Danville Stadium – Danville Dans
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A Ballpark Classic in Danville
They do not build them like this anymore and they never will, not by any stretch of the imagination will someone construct a facility like Danville Stadium. It is a place that was constructed on a whim after Brooklyn Dodger GM Branch Rickey passed through town on his way to Decatur, Illinois to place a farm team shortly after World War II.
After a few drinks and heavy conversation, Rickey was convinced by a few local people to place a team in town. Rickey agreed based on the stipulation that a ballpark would be built for the following season. The very next season Danville Stadium was constructed at the cost of $71,000 and 67-years later, the Danville Dans of the Prospect League enter their 26th season of operation.
The stadium was home to the Danville Dodgers/Dans from 1946-1954 and then the Danville Warriors/Suns from 1970-1976, and the Dodgers once again for the 1982 season. The current Dans debuted in 1989 as a collegiate summer team in the Central Illinois College League in 1989 and are entering their fourth decade of operations.
The Dans moved to the Prospect League in 2008 and have been a mainstay in town producing nine championships. The stadium has also been featured in two motion pictures: “The Babe” and “A League of Their Own.”
A ballpark built after a few drinks with the local population, indeed, they do not build them like this anymore.
Food & Beverage 4
The majority of the food is prepared and served underneath the grandstands at “The Varsity” which has an eclectic selection of hot dogs and sandwiches. There are six styles from the regular Bleacher Bum Dog, the Chi-Town Dog, the Chili Dog and the Junk Yard Dog that features chili, cheese, pickle spears, cucumbers and my vote for all-time best hot dog topping, giardiniera.
If you want something else, there are Italian beef and pulled pork sandwiches and Polish and Italian sausages. There is also popcorn, nachos, pretzels, peanuts, pop, and beer in this area along with tables to enjoy your food before you return to your seats.
The Dans step it up a notch with grilled brats, ribs, and steak sandwiches on certain dates in the right field picnic area. The steak sandwich is a bargain for $6 and with grilled peppers on top, it might make this the best deal for a piece of steak anywhere in the country. Try paying less at another ballpark or restaurant. You may have to travel to Buenos Aires to find a better deal for steak.
There is a lot of history dripping throughout the wooden beams and bleachers of Danville Stadium. Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Pee Wee Reese made appearances here. Cecil Cooper, Dave Stewart, Darrell Porter, Pedro Guerrero and Jonathan Papelbon have all donned Danville uniforms.
There is only one small entrance into the ballpark where workers greet you and rip your tickets in half, just like the way they did it before scanners took over at ballparks. Once inside, one has to marvel at the wooden covered grandstand that is supported by thick wooden beams and features dusty wooden seats.
There are strange, but wonderfully effective, trash removal shoots, and interns collecting 50/50 raffles throughout the contest that gives the place a sense of nostalgia. A picnic area is situated at the end of the third base line and a set of theater style seats are located behind each dugout, in between these seats is a dirt area that might have been home to more box seating at one time in the stadium.
There have been improvements that include a 36′ full digital color message/scoreboard from Watchfire Signs; the state of the art scoreboard was donated by a former member of the board at Danville Stadium. It adds a little touch of modern comfort to the old ballpark.
Danville Stadium is a few yards north of I-74 and situated a few miles from downtown Danville. At night downtown Danville is a ghost town, but there is a collection of fast food and chain restaurants in the vicinity of the stadium, along with a few local joints that are worth checking out: Village Garden Family Restaurant and La Potosina.
However, there is the Little Nugget Steakhouse on 6 South Henning Rd. that lets customers cook their steaks on a community grill. Yes, sir, I will have that piece of raw meat, sprinkle a little Montreal seasoning and cook it medium well for a few minutes. I admit the last time I did this was with an ex-girlfriend in college almost 13 years ago, but after making a brief appearance on my trip, the place still has wonderful thick steaks and a few other items for the non-beef eater.
If you have an extra day or two, trek west about 20 minutes to the University of Illinois in Champaign, which has a beautiful campus and livelier downtown scene.
Danville fans are savvy and enjoy coming to the ballpark to watch the game; they aren’t easily lead to the stadium for clearly promotions or other gimmicks. The Dans have attracted around 1,600 fans per game the last few seasons that usually place them number two in the league behind Chillicothe. A nice number for the ballclub that pulls in a fan base from nearby division foes in Terre Haute and Lafayette, Indiana.
Once again I find myself in a rather small city without a sign from the interstate. The field is two-tenths of a mile north off exit 215 B on I-74, but there is not a sign until you are within view of the old wooden ballpark. There is free parking and getting in and out, and back onto the interstate is very easy. When this ballpark was constructed, perhaps someone had the foresight that it would be near the interstate, because it is in a perfect location for one to make a quick stop or take in nine innings worth of action.
Return on Investment 5
All adult tickets are $6, children (6-8) are $3, and 5 and under are free of charge. Tuesday night is 2 Buck Tuesday including $2 admission, hot dogs, Pepsi products and one brand of beer. There is no charge for parking at the stadium and regular prices are reasonable for concession items. The aspect of watching baseball in a well-maintained historic ballpark also adds value to the price of admission.
Danville Stadium receives a point for $2 Buck Tuesdays that includes $2 admission, hot dogs, Pepsi products and one brand of beer.
Danville Stadium receives the second point for managing partners of the team, Jeanie Cooke and Rick Kurth do not take in a salary for operating the baseball team and have other careers. There are many of us who would love to take on the responsibility of running a baseball team and having a ballpark as your second home and Cooke and Kurth do it with style and class.
Danville Stadium receives a final point for its historic nature and memorabilia that is featured in a small room that illustrates the players, the teams, and legacy of the ballpark.
At one time, Danville Stadium was slated for the wrecking ball and left to rot after the Milwaukee Brewers relocated their Single-A team after the 1982 season. True, baseball would have moved away from Danville, but aren’t we somewhat better for having baseball played at Danville Stadium and other buildings of its kind? It is good to know that there are still old-school parks left to watch baseball at these days.
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