The Bowling Green Hot Rods of the Midwest League (formerly of the South Atlantic League) have played at Bowling Green Ballpark since 2009. After relocating from Wilmington, NC, Albany, GA, and then Columbus, GA, the Hot Rods have finally found a long term home in Bowling Green, KY. Home to Western Kentucky University, sports crazed Bowling Green has welcomed the Hot Rods in with open arms and looks to be a successful minor-league baseball story.
Bowling Green Ballpark is unique with its home plate and grandstand being in the middle of the plot of land it's on instead of the corner of the lot. As a result, fans enter the ballpark from the first base and third base sides rather than through a large rotunda behind home plate like many other ballparks. This unique design also makes for great views down left and right field of the short porch walls that divide traffic from the ballpark.
I came away from Bowling Green Ballpark very impressed with the facility and urge any fan of the game of baseball to visit this ballpark. It is a must see for anyone in the Midwest and Southeastern regions.
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Bowling Green Ballpark offers the usual items that you would expect from a ballpark. Hot dogs, sodas, and burgers dominate the menu. It was also $1 beer night on the night I visited the ballpark. This promotion appeared to be quite popular with at least one person from every section carrying multiple beer cups.
I was surprised at the basic food offering at the ballpark given that Houchens Industries, who owns many of the nation's Save-A-Lots and IGA's, is headquartered in Bowling Green. Although I saw IGA banners at every concession stand, I did not see any items outside of the ordinary ballpark menu.
One item that I did find to be somewhat out of the ordinary was the funnel cake from the dessert stand down the third base line. For just $4, I was able to get a funnel cake the size of a large paper plate. The cook put extra powdered sugar and syrup on it without needing to be asked. I highly recommend trying this item.
Although Bowling Green Ballpark is brand new and has very little history, don't let that fool you. Bowling Green did an excellent job making their ballpark unique, cutting edge, and attractive to baseball traditionalists and purists who come to the ballpark to see the game itself rather than the entertainment around it.
There is nothing historical at Bowling Green Ballpark that will make you visit this facility before older, vintage ballparks, but it is definitely a ballpark that you should rank high on your list if you like modern facilities with a traditional approach to the game of baseball.
Since Bowling Green Ballpark was constructed in 2009, the city of Bowling Green has embarked on spending over $150 million to redevelop the entire district around Bowling Green Ballpark. Some of the projects around the ballpark have been completed while others are still under construction or are still in the planning phase. I expect the neighborhood around Bowling Green Ballpark to be completely different within the next year or two.
With that being said, there are already great things happening around Bowling Green Ballpark. When visiting Bowling Green Ballpark, I highly recommend that you visit Fountain Square which is approximately 2-3 blocks south of the ballpark. At Fountain Square, make sure you eat at Briza Azul which is one of the best restaurants in Bowling Green.
Briza Azul offers affordable meals such as $5 All-You-Can-Eat-Tacos, $1.50 Drafts, $2 Margaritas, and $5 Chicken Tostadas with daily $7 meal specials. You also can also enjoy live music every weekend while your food is being prepared by a 5-star chef. The combination of price, quality, and entertainment make Briza Azul a premier destination for both fans and residents who live near Fountain Square. Briza Azul is a must when visiting Bowling Green Ballpark.
Two other places that I visited and highly recommend are Circus Square Park which is across 7th Avenue from Bowling Green Ballpark and the Historic RailPark Train Museum. At Circus Square Park, you can view an old gas station that is reminiscent of those found on Route 66, while the Historic RailPark Train Museum offers one of the best tours of Bowling Green's railroad history.
Attendance at Bowling Green Ballpark was significantly low on the day I visited. If you really wanted to, you could walk up to any section and sit in the front row. I also witnessed several fans leaving during the 6th inning. I attribute both of these actions to the fact that it was a weekday night game, the season was almost over, and the Hot Rods had already locked up a playoff spot. I expect attendance to be dramatically higher during the playoffs.
Outside and around the ballpark, it was a different story. I talked to multiple businessmen who owned or ran businesses around the ballpark and they were extremely excited about the ballpark. I asked them if they thought Bowling Green Ballpark was a good economic decision made by the city and all of them gave a resounding "YES!" They noted that the Hot Rods are quickly joining Western Kentucky University as the pride of the city. A few businessmen said that they were amazed that a town with a population of roughly 58,000 could build such a great ballpark.
There were a few fans ahead of me that were enthusiastically into the game. I also felt like the Hot Rod's traditionalist approach to the game of baseball kept a lot of fans interested in the game throughout the entire 9 innings, but there were still a lot of empty seats and wandering fans by the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. Once Bowling Green Ballpark gets a few more years under its belt, I expect the fan intensity to increase dramatically.
There was no struggle at all to find parking. For $5, you could park in the gravel parking lot next to the ballpark. However, in the next few years, the city of Bowling Green should have that lot developed. This won't matter much as there will still be a countless amount free street parking, which is what I used. With Bowling Green Ballpark's unique design, multiple streets wrap around the ballpark and almost all streets have meters where parking is free after 6pm.
Inside the ballpark, bathrooms are abundant and easily accessible. All bathrooms were built to handle several fans at any given time without creating a long line. Bowling Green Ballpark's bathrooms are also very clean which can be attributed to good maintenance by the Hot Rods and a very young ballpark.
On the day I visited Bowling Green Ballpark, I walked up to the ticket window to purchase tickets less than 2 hours before the game. For $20, I was able to purchase 2 tickets that were only 8 rows up and were directly behind home plate. You cannot get a better deal than this. In fact, there were 3 scouts at the game with credentials and they were sitting 1 row behind me.
I also liked that there were no ushers at each section. This allowed for fans to fill in the empty seats once the game started so that everyone wasn't jammed into one area. All seats have cup holders in front of them, and the seats I sat in were so close to the game that I could hear the hissing sound coming off of a fastball.
I would have gladly paid more than $20 for these tickets but am glad I got this great deal on these tickets given that I bought them on game day.
I give one point for the city of Bowling Green using Bowling Green Ballpark as an economic driver for their historic downtown. Once construction is complete on the entire area around the ballpark, this will be one of the better ballpark districts in the country.
I give one point for the Hot Rods incorporating Bowling Green Ballpark's design into their name image. The entire ballpark is clad in silver aluminum that makes you feel like you are in a hot rod garage. They also add to this image by naming their team store the "Body Shop," and have placed a garage door on the outside of their main concourse bar.
I give one point to the neighbors around Bowling Green Ballpark who took it upon themselves to welcome me to Bowling Green and strike up a conversation with me about the Hot Rods. As soon as I arrived in Bowling Green, I quickly felt comfortable and welcomed by the locals. The neighbors do an excellent job treating tourists as one of their own.
Bowling Green Ballpark doesn't break the mold when it comes to the new Minor League parks. The blueprint is similar to others with wide concourses that you can still see the game out of, luxury boxes/club level boxes on the second level, and some quirky dimensions in the outfield. You can also add in the fact the park is adjacent to some upper scale restaurants right by the place and it is pretty much a standard "new" park.
But it isn't a bad place to go to as the Hot Rods, trying to pay homage to their auto industry, tried to throw in a "factory" feel to it, though it might have a slightly unfinished feel to it. But if you're in the area and the Hot Rods are playing, check it out.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: Nothing really out of the ordinary save for the Mexican food stand. You could make a "burrito in a bowl" which we tried. Only problem was, even with the works on it, the thing still tasted very bland. The meat was missing seasoning and that killed the rest of the bowl.
ATMOSPHERE: You have a good Class-A atmosphere. It doesn't scream awesome, but you know you are in a Minor League park here. And the Hot Rods did everything in their power to make it a good atmosphere.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Set in historic downtown Bowling Green, and you have 3 or 4 restaurants you can hit before or after the game, which also have the cornhole boards you can play to or from the game. It was unique to say the least. But overall it is in a very nice spot.
FANS: I went to a game where the Hot Rods had a doubleheader and got there midway through, but there was hardly anybody there. I thought to myself that the fans would come out for the second game, but not really. I would venture to say less than 1,000 showed up total. The fans that were there were into it though.
ACCESS: Take the main road in Bowling Green to downtown and find the local parking deck. There it is free and you are a small walk away from the park.
ROI: Tickets are pretty good as about $11 notches you behind home plate. Foods were slightly expensive for a Class-A Minor League game, but nothing entirely too bad, especially if you hit $2 drink nights. Souvenirs were about what you expect, possibly a couple dollars less. Overall an affordable outing for some good Minor League Baseball.
427 Park Row
Bowling Green, KY 42101
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