Since 2008, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (named for the "pig iron" used in the region's famous steel) have found a home at Allentown's Coca-Cola Park. The Phillies acquired the AAA Ottawa affiliate in the International League in 2007 and then moved them down to the 10,100 seat facility in Pennsylvania, returning pro minor-league baseball to the area for the first time since the 1960s (although two independent league teams passed through briefly in the aughts).
Coca-Cola Park turned heads when it debuted, and it absolutely deserved the attention. While it might not be best-in-class in any one area, overall the park is a definitely top-tier effort, above average in all categories that becomes more than its individual parts.
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".
While Coca-Cola Park doesn't have as many unique concessions as some parks, that's nearly the only thing you can hold against it for food and drinks. There is a wide variety on offer all around the park, generally at reasonable prices.
Most concessions are in the area covered by the club level from first to third, but there are additional areas, especially by the main entrance out in right field. Your ballpark standards (burgers, hot dogs, and chicken) are taken care of at the main concessions, while specialty stands take care of pizza, grilled items, smokehouse fare (with turkey legs), gyros, and--go figure--a lot of pork.
There are some food places of note. Aw Shucks at the AT&T Plaza serves up grilled corn on the cob which is not quite worth its $4 price. The Blast Furnace Grill, also near the main entrance, has a $9 "Three Little Pigs" sandwich that gives you ham, pulled pork, and bacon on one bun--a gluttonous must for any pork or heart-attack fan. And the "Dietz & Watson Beer and Bratz Platz" on the third-base side serves up big, juicy bratwurst platters on pretzel buns for $8.
Not surprisingly, the "Beer and Bratz Platz" is also your best bet for suds. A good selection of domestic and premium beers are on hand at the other concessions and bars in the park, but at the Platz, you have a selection of 15 cans and draft choices ($5-$9.75) served to you by women dressed up in Oktoberfest garb.
Also worthy of mention is the "Bypass Lane," a part of the team's mobile app. You can order from your seat, be notified when it's ready, and go to special lines at most concessions to pick up your food with a minimum of time away from your seat.
While there aren't many individual elements you could point to as stand-out, it is attention to details that really make the Coca-Cola Park experience stand out.
The "West" entrance is just for box seats, so you will likely need to enter through the main "East" gate by right field, easily identifiable by the old Coke delivery truck and the bubbles that pour out from the gates when they open an hour before game time. Autograph-seekers should head down the third-base line for the home dugout before and after game.
From the AT&T Plaza at the entrance, you'll see the thought put into the design. The plaza is a wide area to diffuse the entering crowd and get them on their way. There's a number of concessions for those who want to immediately get something to eat and copious seating to chow down. The plaza leads out onto the main promenade, which runs around the entire park and empties down to the seating below. The seats end in the PPL Picnic Patio in left, behind which lies the Red Robin Kids Zone. The Bud Light Trough bar is behind the wall in right, by the "Bacon Strip" seats on the wall. The Capitol Blue Cross Lawn sits in left-center, next to the Red Robin Tiki Terrace & Oasis.
Unlike most other minor-league parks, where the second level is exclusively for the press box and the luxury boxes, Coca-Cola Field has a whole club level of seats, with access to special concessions and facilities, in addition to the regular luxury boxes and PenTeleData Party Porches anchoring each end. And keep an eye on that second level, because it is the only thing providing shade or shelter to the top half of the field boxes underneath during afternoon games.
"Iron Pigs" FeRROUS and FeFe (it's funny if you know your Periodic Table) lead the on-field antics between innings with the fun crew. While most of the games are minor-league standards, the IronPigs go the extra distance to put a new twist on most of them. They don't just throw t-shirts into the stands--they have guys on stilts throwing t-shirts into the stands. They don't just shoot hot dogs into the stands with air guns--they have a guy on a 4-wheeler shooting hot dogs into the stands with a hot-dog shaped air gun. The mascots and fun crew also stand a little higher than their average counterpart in small, but important ways. Even the grounds crew gets their turn in the sun with a Yankees-like dance number in the top of the seventh.
Allentown is a major city with plenty of other attractions once you're done with the game. The America on Wheels Museum is a must-stop for gearheads of all stripes, the more culturally minded can visit the Allentown Art Museum, and the Da Vinci Science Center is a great choice for families with budding Einsteins. And all the family will find something to do at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, a major amusement/water park located at the west end of town.
Nearby roads Union Boulevard and Airport Road have a good selection of places to eat, from fast food on up. Diners (Top Diner, Golden Gate) and ethnic fare (Aladdin, Great Wall, Pho #1) are well represented, and those with little ones will likely appreciate Kid's Castle, oriented towards families with younger children. For adult drinks with your food, Pitcher's Sports Bar & Grille is right across from the stadium, but close choices are local favorites Stahley's Cellarette, Copperhead Grille, and Mahoney's Irish Pub.
Three lower-end hotels (Royal Motel, Quality Inn, and Super 8) are right by the stadium, but most other rooms for rent are by the airport to the northeast. Many chains of various star-levels are represented, including Fairfield, Staybridge, Red Roof, Courtyard, Holiday Inn, Knight's Inn, and Hilton. Some even offer free shuttles to the park.
Even on a day with inclement weather when I went, the IronPigs managed to pack the stadium full. It lent itself for a lively game with a lot of fan involvement. Although even the high minors are mostly family-centric enterprises, and FeRRUS, FeFe and the fan crew are definitely above-average in their activities, the fans stay involved in the ballgame even if it has almost certainly gone the visiting team's way.
Allentown is well-situated for easy access to the park. The city is located right on interstates 476 and 78, as well as major state roads 222 and 22. It is an hour to Philadelphia by car, and an hour and half to both New York and Harrisburg. Drivers will find copious parking for $3, and all lots but the closest "Vitamin Water" lot (all the lots have corporate sponsors) are open to general admission.
For those not looking to drive, the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) buses on route 102 will get you to the stadium for about $2. An interstate Greyhound station is in downtown, and the Lehigh Valley International Airport services a larger area. But the city lacks any regional rail service -- the closest AMTRAK stop is in Philadelphia.
The main promenade extends all around the stadium and provides easy access down to the single seating area that circles the stadium. The walkway is wide and there aren't any serious blocks even at the gate opening and the end of the game.
Though the IronPigs sometimes skirt big-league pricing, their ticket deals are generally a great value for AAA ball. The basic seats are the Field Level Tickets at $10 (that run left field to right field--though the seats right behind home plate are higher-priced luxury boxes) and the General Admission Tickets (for the Capitol Blue Cross Lawn) at $7. Club-level seats in the upper deck (from first to third) run $15. The "Bacon Strip" in the home run alley in right are also $10 each.
But the basics just scratch the surface. An "Iron Ticket" gets you a field-level seat, plus $20 of ballpark credit, for just $25. Lawn Plus tickets run $10 and get you a general admission ticket, plus $5 of ballpark credit. Both of these can help ease the pain for families looking for a cheap evening out. For those looking for something more unique, Red Robin Oasis Ticket blocks are $60 for four seats and a table at the tiki bar out in left. For $20 each, you can get a Hot Corner seat just beyond third that features in-seat food service.
Food and beer prices are generally good. Most food items are under $7, but some can approach $10. Large draft beers run $9.75 for premium and $9.25 for domestics, on the high end for the minor-leagues, though cans are available at $5.50.
The park has a lot of free extras that add to the experience. Unlike many AAA parks, the IronPigs give away a free program at the entrance to the park. You can sign up for on-field events at the fan services booth in the AT&T entrance plaza.
An extensive kids area is located in left-center field. Tickets are $1, or an all-access wristband is $10. There's a free mascot autograph booth next to the rides, and a Disney Healthy Living Booth right next to that offers activities before and during the game.
There are tons of tributes to the park and the winning ways of its team, and the press box is dedicated to John Watson Jr. Other points of interest include the iron piggy bank at the entrance and the giant Martin & Co. guitar in center that offers a unique vista for a ballgame.
As mentioned, there's scores of little things that make the park stand out that you can't put specifically to paper. But it adds up to an excellent time for all.
Coca-Cola Park is an exceptional ballpark that does everything well, if not topping any particular category. It is a must-see stop for any baseball fan in the area, and it provides an affordable night of AAA baseball for all comers.
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are the class AAA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. They have been playing in Coca-Cola Park since 2008, when the park was named ballpark of the year by Ballpark Digest. I highly recommend a visit as you will enjoy your time at one of the best minor league parks in the country.
This is a great place to watch a game. There is easy access from I-78, the food is good, lots of parking, good between-inning entertainment, fun crowd, lots of areas to relax. Get seats in the grass (cheap) and relax. This is one of the few stadiums that both of my daughters like. We've been here 4 times in the past three years and will likely visit again this year.
While the entertainment value and over-all atmosphere of Coca-Cola Park is exemplary, the IronPigs are constructing a brand new expansion for 2012.
The Red Robin Tiki Terrace and Oasis will bring the Park's capacity to 10,100. The Tiki Terrace will feature a new group area, tables, new drink rails, an expanded menu and a row of over-hanging seats that are actually over the left-field wall and "in play"!
2012 will be a great year and we shall Bring the Noise!
You really can't be this in terms of minor league ballparks. I walked away very impressed as a neutral fan.
I took in a double-header on April 20, 2013, IronPigs vs. Buffalo Bisons. Despite being a fan of the visiting team, and the temperature being in the 30s/40s, I had a great time!
Some notable details include:
- Ticket prices were cheap ($10 for the entire double header + plus a commemorative pint glass. What a deal!).
- Parking ($3) was abundant.
- The ballpark and surrounding grounds were clean.
- Ballpark staff were extremely friendly.
- Seats were comfortable and wide. I'm a big galoot, and sat next to a big galoot. We did not elbow each other at all. Cupholders? Yes :).
- Mascots were great. Both kind of terrifying (IronPigs) and extremely animated!
- Lots of between inning and general park extras. Watching a giant ham run in the Pork Race was fun. Working sponsors and promotions into the game were creative and fun. Fireworks out of the Coca-Cola bottle were a nice touch.
- Fans were generally into the game, and friendly despite my wearing visiting team gear! :)
- Concessions were moderately priced, but had things I have not seen at other ballparks. Lots of pork products (IronPigs!) like pulled pork sandwiches, pulled pork nachos, etc. Roasted corn on the cob that one eats like a popsicle! Cinnamon roasted nuts, made right in front of you. Yum.
- Team store had a nice selection. Prices were moderate. Not as expensive as a major league park, but more expensive than some AAA parks I've been to.
- Announcer and songs added to the game and were at a perfect volume. Coca-Cola Park does it right.
- Scoreboard could use some features. It would be nice to see what the players did previously in the game. It would also have been nice to see the full lineup listed while the teams were up.
- Pitch radar was definitely broken. 54 MPH? No way!
Overall, I very much enjoyed my experience at this ballpark. So much so, I've already bought tickets to the AAA Championship game in September, knowing that it will be a great time.
Hopefully I won't have to wear mittens next time I go! Great job, Coca-Cola Park!
The iron pigs are the Triple-A affiliate of the Phillies, located in the suburban Lehigh Vally attendance is great. The team has a drumline provided by Youth Education and interesting restrooms with urinal video games. They are in the International League where games are played at a high level. The food is great! I would recommend the crab fries for sure. You won't be disappointed.
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