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Official Review by Daniel Armstrong, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
For more than 25 years the baseball program at Illinois State University has called Duffy Bass Field home. The original structure featured limited seating and was lacking in many modern amenities. In 2006, then-athletic director Dr. Sheahon Zenger unveiled the Redbird Renaissance Capital Campaign, the purpose of which was to propel Illinois State's Athletic Complexes into the 21st century. Along with the renovation of the baseball diamond, a new softball stadium, a new east side grandstand at Hancock Stadium, and an upgrade to Redbird Arena were included in the master plan.
The $3.2 million renovation saw Duffy Bass Field transform from what could have been considered a temporary structure into one of the premier venues in the Midwest.
The new stadium features a gated complex with seating for over 1,500 spectators, fixed concession stands, restrooms, team dug outs, and a press box unparalleled in mid-major baseball.
The stadium, which is nestled into the northwest corner of the Redbird's athletic complex, was rededicated on May 9th 2009. The name was changed from Redbird Field to Duffy Bass Field in honor of long time ISU coach Duffy Bass, who coached the Redbirds for over 20 seasons and led them to capture the 1969 NCAA College Division National Championship.
Since the project was completed in 2009 the stadium has received other upgrades including a new LED scoreboard in 2010 and a $360,000 Field Turf infield in 2013.
The Redbirds have consistently finished in the top half of the Missouri Valley Conference since the renovation including a league championship and impressive playoff run in 2010.
Duffy Bass Field has the honor of hosting the Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Tournament for the first time in its history in 2013.
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".
You won't find anything other than typical ballpark fare at Duffy Bass Field. The selection includes hot dogs, hamburgers, Polish sausage, nachos, popcorn, candy, soft drinks (Pepsi), and hot chocolate. All items are reasonably priced and range from $1.50-$4.50.
The stadium is extremely visually appealing. The new Field Turf infield features a Redbird logo and is very classy looking. The natural grass outfield is very well manicured as well. In fact, before the installation of the artificial surface Illinois State was twice awarded the Professional Grounds Management Society's Honor Award for excellence in playing surface.
There is also a picturesque backdrop to the stadium with trees in left field; the towering new grandstand of Hancock Stadium in center; and Horton Fieldhouse, Redbird Arena, and a state of the art scoreboard in right field.
There is a great view from every seat. The three sections directly behind home plate are plastic stadium seats and the rest of the fixed seating is backed metal bleachers. Grass along both baselines extends to the outfield fence and serve as overflow.
The sound is good throughout the stadium. Although I was thoroughly irritated by the public address announcer by the end of the game.
ISU has a great student following which adds tremendously to the atmosphere at any collegiate sporting event. It is just an overall great place to see a game. The only downside is that the surrounding terrain is rather flat so wind can be a problem during some contests so dress accordingly.
There are few options within comfortable walking distance, but there are plenty of options nearby if driving. My personal recommendation would be paying a visit to the Pub II. The Pub has been named one of the best college bars in America by Playboy magazine. You will find a large selection of food and beverages at a reasonable price. Order the cheese balls, you won't regret it!
Two other options would be either paying a visit to the Uptown Normal area which has a vast selection of dining choices and retail outlets, or a strip of bars along Beaufort Street which are catered to the students. Either way, visitors should be mindful of parking signs to avoid an unexpected ticket or the chance of being towed away.
With its success in recent seasons, Illinois State's baseball program has built up a faithful following. A half capacity crowd is typical for the Redbirds. All fans seem to be attentive to the action on the field, are knowledgeable about the game of baseball, and are interested in ensuring their team prevails in the contest. The visiting team often has a fairly large fan section which is located along the third baseline and they are treated in a respectful and welcoming manner.
Parking is no problem at ISU events. There is a large lot located directly outside the stadium and in the rare event that it fills up there are parking lots down Adelaide Street next to the soccer and softball stadiums. The concourse is wide and easily navigable and the entire experience is handicapped accessible. Restrooms are located past the concession stand on the first base side. They are very well maintained and large enough to accommodate the crowd without much of a line if any.
The experience is well worth the price of admission, in fact I would have gladly paid more. Illinois State Redbirds baseball is presented free of charge. Admission to every regular season Illinois State contest is free as is parking so the only place you can incur expense is through concessions. I enjoyed my visit and would have gladly paid something.
I like the view of the athletics complex beyond the outfield. Overall this is a very appealing and high quality stadium. Illinois State did a fantastic job with this renovation. The new ballpark is a complete 180 from what they had before.
Best of all, it's FREE! As the cost of attending a live sporting event is rising in all leagues across the nation this is a very welcome surprise.
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