The Best of the Independent Ballparks in 2018

by | Oct 1, 2018 | Baseball, Indy Baseball, Marc Viquez, News |

Stadium Journey takes a look at the top independent baseball stadiums in North America; the results were similar to our first rankings two-years-ago, but there have been a few new facilities that made it on the list. The independent leagues offer a brand of baseball, atmosphere, and experience that resulted in a total attendance number of 5,882,043 among the top-tiered leagues in 2018.

The rankings were tallied based on the average Fanfare and Crowd scores on the website. The rankings range from a high score of 4.79 to a low score of 3.60. Areas that scored the highest were food, access, and a return of investment. If you don’t agree with what you see on the list, you have the power to vote for your favorite independent ballpark here.

1. CHS Field, St. Paul Saints, 4.79

CHS Field Gert the Fleit

Gert the Flirt gives out free kisses, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey.

The home of the St. Paul Saints is almost perfect and ranks with the best of them in any other affiliated or independent leagues. The 7,210 capacity Lowertown stadium ranked  8th in total attendance this past season according to Ballpark Business Releases 2018 Attendance Mega-Rankings. That number is higher than only 7 other Triple-A ballpark figures.

The ballpark scored a 4.79 in the FANFARE scoring and almost became one of a few facilities to earn a perfect score of 5. CHS Field offers locally produced food at its concession and portable stands, is eco-friendly with underground trenches that collect rainwater to help irrigate its toilets, a craft beer section that features 50 locally produced beers, and a collection of characters that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

Did you know: Once a year the Saints allow fans on the field after the game for autograph signings while food trucks line up on the warning track. The stadium is also accessible by the light rail system for just $4 for a 24-hour pass, the blue line connects all of the Twin Cities sports facilities. Lawn seats are $5.

2. Jimmy John’s Field, United Shores Professional Baseball League, 4.29

Jimmy John's Field Grandstand

Jimmy John’s Field grandstand is ready for baseball, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey.

Jimmy John’s Field grabs the number two spot on the list and is somewhat of a secret to many baseball travelers who may have overlooked this very impressive three-year-old facility. The stadium is home to four separate franchises in the USPBL and unlike many other similar ventures of the past, the concept works brilliantly with average crowds of 3,400 filing in every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The league reported 61 sellouts this year out of 75 home games and a 20% revenue increase at the Utica, Michigan, stadium.

The AAA Clubhouse is a full-service bar featuring flat-screen televisions, tables, couches, and lounge areas that open up to the field level suites underneath the grandstand and are 37 feet from the backstop–the closest in professional baseball. The wraparound concourse offers lawn seating, cabana-style suites, a whiffle ball diamond, and a barbecue pit. The staff offers free shuttle rides in golf carts to and from the parking lot.

Did you know- The concept of housing four teams at one stadium has been attempting before, including in 2007 when Donovan Stadium in Utica, New York, was home to the New York State League, unfortunately, the league lasted one month before folding. The cheapest ticket is $6.

3. GCS Stadium, Gateway Grizzlies, 4.26

GCS Ballpark Philly Nachos

The Philly Nachos are quite popular at GCS Stadium, Photo by Dennis Morrell, Stadium Journey.

GCS Stadium is situated across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in the town of Sauget, Illinois. The ballpark is a foodies’ paradise with the highly recognized Famous Food menu items. They include Baseball Best’s Burger that features a bacon cheeseburger between a Krispy Kreme donut, Baseball’s Best Hot Dog that offers a hot dog smothered with sauerkraut, grilled onions, two slices of bacon, and nacho cheese, and Baseball Best’s Nachos feature toppings of either pulled pork, Philly cheese steak, or Buffalo chicken.

Did you know-The population of Sauget is only 249 and when the Grizzlies play, the number swells almost 91 percent to 2,920.  Ticket prices start at $9.50.

4.TD Bank Ballpark, Somerset Patriots, 4.25

TD Bank Entrance Lawn Seats, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey.

Fans enjoy the Patriots on the lawn seats, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey.

The Somerset Patriots celebrated its 20th anniversary this past year and attracted 5,110 customers a game, second in all of the indy ballparks. The location of the ballpark in the state offers easy access to a population of 9 million via interstate access; visitors can expect large crowds, winning baseball, and top-notch service. There is also a display of the team’s historic achievements down the third base line concourse.

Did you know-The Patriots offer a specialty food item at each homestand that at times may include fried pickles or bacon mac and cheese nachos. However, the Jersey Burger is served all season long and is a 1/2 pound burger, bacon, pork roll, cheese, tomatoes, pickles, and fries served between a toasted panini bun. Tickets start at $9.50.

5. Bethpage Ballpark, Long Island Ducks, 4.22

Bethpage Ballpark - Bounce House

Bethpage Ballpark  Bounce House, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Summer on Long Island can be a lot of fun with the beaches, piers, and boating.  Another, a great way to spend an afternoon or evening is at Bethpage Ballpark where the Long Island Ducks have been drawing big crowds for almost two decades. The park has an attractive, lush green field, and be sure to check out the Long Island Ducks history on the walls when going up to the Duck Club.  The staff is friendly and there are plenty of promotional games to keep fans coming back.

Did You Know-Co-owner and first Ducks’ manager, Bud Harrelson, can often be seen on the concourse autographing baseballs and other souvenirs.  The former New York Met won World Series championships in 1969 as a player and in 1986 as a coach. He also was part of three Ducks Atlantic League championships in 2004, 2012, and 2013. Tickets start at $12.

6. Sprenger Stadium, Lake Erie Crushers, 4.15

Sprenger Stadium, Terrace Tables

Sprenger Stadium Terrace Tables, Photo by Chris Green, Stadium Journey

Sprenger Stadium ranked number two during the site’s first list of independent ballpark and it was not a fluke. The Lake Erie Crushers are perhaps often overlooked; which is unfair, due to the extremely family-friendly atmosphere and amenities at Sprenger Stadium. It is a well laid out facility and offers great sightlines and comfortable seating in all areas. The club’s new logo and colors have also provided a breath of fresh air to the stadium.

Did You Know-The Home Depot box is easily the best seat in the house, with your own box above the dugout on the main concourse that includes a server and comfortable outdoor patio furniture provided by The Home Depot. Tickets start at $6.

7. Shaw Park, Winnipeg Goldeyes, 4.14

Shaw Park Craft Beer

The Craft Beer Corner is quite popular, Photo courtesy of the Winnipeg Goldeyes.

The Goldeyes have made improvements in recent years with the inclusion of the Field Patio in 2016 and Craft Beer Corner Story in 2018. The Field Patio is the perfect space for your group to mingle while enjoying the game. The two-tiered space features comfortable seating for up to 100 guests with a mixture of standard and pub-style tables and chairs. The Craft Beer Corner Story is a 1,400-square-foot deck extending across the tops of sections A and B down the left field line. The area offers 5 drafts that include products from Mill Street, Goose Island, and Fort Garry Brewing, along with a local Manitoba beer.

Did You Know-Shaw Park is located in the heart of the city and a short walk from The Forks – one of the city’s largest tourist attractions. The park has also been credited with the revitalization of the downtown living in the area, with many new condo developments located on the street along the river creating a vibrant area. Tickets start at $11.

8. Impact Field, Chicago Dogs, 4.02

Impact Field Flash Entrance

Impact Field Flash Entrance, Photo by Ashvin Lad, Stadium Journey.

The first year stadium made quite an ‘impact’ this season in the village of Rosemont this season with a modern facility that is bold, bright, and ready for a lot of commerce on its wraparound concourse. A parking deck opens up to the main entrance down the right field line and the stadium incorporates a double-sided video board to advertise to motorists on the freeway behind the outfield. The surrounding neighborhood is full of restaurants, a shopping mall, a brewery, balls, Big Ten museum, and an indoor skydiving facility.

Did You Know-The second The Wieners Circle location opened up at the stadium; the original location in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago is known for its char-dogs and verbal abuse by both employees and late night bar goers, but Impact’s location is definitely “G-rated”. Tickets start at $8.

9. Haymarket Field, Lincoln Saltdogs, 4

Haymarket Park Mascot,

Homer looks up at the press box, Photo by Bill Kitner, Stadium Journey.

If you go to a Saltdogs game and do not have fun, then you are not a baseball fan or even a person that likes to have fun. Haymarket Field comes alive during promotional nights and weekend games. The stadium is within a few blocks from the Haymarket area of Lincoln, where fans can find plenty of restaurants, bars and coffee shops. You should be able to find about anything you want to eat in the Haymarket.

Did You Know-Haymarket Field is often compared to a smaller version of Victory Field in Indianapolis. The concourse offers a massive and perfectly sloped lawn seating behind both the right and left field. Tickets start at $5.

10. Joliet Route 66 Stadium, Joliet Slammers, 3.93

Joliet Route 66 Stadium Trees

The trees and lawn seat add a nice touch to the stadium, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey.

The last few years have been interesting for the Slammers as the stadium changed names and even flirted with a few others, it got even more remarkable when discussions of a stadium lease were up in the air while the club was playing in the Frontier League championship. Fortunately, the club was a double-winner capturing the league title and signing a five-year lease. As for the stadium, the downtown fixture offers affordable food options, a playground in the outfield concourse, plenty of trees and bench seating and even a sandbox area that juts out into the right field of play.

Did You Know-The stadium houses an open-air bar on the main concourse behind the backstop and charge $2 for craft beer cans the last weekend series of the year. You can enjoy an Italian beef nacho along with a couple of beers for $10, just remember to tip the girl with the purple hair well. Tickets start at $8.

11. Constellation Field, Sugar Land Skeeters, 3.92

Constellation Field Bud Splash Zone

Constellation Field Bud Splash Zone, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey.

The Skeeters play in a ballpark about the size of the state of Texas. Constellation Field boasts a Texas-shape video board that is among the largest in the independent league, a splash zone, and pool for children, and various areas to enjoy the game from The Grass Land Seating to Bud Light Ice House. Plus, there is plenty of Texas-style barbecue and Tex-Mex cuisine to enjoy with tall cans of Texas brand Ziegenbock during nine innings of play.

Did You Know- The Skeeters closest rivals last season were in Waldorf, Maryland, 1,436 miles away from Constellation Field. The majority of clubs in the Atlantic League operate between Maryland and Connecticut, but next season the club will get a nearer rival in the league in High Point, North Carolina, only 1,129 miles from Sugar Land. Tickets start at $8.

12. Regency Furniture Stadium, Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, 3.86

Regency Furniture Stadium Entrance

Regency Furniture Stadium Entrance, Photo by Diana Dampier

Being able to convince a baseball purist that a game can be enjoyed beyond the baseball game is quite notable. Attending a Maryland Blue Crabs game goes beyond the action on the diamond, it is more of an event geared towards people of all ages. There is plenty of activities from bumper boat rides, carnival games, and top-notch concession items. The wraparound concourse is filled with different activities at every angle, but if you just want to watch the game, we’ll understand.

Did You Know- Regency Furniture Stadium exterior was designed to look like an old tobacco barn. The part of Maryland was known for tobacco farming and various barns were common in the area. Tickets start at  $13.

13. Bosse Field, Evansville Otters, 3.89

Bosse Field Players

Bosse Field crescent-shape grandstand, Photo by Dennis Morrell, Stadium Journey.

The oldest ballpark in the minor league leagues and the third oldest in professional baseball will celebrate its 104th birthday next season. The stadium is dripping with history from its crescent moon-shaped grandstand, large foul territory, nostalgic ads on the concourses, and narrow aisles. An Evansville Otters home game is a trip back in time with a few modern touches sprinkled here and there. The Bosse Beast, a hamburger with bacon in between a split cinnamon fritter, was probably unthinkable 100-years-ago at the stadium.

Did You Know-The stadium once was home to an NFL franchise named the Evansville Crimson Giants who played from 1921-1922. It is the only active minor league yard ever to host an NFL franchise. Tickets start at $5 in advance.

14. CommunityAmerica Ballpark, Kansas City T-Bones, 3.82

CommunityAmerica Ballpark Grandstand

CommunityAmerica Ballpark grandstand, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadum Journey.

The ballpark is located on the Kansas side of the city and near the home of Sporting Kansas City Children’s Mercy Park and the Kansas Speedway. The ballpark offers a wraparound concourse, plenty of lawn seating, promotional nights, and some of that excelled local area barbecue. The outfield wall even has former Negro League great Buck O’Neil’s retired number.

Did You Know-One of the fame barbecue spots in the world is located about 20 minutes away from the stadium. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que is located in a former gas station and prides itself with its award-winning ribs, pulled pork, and burnt ends. Tickets start at $9.

15. UC Health Stadium, Florence Freedom, 3.79

UC Health Stadium Blue Seats

UC Health Stadium blue seats, Photo Courtesy of Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey.

The Freedom introduced a mascot named Y’all; he is a red and white striped water tower who patrols the concourse and entertains fans of all ages. Why a water shaped tower? The city’s most recognizable symbol is a red and white striped water tower that greets motorists off the interstate with the words “Florence Y’all”. It originally read “Florence Mall” when introduced in 1974, but due to state rules prohibiting advertising on water towers, was cleverly changed to its current moniker that inspired a baseball mascot years later.

Did You Know-The ballpark offers a various assortment of regional food items that include Skyline chili coneys (mini hot dogs with Cincinnati-style chili and mounds of shredded cheddar cheese), goetta sliders (a mixture of meat scraps and oats that is fried), pulled pork sandwiches from Montgomery Inn, and nachos covered with goetta and that local chili. Tickets start at $9.

16. CarShield Field, River City Rascals, 3.72

CarShield Stadium Patio

CarShield Stadium patio, Photo Courtesy Jeffrey Mishkin.

The stadium features a nice main entrance that opens up to the main concourse. The field consists of seats from third base all the way to the right field corner, a large grass berm seating area occupies third base to the left field line. Just behind the left field wall is eight rows of bleacher seats and a boardwalk area directly behind it. The synthetic turf provides for other events to take place during the season including the St. Louis Legends game, outdoor market, and local high school, and college baseball.

Did You Know-The ballpark has its own unique menu option The Arch Nemesis, two quarter patty burgers, grilled chicken teriyaki, and four slices of cheese on a pretzel bun. Tickets start at $8.

17. Wuerfel Park, Traverse City Beach Bums, 3.7

Wuerfel Park Entrance

Wuerfel Park entrance, Photo by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey.

Wuerfel Park, home of the Traverse City Beach Bums of the Frontier League, is one of the more unique parks in all of baseball. In fitting with the reputation of Traverse City as a summer destination, filled with beaches and water activities, the team has built their own little beach house overlooking a baseball field. A Beach Bums game is as comfortable and relaxing as the resort town itself.

Did You Know-The Beach Bums and Wuerfel Park will be rebranded and operate in the Northwoods League in 2019. The summer collegiate league will operate from May to early August and will be owned by the West Michigan Whitecaps. The Caps will improve the stadium’s features from menu items, game day promotions, non-baseball events, and look of the stadium. Tickets start at $6.

18. Rent One Park, Southern Illinois Miners, 3.70

Rent One Park Entrance

Rent One Park entrance, Photo by Chris Patton, Stadium Journey.

The team’s name is a tribute to the history of coal mining in southern Illinois. The concourse walls feature black and white photos of local coal miners from years passed. Along with the miner mascot, Big John is a canary mascot that celebrates runs by dancing on the dugout with one of the team’s Diamond Girls, who help out with promotional contests. A kids area is located near lawn seating in order for parents to keep on eye on them during the game.

Did You Know-There was once the possibility that the ballpark could have been home to an affiliated team in the  Midwest League. The rumor was that the South Bend Silverhawks would move to the market, but was squelched when former Indiana governor and mayor of South Bend Joe Kernan purchased the club with a group of investors in September 2006 and kept the team in town. Tickets start at $7

19. PeoplesBank Ballpark, York Revolution, 3.65

Entrance To Peoples Park

PeoplesBank main entrance, Photo By Richard Smith, Stadium Journey

PeoplesBank Ballpark will look a tad different next season when it debuts the 1741 Club, a skybox level all-inclusive game experience that will offer all-you-can-eat food and drink options. The club will also feature in-house beers and wines and also be open to individual ticket purchases when available. The ballpark will also have a new playing surface for the first time in its history and will continue looking to improve on attendance numbers and overall fan experience. However, fans will continue to enter the stadium through Brooks Robinson Plaza. The Orioles great played for the old York White Rose and is now part of the team operations.

Did You Know-PeoplesBank Ballpark became the first ballpark and only the second location in the state to serve White Castle sliders. The burgers are offered at the All-American Grille and debuted last season to major success. The closest White Castle location is located 100 miles from the ballpark in Whitehall Township. Tickets start at $8.

20. Wild Things Park, Washington Wild Things, 3.60

Wild Things Team Store

Wild Things Team Store. Photo by Steve Bloom, Stadium Journey.

No matter where you sit in Wild Things Park, you have a good view of the action. The seating bowl wraps around the field from the outfield corners into home plate. The atmosphere at this Frontier League park is a lot of fun. The size of the facility is conducive to player-fan interactions through the course of the game. After the game, the entire team goes into the right field concourse to sign autographs as fans leave the park.

Did You Know-The ballpark has hosted quite a bit of other teams in its short history. It was home to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League, Steel City Sparks of the Women’s Premier Soccer League, Washington Blue Sox of the Tri-State Collegiate Baseball League, Pennsylvania Rebellion of National Pro Fastpitch, and California Vulcans college baseball program.

Where’s the Can-Am League?

The highest ranked ballpark from the Can-Am League was Stad Stereo Plus in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, with a 3.43, finishing outside the site’s top twenty list. It also should be noted that ballparks in Ottawa and Quebec City have yet to be reviewed for the website. The only other independent ballpark not to be reviewed is The Depot at Cleburne Station, home of the Cleburne Railroaders of the American Association.

Future Notes

The 2019 season will see the Milwaukee Milkmen (American Association) debut at Routine Field. Sadly, the Wichita Wingnuts look to have played its last season; the 84-year-old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium will be razed to make way for a brand new Triple-A ballpark that will be ready for the 2020 or 2021 season.

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