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Official Review by Terry Borning, Stadium Journey Guest Correspondent
Nestled next to the vista of Billings’ famed rimrocks, Dehler Park is arguably the jewel of the Pioneer League. Dehler (pronounced ‘Dee-ler’) opened in 2008, replacing the historic, but dilapidated, Cobb Field, which had been in use since the 1940s. Built at a cost of $12.5 million, Dehler Park is used for concerts (Bob Dylan performed there in 2010), American Legion baseball, Montana State University Billings baseball, and Billings Mustangs baseball. Billings businessman Jon Dehler purchased the naming rights for the stadium and named it for his father, a lifelong baseball fan.
Seating capacity is 3,071, with additional standing room only tables available along the outfield concourse. Individual infield box seats are available, as well as bleachers and a lawn berm.
Despite being a new facility, Dehler Park is part museum as well, with a bronze sculpture of Billings native Dave McNally (long-time Baltimore Orioles pitcher) outside the front gate of the stadium. Another statue of legendary American Legion baseball coach Ed Bayne stands near the ticket booth. A bust of long-time owner Bob Wilson is located in the picnic area next to the home clubhouse down the left-field line. Bleachers from the old Cobb Field are available far down the right-field line. George Brett and Trevor Hoffman once played here in Billings, as have most of the homegrown stars (Adam Dunn, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto) of the Cincinnati Reds, the parent club of the Mustangs. Billy Hamilton, who just smashed the single-season stolen base record, played at Dehler in 2010.
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".
The food at Dehler is pretty much what you'd expect at a ballpark. The signature item is a Mustang Burger (grilled brisket on a hamburger). Cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken strips are available to fill you up, with cotton candy, malt cups, and sno-cones to satisfy your sweet tooth. Shock Top, Budweiser, and Clamato are on tap for adult beverages, with Pepsi products, water and lemonade to quench your thirst. Prices are about what you'd expect. With concession stands available down both of the baselines, the lines are seldom long, and are often staffed by cheerful and friendly faces who are fundraising for organizations.
The atmosphere at Dehler is excellent for baseball. Professional baseball has been played on this location for nearly 70 years. The rimrocks (300 foot high sandstone bluffs) provide a unique backdrop for your viewing experience. Billings airport sits on top of the rims, just north of the stadium, and several aircrafts take off and land during the game, providing a fun distraction for kids without being overly noisy. Grab your seats in section 120 and you can sit right behind the Mustangs bullpen - don't be surprised if they strike up a conversation with you. Autographs are easy to grab before the game.
If you've got children, make sure they say hi to Homer the Mustang, the team mascot. Before some games, he rounds up the young fans and plays kickball on the field. On hotter days, he'll bring out his squirt gun and douse overheated fans. An inflatable bounce house and pitching booth are stationed down the right-field concourse if your young ones get too restless.
50/50 tickets are sold at every game, with the winner taking home half of the pot and the other half going to charity. Buy your tickets from Barb, you'll know her when you see her. The Mustangs' biggest fan and cheerleader, she'll bless your tickets with a dance and a kiss.
Dehler is located in downtown Billings, right across the street from Perkins. If you're looking for something of a more local flavor, there are several microbreweries located within a mile of the ballpark. Montana Brewing Company, two Angry Hanks locations, Carters Brewery and Tap Room, and a new place named Uberbrew. Montana Brewing Company and Uberbrew offer more than the standard pub fare.
For finer dining, check out Walkers American Grill and Tapas Bar or Jake's eight blocks south of the stadium.
The Mustangs do a good job at filling the stadium, and while many fans come for the ambience of the outdoors, the fans in Billings are knowledgeable and tuned in. There is a strong stable of season ticket holders, and with the approachability of the players at the rookie league level and the fact that players at this level often still live with host families, there is a strong connection between the fans and players. The fans here are friendly, and you won't have to put up with the obnoxious drunk swearing in your section - they simply don't exist here.
There is a small lot available beyond the right-field stands. Other than that, it is on-street parking in the local neighborhoods. Parking is free, but get there early to grab a spot where you won't have to walk a couple blocks.
There are restrooms available on concourses down both baselines. The facilities are nearly new, so they are large and clean, unlike the old Cobb Field where they were small and had the accumulated stench of 65 years of use.
$5 gets you in the door and gets you a field box seat along the baselines. Berm seating and standing room only are available for $4. Club box and dugout box seats are generally sold out to season ticket holders.
Nothing to constitute "extras".
**Terry Borning is the founder of mascotdb.com.
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2405 1st Avenue North
Billings, MT 59101
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