license

Chukchansi Park is the home of the Fresno Grizzlies, the AAA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Opened in 2002, it’s a downtown park designed by HOK Architects, the same firm that designed such major league parks as Camden Yards in Baltimore. The name comes from a nearby Indian tribe who bought the naming rights to promote their casino.

Usually a contender, this year the Grizzlies are dead last, 8 games behind the Tucson Padres.

Here are the stats…

Year opened: 2002
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $46 million
Capacity: 12,500
Field dimensions: Left field – 324 ft.; Center field – 402 ft.; Right field – 335 ft.
Home teams: Fresno Grizzlies (Pacific Coast League, AAA) 2002 –present; Fresno Fuego (USL Premiere Development League – soccer) 2007-present
Events attended: one game

This is one of those minor league parks that looks almost like a major league park. Sitting just west of Fresno’s downtown, it’s probably the best looking structure around. It has a great view of downtown but mostly of the buildings backsides.

The seating bowl consists of two decks, with another level of suites above that. On the first base side, the upper deck is a club with private seating. The park entrances come into the concourse level at the top of the field deck. This is where you’ll find most of the wheelchair accessible seating. There is also accessible seating in the upper deck and in the cheap seats in left field. Ticket prices run from $8 to $24. You will pay a couple of dollars more if you buy at the game. The best wheelchair seats, right behind home plate, are the $17 or $19 (depending on if you buy them in advance) dollar tickets. You can also sit in that private section along the first baseline in the upper deck for $40, $50 on premium nights.

If you have a large group, there’s a pool and spa area you can rent out in center field starting at $35-40 per person (it also includes your food). There is also a plaza behind home plate that features a carousel for kids.

We had no problem just walking up to the ticket window and purchasing three tickets (one wheelchair, two companions) directly behind home plate for the Independence Day game with post game fireworks.

There are no bad seats here and the game views are excellent. Food choices are mostly the regular ballpark fare consisting of hot dogs, pizza, and burgers. Beer selection is rather pedestrian too with the most premium brew on tap being Tecate, but it is not expensive.

Very limited accessible bus service is provided by Fresno Area Express (FAX) with the downtown circulator trolley, which stops running at around game time, and the 38 bus, which runs late enough on weeknights but not on weekends. There are vast parking lots across the street on the third base side.

A good, competent ballpark…not a gem…but definitely a fun place to watch a ball game.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
Updated for 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Progressive Park, Cleveland, Ohio

Fomerly know as "The Jake" - Jacobs Field - this stadium is home to the Indians.  The team has been in business for over 110 years and took the World Series in 1920 and 1948.  Since then, they've mostly been known as a hard-luck team, even a joke sometimes (see the great baseball comedy Major League for a good example). 

They did have a good run in the mid 1990's when they had players like a young Manny Ramirez on the team.  In 1995, they were the American League representative to the World Series but lost to the Braves. 

They returned in 1997 to face the Marlins and were two outs away from taking it, but closer Jose Mesa blew the save and the Indians lost game seven in the 11th inning.  This was a great series that we got to watch from a beachside bar in Puerto Vallarta...ahh, good times (see below)!  We had fun with you, Marlin Bob.

As of this update...June, 2013...the Indians are again in the hunt, only a game or two behind the Tigers in the Central Division.

Progressive Field replaced Cleveland Stadium, which had been literally falling apart, in 1994.  It was initially named after the team's owner, Rich Jacobs.  In the midst of one of the team's greatest eras, the stadium sold out 455 consecutive games over a five year period.  Here are the stats:

Opened: 1994
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass
Construction cost: $175 million
Capacity: 45,199
Field dimensions: Left field - 325 feet; left center - 370 feet; Center field - 405 feet; right center - 375 feet; Right field - 325 feet
Home team: Cleveland Indians (American League, MLB) 1994 - present
Events attended: None, but took a tour.

In 2000, lawyer Larry Dolan bought the team.  With the Jacobs regime gone, there was no need to keep the name.  Naming rights were sold to Progressive Insurance in 2008.

Wheelchair locations abound throughout the stadium.  Also available are swivel seats to transfer into and aisle chairs with swing-away armrests.  Wheelchair and companion seats are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.  Ticket prices are dynamic...meaning whatever the market will bear putting the team in a position of scalper.  As of this writing, that means around $10 - $96.

Public transportation is available from the RTA which runs buses and trolleys to the stadium with a covered walkway available on game days from the nearest trolley station.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see a game there when we were in Cleveland.  The Indians were in Anaheim at the time, taking on our home team, the Angels, so we can't speak to the game experience here but it sure looks like a nice place to see a baseball game.

Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Coors Field, Denver, Colorado

This week's post visits the home of the Rockies in Denver, Colorado.

The Rockies started play in 1993 as an expansion team, along with the Florida Marlins.  Their inaugural season, and the following year, was played at Mile High Stadium which they shared with the NFL's Broncos.  The new stadium was ready for business in 1995. 

Since then, the Rockies have made it into the postseason three times in 1995, 2009, and when they made it into the World Series only to lose to the Red Sox in 2007.  The big stars on the current team are shortstop and former Dirtbag Troy Tulowitski, first baseman Todd Helton, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, and third baseman Ty Wiggington.

In June of 2012, they're only ahead of the San Diego Padres in the western division of the National League.

Here are the stats:
Year opened: 1995
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $300 million
Capacity:  50,445
Field dimensions: Left field – 347 ft.; left center – 390 ft.; Center field – 415 ft.; right center – 375 ft.;  Right field – 350 ft.
Home team: Colorado Rockies (National League, MLB) 1995 –present
Events attended: one game

Coors Field, sitting a mile up in elevation, is known as a home run park because the balls travel farther through the thin air.  The walls are some of the deepest in MLB, with a center field distance of 415 feet.  Still, many balls find their way into the outfield stands.

A few rows from the top of the upper deck, there is one row of seats painted in the team's purple color. This marks the point where it is actually a mile above sea level.

Many dinosaur fossils were unearthed during construction.  To honor this fact, the team's mascot is a dinosaur named Dinger.

The stadium's signature food is Rocky Mountain Oysters, deep fried bison testacles.  We tried it...I guess you have to when you're here...and they tasted like a very bland potato wedge.  Hardly any taste at all.  The hot dogs were good, long, and narrow.  The beer selection is good and tends to favor the brands made by the park's namesake, Coors.

Coors also runs the in-stadium microbrewery where the brand Blue Moon was invented.

Accessible seating abounds, starting with the season ticket seats in the front row behind home plate and running up through every level even into the upper deck and the outfield cheap bleachers.  We sat at the top of the field level, almost directly behind the on deck circle.  The view was excellent but was just slightly marred by the overhang of the second deck with cut off our view of the very top of the scoreboard.  We were able to see all of the game action, however.

Tickets were no problem at all and Denver has plenty of companion seats to go with the wheelchair seating.  Ticket prices run from a low of $4 to $85.  Our seats were $55 each for the non-premium game against San Diego that we attended. Just call (800) 388-7625 to order tickets.

Transit is OK...light rail and bus service serve the area but the closest rail station is about a quarter mile walk away.  When the current construction is finished, it will still be a three-block walk to the stadium.  The light rail has a low capacity for wheelchairs on the trains.  There are plenty of parking lots in the stadium area.

It's a good stadium, not great, but better than all west coast stadiums with the exception of San Francisco. Coors Field sits behind St. Louis but ahead of Cleveland on our list.


Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Frederick Dennstedt under CC-BY-SA license

Los Angeles, and its neighbor to the south Anaheim, have the third and fourth oldest stadiums in baseball with Dodger Stadium opening in 1962 and Angel Stadium in 1965. They are two of the most wheelchair unfriendly stadiums in the major leagues. Angel Stadium will get its due, but today we’ll talk about Dodger Stadium, which sits at #16 on our list of stadiums.

Home to the Dodgers, who moved west in 1958 from Brooklyn, the stadium is visually striking…built into a natural bowl with views of the San Gabriel Mountains to the north, and downtown Los Angeles to the south. It is on top of a hill in Elysian Park, just above Chinatown and next to the police academy.

Here are the stats:

Opened: 1962
Surface: Santa Ana Bermuda Grass
Construction cost: $23 million
Capacity: 56,000
Field dimensions: Left field – 330 ft.; left center – 375 ft.; Center field – 400 ft.; right center – 375 ft.; Right field – 330 ft.
Home team: Los Angeles Angels (1962 – 1965), Los Angeles Dodgers (1962 – present)
Events attended: Too many Dodger games to count.

It may be old but it wears its age well, at least visually. Many partial rehabs have been done, most recently by former owner Frank McCourt adding premium seating behind home plate and around the dugouts. McCourt kept promising a $500 million rehab, but his divorce and his dispute with Major League Baseball kept that from happening.

The McCourts are just  bad memory now.  New ownership is in place via the Guggenheim Group that includes Stan Kasden and Magic Johnson. Paying way more than the team was valued...over $2 billion...it remains to see how their investment will pan out. The team is not doing real well in 2013.

Dodger Stadium is known for its harsh security measures. Beach balls are confiscated immediately and popped. You cannot wander around the stadium outside of the section you are sitting in. The riff-raff are zealously kept away from the beautiful people here. The stadium also has a reputation for violence in the stands and parking lot...a visiting paramedic from Palo Alto is permanently disabled due to a severe beating he took in the parking lot on opening day - and now has a $50 million lawsuit against the team for not providing enough security.

Ticket prices and concession prices had also steadily risen under the former management as have other snafus such as building high-priced baseline seats with poor views, a concession tent in the sun with no air conditioning, and paying a psychic six figures to beam good energy toward the team. 

One of the first thing the new owners did is lower the parking price, infamously raised to $15 under the McCourt regime. It is not $10.  The Dodgers now use tiered pricing for tickets. The four tiers have tickets ranging from $8 in the upper deck to $160 for a field box seat.

Wheelchair seating is adequate and fairly easy to buy. Mostly around the top of the field section. The team’s web site is woefully inadequate for information, only letting you know that wheelchair escorting ushers and handicapped parking is available.

There is no regular public transit to the games but a shuttle serves the stadium from Union Station in downtown. If you have a ticket it's free, otherwise it's $1.50 each way.  It’s a long walk uphill from the nearest regular bus stop on Sunset Boulevard.

Food prices are expensive but they do have some variety such as sushi, garlic fries, etc. Their signature item…the Dodger Dog…is awful. The only thing going for it is that the sausage is longer than the bun. (I will give the Dodgers one thing in this area, though...as much as I don't like the food there, it is still miles ahead of the Angels whose food ranges from mediocre to inedible.)

Now that new management is in place, we've got to get back to the Ravine. Hopefully, we can add a current in-person report to this soon. Nice going, Dodgers...hope the future holds good things for you.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
Updated for 2013