Opened in 1988, Coca-Cola Field, nee Pilot Field, is the home of the Buffalo Bisons, the AAA affiliate of the New York Mets. Beginning the 2013 baseball season, the Bisons are AAA minor league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Bisons play in the International League. Located right in downtown Buffalo off the I-190, the venue is one of the original "retro ballparks", with an original capacity of 21,500 seats, and was designed with the idea of being expanded for an eventual Major League Baseball expansion team. Since that dream ended, numerous renovations and enhancements have shrunk the capacity to 17,679 seats, still one of the largest at the AAA level.
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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".
Buffalo is legendary for its great cuisine, and the ballpark is a great place to sample some of the best that the city has to offer. Sure there is the Buffalo staple - the chicken wing, and the Ballpark Wing standing down the right baseline is the place to get those. But there are two other specialty sandwiches worth a try - the Beef of Weck, thinly sliced roast beef served on a hard roll studded with salt, is available at the Red Osier stand behind home plate. Slather on some horseradish and it's a real treat.
Then try the Fried Bologna sandwich served with peppers, onions and cheese on an egg roll, a unique and understated Buffalo thing. The in house restaurant on the mezzanine level is named Pettibones and offers a more upscale dining experience.
The team generally averages 7,000 fans a game, a far cry from the days when the city was a Major League expansion contender and drew a million plus fans to the ballpark for five straight seasons. With the large capacity, when the ballpark is full it feels like a big league experience. When there are a thousand or fewer fans in the stands the place is barren and windswept.
The Bisons Big Board video scoreboard is old technology and the ballpark is sorely in need of technological enhancements (ribbon board, new video board, etc.) to bring it up to par with its peer venues.
Being right in the middle of downtown, the ballpark integrates nicely into the adjoining neighborhood architecture, which includes the stunning old post office building right to the north, since rehabbed into the main building of the local community college. A number of bars and eateries are located right near the ballpark, and otherwise the stadium is situated amidst office buildings. The outfield panorama is the I-190 Thruway and beyond that industrial buildings and grain elevators. HSBC Arena is three blocks south of the ballpark right down Washington Street.
Buffalo is a great sports town and working class city and the Buffalo Bisons, who have a history going back to their roots as a National League team in 1879, are very much a part of the sports fabric of the community. Since moving to their current ballpark in 1988, the team has enjoyed much success both on and off the field and fans continue to support the franchise, which consistently ranks among the top attendance teams in the International League.
For a downtown venue, parking is ample. The stadium's main ramp is just beyond right field, and plenty of surface parking and other downtown ramps are just a short walk away. Meters on the streets are not monitored evenings or weekends. In addition, the Metro Rail light rail line connects downtown with the northern part of the city, and fans can ride the rail and exit at the Seneca Station a block away from the ballpark.
Ticket prices run from $6-$11. The team has Monday night promotions with discounted tickets and dollar hot dogs. Concession prices are pretty decent here, and the entertainment value, from the on field contests to the entertaining mascots and food vendors all make this a fun place to enjoy a game.
Some of the zaniest things that go on around the ballpark are fan driven. Watch for superfan Mark Aichinger who sits next to the tunnel directly behind home plate. His shrieks and razzing of the visiting team are well known to players and fans, and he loves leading the charge with his own unique dance to the tune of "Chacaron Macaron".
While Coca-Cola Field has been eclipsed by some of the newer ballparks which offer newer state of the art comforts and amenities, this ballpark opened in an era when minor league venues were considered to be dusty and old backwaters and nothing more. Its opening in 1988, and the telecast of the first ever AAA All Star game that year nationally on ESPN, raised awareness around the nation that Buffalo is one of the premiere minor league baseball cities, bragging rights that are still embraced to this very day.
I've been a few times. Found some great nachos there. Great promotion during the July long weekend. We saw the baseball game, followed by a concert by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. It was sold out. Great day!
Although not like the glory days of MLB expansion conteders, the Bisons put on a decent family friendly show with class. Prices are good and the stadium provides good viewing from most seats.
Visited Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo in 2010. This is another nice stadium and a well kept field. The crowd was a lot of fun. They really knew their team and the game and I had about 5 different conversation going on all at once. It is very enjoyable to talk with fans that love the game. The food was really good. I don't remember what I ate but I remember that I like the food here. It's nice to watch games here since the players are likely to be playing in Pittsburgh before you know it.
I attended various games during the 2012 season. The experiences really renewed my interest in baseball (which I have been ignoring for almost 20 years). I fear I'm a Bisons fan for life now...
Food & Beverage:
Average from what I've seen. I'm a vegetarian, so I've only tried a few things. I usually just hit up Larry the Peanut Man and grab a Diet Coke. I love the Peanut Man! The pretzels are shaped like Bs, which is cool, but they are not very tasty. All the carnivore fair looks good. There is a healthy options vendor...but I've never actually seen anyone in line there...which is a shame.
The craft beer stand is also very cool. Highly recommended.
Atmosphere: I really like the atmosphere of the ballpark. It's a good mix of the ballparks I remember from the 80s and 90s and the modern day ballpark. The big screen is much better than the AA, High A, and Atlantic League teams I've seen, but not quite as nice as the majors.
Neighborhood/Access: The neighborhood is fine. It's in the business district downtown, so it's a mix of the cleanest and dirtiest people you've ever seen. Definitely safe. Right near the metro and bus station, and there's plenty of parking. Buffalo is my second home, and we live 2 blocks from the stadium, so we just walk :).
Fans: Awesome! Buffalo loves their team. They have always been friendly enough to strike up a random conversation with. Half the time if you show up at just the right time, you will get a free ticket from a Buffalo fan that has an extra. Great fans.
Return on Investment: Huge. Tickets are really cheap (compared to MLB and lower level farm teams). There's also not a bad seat in the house.
Extras: I joined their email list just in time to purchase a 'used-on-the-field' jersey and bat, and take advantage of 40% off merchandise at their store.
Despite its age, Coca-Cola Field is holding up pretty well compared to other newer minor league ballparks. Yes, it is too big and yes it is missing many of the bells and whistles found at other ballparks, but still it is a fun place to take in a game. Coca-Cola Field was the park which started the trend of moving ballparks back to the city, before even Camden Yards. It was built to be expandable in case MLB ever came calling, which is the reason it is so big. For my full review, check out my site : http://ballparkreviews.com/template2.php?in_name=Coca-Cola%20Field&in_city=Buffalo&in_state=New%20York
30 Mississippi Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
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