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Official Review by David Mortimer, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
In 2005, the fledgling Provo Angels of the Pioneer League moved down the road to the newly-built Brent Brown Ballpark on the campus of Utah Valley University in Orem. Thus began the Orem Owlz, rookie affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Owlz have won three Pioneer League titles since then, a tradition of excellence reflected in their high-quality home.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are two main concession stands: All-Star and Grand Slam. The All-Star stand has all the traditional fare: hot dogs (Reg. $3, Jumbo $4); nachos ($4); peanuts, popcorn, pretzels and sunflower seeds (all $3); churros, candy and Cracker Jack ($2); and chips ($1.50). The hot dogs and nachos are also available in combo meals ranging from $6.75 to $7.75.
Grand Slam features heartier entrees, all available in combos with fries and a drink: burgers ($8.50), corn dogs ($6.50), chicken tenders ($8) and grilled chicken sandwiches ($9). Many of the Grand Slam items are also available from a tent along the left field concourse, where you can also find Little Caesars pizza ($3 per slice, $9 whole, $3 Crazy Bread). Drinks a la carte range from $3 to $5 in each spot.
For dessert, you can get the traditional ice cream served in a batting helmet at $1 per scoop, or you can go for the $3.50 "Hootz Pie," a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.
Family, family, family. The success for any franchise in Utah is largely dependent upon how it caters to the state's larger-than average families. One of the first things you see entering the park, besides mascots Hootz and Holly, are the extensive playground equipment and inflatables that make up "Hootz and Holly's Play Area." The playground equipment is free, while access to the inflatables costs $3.
Adjacent to the play area is the grassy berm, which some days holds more fans than the seats do. Orem's berm differs from that of nearby Spring Mobile Ballpark. The biggest difference is positioning: It is located just past third base and ending in center field, rather than taking up the entire outfield. The slope is also slightly steeper. The sight of people sprawled on the grass seems to be associated more and more with the minor leagues.
The rest of the park has a brick motif, channeling the classic baseball feel, but not overly so. The sight lines are great from every seat, though the view from the first base side (featuring Y Mountain) is better than that of the third base side (the on-ramp and Hampton Inn).
A minor potential improvement I noticed is that, while opposing pitching changes are announced, the new pitcher's name and stats are not displayed on the scoreboard. This is done, however, for new Owlz pitchers. Most fans probably don't notice or mind, but for those who keep a scorebook like me, it's a mild irritation.
While many venues claim to be "just off the interstate," Brent Brown Ballpark epitomizes this phrase. A mammoth home run or well-struck foul ball could potentially find the northbound on-ramp of I-15. The parts of the park not bordered by the highway are surrounded by the sprawling UVU campus. As a result, your nearest food options are a handful of fast-food joints across busy University Parkway.
The nearest non-chain eatery is Thai Evergreen (1360 Sandhill Road; 0.7 miles away). It's a family-run joint in a mini-strip mall, but don't judge this place by its outward appearance. All the traditional Thai favorites are here including my favorite: pork katsu. What makes this place unique is you can personalize the spiciness of your dish on a 1-10 scale. I'm content with a "7" myself.
If you prefer to play it safe, you should find something you like at Sensuous Sandwich. The silly naughtiness of the name also applies to the sandwiches (The Stimulator, The Tantalizer and The Spicy Enticer, to name a few). You aren't limited to six-inchers and footlongs here; you can also get subs that are 4, 8, 10, 16, or 24 inches long. An added bonus: If you eat any 24-inch sub in a half-hour or less, you get a free t-shirt.
The Owlz consistently rank in the top half of the Pioneer League in attendance, topping 100,000 fans in a season three times. As I mentioned earlier, families and kids make up the bulk of the crowd most days, and the exuberance of the kids seems to be contagious to the adults in the crowd. This youthful influx, though, means sitting on the berm at your own risk, as packs of children dive for each foul ball.
Though I haven't heard it as much recently, fans in the Owlz's early days hooted their approval of great plays. Whether it's hooting or cheering, the fans make plenty of noise when the house is full. You can sense the town pride that comes from having a team all to themselves. In most regards, Orem plays second fiddle to neighboring Provo, but not in baseball.
Your only parking option is the lot surrounding the park and adjacent UCCU Center. The $4 price is reasonable, considering the team could take advantage of this being the only nearby lot. UVU Police strictly enforce all on-campus parking lots, so finding somewhere else on campus to park is not recommended unless you're a student.
The bathrooms are reasonably sized and satisfactorily clean. The concourse bunches up a bit behind home plate to accommodate the press box, but not enough to cause a significant traffic jam. There is ample space everywhere else.
At $4 for general admission tickets ($2 for kids 12 and under) the get-in price is great. You can also find deals most days of the week, including the Monday "Family Night" special we got: six tickets, six hot dogs and six drinks for $36. This, combined with the impressive architecture, supportive crowd and the quality of play make the Owlz an attractive ticket for the value-hungry baseball fan.
One point for the park's unique layout. The outfield dimensions are somewhat herky-jerky, largely to help the park fit in the tight space. It's 305' down the left field line, which moves sharply to 427' just left of dead center (408'). The right field gap measures 388' and moves to 312' down the right field line. The fence's varied heights (10-20 feet) add to the oddity of the outfield.
One point for attractive promotional tie-ins. Each Owlz double means a coupon for a free item at Denny's. Each double increases the coupon's value. Each game also features a "Pepsi Batter." One opposing hitter is picked at random; if they strike out, bottled drinks are half-price for the remainder of the inning.
One point for a commitment to the military. Any veteran or active service member who shows their Military ID at the ticket office gets a free ticket to that day's game. Just a simple, almost unnoticed touch that makes the Owlz and the park a place worth supporting.
I want to bring an outsider to Brent Brown Ballpark and ask them what level the Owlz play in. I could easily see them guessing Single or Double-A, rather than short-season rookie ball, based on the park's quality and beauty. Thanks to a cooperative host university and a quality team with a supportive fan base, Brent Brown Ballpark will be an attractive minor league venue for many years to come.
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1360 Sandhill Rd
Orem, UT 84058
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