In 2009, the Reno Aces began play after relocating from Tucson. The Aces franchise has been part of the PCL since the league's inaugural season in 1903, when they played in San Francisco as the Seals, and can boast of having Joe DiMaggio as one of their alumni. From San Francisco to Phoenix to Tucson to Reno - an interesting history that shows how minor league ball teams can get around, even if it takes over a century.
The Aces nickname came from a name-the-team contest and combines the city's gambling background along with a baseball connection. The eight letter combination ties for the shortest in minor league baseball along with the Iowa Cubs and Orem Owlz.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Concession stands and carts dot the concourse and offer the typical options plus a few less common items such as a smoked brisket sandwich or chipotle lime chicken tacos. The signature item is the Triple Play sandwich, a monster that includes pulled pork, brisket, and two meatballs. At $13, it is a meal in itself.
For me though, the better choice is to visit the Freight House District above third base. There are four dining establishments that comprise the district, each with a different specialty, and named after an old building that sits next to the ballpark. You can visit any of the eateries without a ticket, although Bugsy' Sports Bar and Grill also has indoor and outdoor seating which does require a ticket. These are full service restaurants with diverse menus that have healthier choices and are well worth a visit before the game.
Aces Ballpark was built in just over a year and opened in time for the Aces' first home game in April, 2009. The park is bounded on the south by the Truckee River, which provides an interesting view from both outside and inside. Before you even enter the ballpark, take the time to look at the features outside. There are three entrances, with the main one behind third base denoted by a large baseball sculpture above the gates. This is also where the Freight House District is located.
The park design is quite interesting. Although it may appear to be standard at first glance, with a single concourse atop the seating bowl, there are a number of unusual features. For one, you can walk around the entire park which provides some good views of the downtown area behind home plate. Beyond left field there is a railroad track along which the occasional train goes rolling by, sounding its horn. However, the track is well below field level and is not visible from the seating bowl. As you wander, you will see a number of other party areas, such as the Coors Light Party Zone in the left field corner, which is a collection of picnic tables. The Bullpen Deck, another party area, lies just the left of the bullpens behind the right field fence.
Behind the bullpens lies the berm, which is a great area for families with room for the kids to play. Above that is Baseball Mountain, a seating area that is attached to a bar and provides a good view of the entire park. Just in front of this are white light which display PCL team logos and light up when the Aces score during night games.
Another unique feature is the press box which is above first base, as the owners preferred to put suites on the upper level behind home plate. The press box, which also contains the video production room, is the leftmost room on the second level. The radio booth is still behind home plate, on the concourse level, which prevents you from seeing the action while you walk behind it. It is a bit strange to have the radio guys separate from the press box but that is the result of placing suites behind home plate.
There is one other seating area, the Dugout Club, which are the two rows of seats that are below field level directly behind the plate. These are generally held by season-ticket holders and come with snacks and in-seat service.
Given all the amenities here, the scoreboard is surprisingly basic, with a linescore beneath a video screen that shows player stats and fan cams. The pitch speed is also shown here.
With Reno being at a higher elevation, the park dimensions need to be a bit bigger, with the fences at 340 down right field, 423 to right center, 410 to center and 339 to left.
Aces Ballpark is the first of eight planned phases to renovate the downtown core, some of which has fallen on hard times. In particular, there is a homeless shelter just on the other side of left field and the streets east of the ballpark are rather sketchy. You wouldn't walk to be walking there late at night.
In an effort to revitalize the entire area, the owners of the Aces are using the ballpark as the centerpiece of a new entertainment district, much like has happened in Denver, San Francisco, and elsewhere. The whole project is expected to last for several more years and there is a lot of work to be done but so far it is off to a good start.
Just south of the river is the National Automobile Museum which might be of interest if you have time before the game. There are also more restaurants and casinos and the famous Reno arch is just a couple of blocks away on Virginia Street.
The Aces have good fans who show up in droves and cheer their new team on with vigor. Capacity is only 9,100, slightly less than the 10,000 minimum generally needed for new AAA parks (the Aces received special permission to build the park with fewer seats) and attendance this season is averaging 5,500, with many sections nearly full. Despite it being a relatively new team, the fans are knowledgeable and definitely enjoyed themselves at the games I saw. Even when one night game became unseasonably cold, many fans stayed until the bitter end watching their team blow a 4-run lead in the 9th, earning them an extra star here.
The park is located at the corner of 2nd and Evans in downtown, about a half-mile south of I-80. Access is not that easy though as there some streets that are closed on game day and the river to the south makes things a bit confusing for visitors.
There is no general parking at the ballpark proper, but there is plenty on the streets (meters are free in the evening and on Sundays) and nearby casinos and garages also have parking, although some may charge. I saw one lot with a $7 sign, but would suggest you find something for free on the street and walk over.
Restrooms are at both ends of the concourse and capable of handling the large crowds.
Tickets here are not cheap, running as high as $32 for the home plate box seats down to $10 for right field reserved seats, which are two small sections in the right field corner. However, you can get standing room/general admission tickets for as little as $6. These allow you to sit in the berm area behind the right field fence or to stand along the concourse. Usually I suggest that you buy the cheapest option and sit where you want, but that is not a good idea here. As mentioned, the Aces draw very well and there are not a lot of empty seats close to the field. Additionally, ushers are very strict and rarely let anybody by without checking their ticket. I found the standing areas along the baselines, which also have a drink rail, to be perfectly adequate but if you really want a good seat here, you'd better pay for it.
Even though tickets are not cheap, the park is so nice that I doubt you would feel like you have paid too much. The Aces put on a good show and when the weather is nice, Aces Ballpark can't be beat for baseball.
One funny feature was the Oblivious Cam, a pre-game bit where they would pick out a fan, put him on the scoreboard and run a timer until the fan noticed. Cute idea, and a welcome change from the ubiquitous kiss-cam.
The 7th inning stretch here has an interesting feature. An inflatable baseball pops up above the centerfield fence and sings along with the fans. Scared me silly the first time I saw it. Then the game staff dances to "Cotton Eye Joe" on the dugouts.
The grounds crew also performed a little dance while cleaning the field earlier in the game.
There weren't that many goofy on-field promotions, which I actually prefer at the higher minor league games.
One problem is that the Aces don't announce the starting lineups, so you have to fill out your scoresheet as the game is in progress.
Overall, Aces Ballpark is an excellent place to watch a game. I like the variety of seating options and the standing rail, as well as the Freight House District. I would prefer it to be a bit cheaper but can't argue with the pricing as the crowds here were some of the best I've seen. As they continue to improve the surrounding area, Reno will become a prime destination for minor league baseball travelers.
We were lucky to be able to attend the first game ever at Aces Ballpark and have returned more than 60 times since. It is a totally enjoyable experience. The stadium is rather small and all the reserved seating is on one level and never more than 22 rows from the field making for a great view from anywhere. The field itself is large due to Reno's altitude (about 4,500 feet). Still, the ball carries and home runs and triples (my favorite play) are numerous and make most game high scoring and exciting.
As there is no parking at the ballpark, we have found it best to park in one of the casino parking garages on Sierra Street and walk the 4 or 5 blocks to the park.
The food at the park is not to our liking so we usually eat at one of the casino's before or after the games. There are plenty of choices.
We continue to enjoy baseball and Aces Ballpark and have a partial season ticket plan for the 2012 season and hope to be able to continue in the future.
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