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Official Review by Chris Patton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Bradley Braves baseball team shares Dozer Park with the St. Louis Cardinals Class A affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs. The stadium opened in May 2002, and Bradley’s first game in the facility was on March 26, 2003. Originally known as O’Brien Field, Caterpillar purchased naming rights in 2013. The current name refers to Caterpillar’s bulldozers.
Dozer Park has 7,500 chair back seats, along with grass seating down the left and right field lines and behind the left field wall. There are also multiple picnic tables around the concourse.
The Braves play in the Missouri Valley Conference. The most notable player in Bradley history is MLB Hall of Famer, Kirby Puckett. The late Minnesota Twin played in Peoria in 1981. Puckett’s opponent in the 1987 World Series, former Cardinals first baseman/outfielder Jim Lindeman, donned the Bradley red and white as well, from 1981-83.
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 only one of the many concession stands in Dozer Park is open for Bradley games, they do serve the entire menu. Yes, the entire menu does include alcohol, a rarity at college baseball games.
Draft beer options are Bud Light, Miller Lite and Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy (each $6). During the cooler portion of the college baseball season, $5.50 spiked coffee or hot chocolate might hit the spot more than a cold beer. A large Pepsi product in a souvenir cup is $5.
Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, veggie burgers, turkey burgers, pork chop sandwiches, chicken tenders, and corn dogs all sell for $6 or less. Combo meals featuring one of the above items, French fries and a soft drink are all $9 or less, a nice deal for ballpark food.
Dozer Park is just over ten years old and a nice facility. Unfortunately, the most recent game I attended included an hour long rain delay. By first pitch, the stands were practically deserted and most of the remaining fans watched the game from the cover of the concourse. With the eerie quiet, it felt like the game was being played in the middle of the night.
Inside the main entrance to Dozer Park is a merchandise stand and marketing table. The small stand features Bradley gear for sale, including t-shirts with the new school mascot, Kaboom the Gargoyle. The Chiefs merchandise store is not open during Bradley games. The marketing table contains picture schedules, posters and laminated cards for baseball bingo. The bingo winner receives a coupon for free pizza.
The 7,500 green seats feature cup holders. Seats in rows 20 and 21 are under an overhang from the press box and suite level. These seats remain nice and dry in the event of a rain shower. Legroom is ample.
The field at Dozer Park features grass and clay. The Bradley players and coaches are in charge of getting the tarp on and off the field. Dimensions are 310 feet down the lines, 375 feet to the power alleys and 400 feet to straightaway center field.
The Braves use the Dozer Park video board, a luxury not available to most mid-major, college baseball programs. The screen features information about the players and airs videos for between inning contests.
Kelleher's Irish Pub and Eatery is located on the historic riverfront, two blocks away from the park. The restaurant is housed in an old warehouse. They feature traditional Irish fare, along with American bar food. Kelleher's touts their 20 micro or import drafts and 90 different bottled beers.
The stadium is on the eastern edge of Peoria's downtown. Peoria features a wide variety of nightlife for fans looking for a late night on the town. Just across the river in East Peoria, the recently developed area features nearly every dining and shopping chain possible.
The tradeoff of playing in a shiny, off-campus facility is that students have to travel to attend games. They can't just spill out of the dorms and into the game. The team needs to be winning and playing an exciting brand of ball to ensure lively, invested crowds.
In all fairness to the Bradley student body, I attended a weeknight, non-conference game that featured an hour-long rain delay before the first pitch. Once the game started, there were only a handful of students in attendance who weren't working at the game. Parents of the players make up the majority of the crowd.
Free parking is available on multiple streets around the ballpark. There are also nearby office lots that might be available for use, depending on the day and time of your visit to Dozer Park. Check the signs on the streets and the lots to make sure you won't come out of the game to find a ticket on your windshield.
Unlike the concession stands, all of the concourse bathrooms are open. The facilities are clean and spacious.
Admission is $6, which seems high, when many competing programs offer free admission. Free parking helps to make up for the admission charge. A pretzel and Pepsi in a souvenir cup totals $8.50. The souvenir cup features the Peoria Chiefs instead of Bradley. The cup is a leftover from seasons ago because it still shows the Chiefs as a Cubs affiliate. The Chiefs have been a Cardinals affiliate since 2013. It might be in your best interest to wait until the summer and visit Dozer Park for a Chiefs game to get the most entertainment for your dollar at this ballpark.
While most everything in the park references the summer tenant, the Braves have two prominent areas where their history is on display. On the third base side of the concourse, there are two, wall-length posters featuring photos, names and records of great players in Bradley baseball history.
Down the right field line, next to the retired Chiefs numbers, are the names and numbers retired by the Braves. Along with Puckett's number 14, Bradley has retired the numbers of former pitcher Mike Dunne (#11) and longtime coach Leo Schrall (#2).
Dozer Park is a comfortable and fan-friendly stadium with a view of the downtown Peoria skyline. It is well worth checking out on a sunny day or a clear night. Unfortunately, it feels like Bradley is an afterthought at their own home field.
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619 SW Water St
Peoria, IL 61602
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