Fifth Third Field – Dayton Dragons
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We’re Goin’ Streakin!
For 49 years, Dayton, Ohio was without professional baseball. After many starts-and-stops, the city finally secured a Class A level, Midwest League franchise from Rockford, Illinois and the Dayton Dragons would finally debut in April 2000.
The thought that the Cincinnati Reds being so close to the city would hamper any potential success for a Dayton team was quickly put to rest when the city’s baseball fans showed up en masse that first season. From the first home game, the team began a string of sellouts at Fifth Third Field that survives to this day, and reached a staggering 1,000 games on May 10, 2014. No other team in professional sports in North America has ever had a streak of sellouts extend this long.
Food & Beverage 4
The selection at FTF’s concessions is surprisingly varied for a Class A park, but still are of a decent value. Service is fast and quite friendly, as they expedite orders quickly as to keep lines on the concourse to a minimum. The specialized carts spread out along the concourse also help to break up concession lines.
Along with the normal snacks like popcorn ($4 for a large), nachos ($4.50, $5 w/ chili) and a range of hot dogs ($3.50 for a jumbo dog up to $6.50 for a footlong dog/brat), the stadium offers grilled chicken, porkchop or veggie sandwiches ($6).
Carts along the concourse offer ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery ($5.50) and in an ice cream-like form from Dippin’ Dots ($5 in a souvenir helmet). The most expensive food items are $7.50 for chicken tenders with fries or the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. The team has a listing of where to find certain foods in the park (FUNNEL CAKES ARE IN THE CORNER OF THE THIRD BASE SIDE).
For kids, the park offers a “Souvenir Meal Bucket” with a hot dog or sandwich, fries, fruit and drink for $7.
As far as drinks go, sodas are $3.75 for a regular, $4.50 in a souvenir cup, while coffee and hot chocolate are each $2.50 and bottled water or Gatorade are $3.50. The beer selection is decent with large domestic drafts for $6.50. Craft beers are available.
Beer selection is surprisingly varied with, in addition to the standard macrobrews ($6 drafts), there is a stand featuring bottles from labels like Stella Artois and independent breweries like Yuengling.
There is a great blend of a major league production with the sillier aspects of minor league baseball at Fifth Third Field.
The stadium features two seating decks from baseline to baseline. In left field, there’s a small section called the Dragon’s Lair (Note: the ballpark is non-smoking but at the gate near here there’s an area for you to step outside to smoke) as well as some standing rails. Plus, there are three sizable lawn sections, one near each foul pole and the largest section beyond right field. With a concourse that circles the entire playing field and this seating arrangement, Fifth Third Field offers you a number of places to wander through and watch from unique perches throughout the stadium.
The mascots Heater & Gem (named as such because Dayton is called “The Gem City”) are great performers and I’ll also give a nod to ‘Roofman,’ a green spandex-clad character (I’m presuming an intern gets stuck doing this) who runs across FTF’s roof tossing t-shirts down.
The team does a wonderful job with the between-inning entertainment. In addition to the mascots, there are a couple of hosts that direct the action, including air guitar contests, giveaways from the t-shirt cannons and a novel addition I haven’t seen at too many baseball games, a drumline.
This is a nice park for families with plenty of lawn space and a kid’s area behind the batter’s eye in center field. Usually it’s filled with games like a speed-pitch machine and inflatables for the kids to run around in and during my most recent visit the bouncy house was replaced with a small petting zoo, complete with rabbits, ducks, ponies, etc.
The Mendelson Liquidation Outlet warehouses surround Fifth Third Field, one of which towers over the third base side of the ballpark. Though there’s no access from the warehouses to the stadium, they serve as landmarks that add to the baseball environment, similar to the B&O Warehouse at Baltimore’s Camden Yards (yes, the O’s do use that space).
Fifth Third Field was built in a section of rundown warehouses on the western edge of downtown Dayton. Over the years, the area has transformed with restaurants like Brixx Ice Co (500 E. 1st Street), diagonal from the stadium’s southeast corner or Olive (416 E. 3rd), which took over the city’s classic Wympee Diner and is serving more upscale, locally-sourced dishes.
The Oregon District is a neighborhood downtown, just a five minute drive south from the stadium, that features a number of independent restaurants and bars. Trolley Stop (530 East Fifth) is a casual place serving mostly burgers and sandwiches and featuring a rotating beer list heavy on local and regional craft breweries like Rhinegeist, Jackie O’s and Yellow Springs Brewery.
Lucky’s Taproom (520 E. Fifth) and Blind Bob’s (430 E. Fifth) are two others in the area that serve quality bar food with craft-heavy beer lists. Trolley Stop and Blind Bob’s also offer live music and have listings on their sites.
FTF sits just a block west of Dayton’s RiverScape MetroPark. This riverfront park features fountains, a pavilion for concerts and walking trails along the city’s riverfront on the Great Miami River. As well, there’s a bike rental stand as the Great Miami Bikeway (a portion of the 41 mile route) runs through the park. If you’re looking to spend some time outdoors before or after the game, this is a great option.
The Dragons are still the thing to do in Dayton once spring returns. The fans have remained loyal and have packed the place nightly for 14 seasons and counting. The Dragons average attendance has ranked them amongst the best in all of minor league baseball.
Also, Dayton is only about an hour from downtown Cincinnati, so it’s easy for Reds fans to drive up and visit the organization’s prospects. You may also be able to find dates where you can do a doubleheader in Dayton and Cincy.
The park is easy to reach from I-75 from either direction. From the north, take Exit 54B and turn right onto Webster Street. Once you cross the bridge, you’re a block from the ballpark and can easily find a spot in a surface lot. Coming from the south is a bit trickier, as there’s a major reconstruction project of I-75 in downtown Dayton. To avoid this, take 75N to 35E (Xenia), which runs just south of downtown. Take the Keowee Street exit and follow that north then you can turn left on either 3rd Street or Monument, both of which will lead you to surface lots around the ballpark.
Speaking of which, the Dragons, have this map on their site of all your parking options. Most lots are only $5 but you may be able to find meter parking on the street for free (after 6pm on weekdays and free on weekends).
Return on Investment 4
Tickets are very affordable with lawn seats starting at $9 up to $18 (fee included) for a chairback seat. Given the scarcity of tickets, you’ll most likely only find tickets with a considerable markup on secondary sites.
Food prices are very reasonable with nothing over $7.50. Parking is affordable, with a number of lots within a short walk for $5.
This is Class A baseball, but the Dragons have had 63 players on their roster who have gone on to reach the Major Leagues including current Reds Jay Bruce, Homer Bailey, Zack Cozart, Billy Hamilton, Johnny Cueto, Todd Frazier, Chris Heisey and Joey Votto. You’ll get an opportunity to see quality prospects early in their development. Plus, with the proximity to Cincinnati, you may get the chance to see a Reds starter make a stop here for a rehab assignment (Aroldis Chapman had a stay here in May 2014 on his way back from injury).
The park has very “cozy” dimensions. I hate when new parks arbitrarily alter the dimensions and angles of the outfield walls. At FTF, the park is shaped as such because it’s wedged into its site. There’s a reason for it, and it has created nice corners and angles to watch the game from.
The clear fencing along the right field corner connects the park with the neighborhood and actually allows passersby to see the game without actually having to enter the stadium.
The staff is fantastic. There seems to be a real sense of pride amongst the staff. With the way the park is run, you forget it’s for a single A team.
I know I’ve mentioned it many times, but one massive point for the team’s ongoing sellout streak. At the time of this review’s posting, the Dragons will be due to hit the 1,000 sellout milestone. The fact that the Dayton community has latched on to this team and made it one of the most in-demand tickets in the region is remarkable.
One point for the professional level with which the team is run. The team is the largest drawing team at the Class A level, won Minor League Baseball’s top award for “most complete franchise” in 2012 and has been recognized by the sports industry publication, Sports Business Journal.
The Dragons have become one of minor league sports great success stories. The team blends professional amenities (for fans and players alike) with the more casual environment of minor league baseball. A night at a Dragons game offers experiences to suit many different types of fans and appears to serve them all well. Dayton’s Fifth Third Field offers one of the great baseball experiences in the minor leagues, and the Dragons sellout streak is well-earned.
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