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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
They have been playing baseball at Dunn Field since its opening in 1939 and in Elmira since 1888. The Elmira Pioneer name has also been synonymous with baseball since the name first appeared in 1900 in the New York State League. The Pioneers have captured 14 championships in various leagues that have included the New York Pennsylvania League, Eastern League, Can Am League, and now the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
Dunn Field comfortably seats 4,020 people and is still a grand reminder of what our ballparks used to look like at one time. It still holds up handsomely well as a collegiate wood bat summer league stadium. Its setting and location along the Chemung River, and its history, make up a strong baseball cocktail that should be sipped slowly on a warm summer night in the southern tier of New York.
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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".
The main concession stand operates two windows directly underneath the grandstand and in front of the main entrance. There is not an uber-selection of food, but the prices range from $3-$5. Highlights include the grilled chicken sandwich, pulled pork and the nachos grande. There is an additional concession booth on top of the grandstand that serves a spicy jalapeno pretzel and cotton candy. A nice little touch near the park's entrance is a local coffee shop that does business only during home games. They serve the high end ice coffee varieties you would find at Starbucks or Tim Horton's.
If you have a few people with you on game night, opt for the nachos served in a batting helmet for $10. This can easily feed two to three people. In the adult beverage department, the prices are even better. While many parks up the prices beyond belief, even at this level, the Pioneers offer domestic cans of 12 ounce beers for $3 and 24 ounce cans for $5. Hey, who needs Thirsty Thursdays?
I am a sucker for nostalgic ballparks, especially one that features a magnificent art deco entrance. The design is beautiful, and with the small narrow ticket booths you have me before I enter into the ballpark. There is no need to look for food, since the concession stands are smack down in front of your eyes. The souvenir shop is directly to your left and has a few nice bits of Pioneer paraphernalia. There does not seem to be a mad dash of customers trying to purchase products. However, a few t-shirts sell for $5 and that is a bargain. If they only had Dunn Field souvenir t-shirts for sale...
There are also a lot of activities for the kids that include plate painting, bouncing bubble and the classic carnival game of strength-ring the bell. The splat of the mallet and the ringing of the bell can be deafening at times, but try telling that to the crowd of kiddies waiting in line to give it a try. If you love cuddly mascots, the Pioneers employ Stitches who makes his way around the stadium and field throughout the game.
Dunn Field is quite large and filled with nostalgia throughout every corner of the building. The covered grandstand features full service box seating, plastic bucket seats and theater style teal seats that are peeling and cracking. The teal color was from when the Florida Marlins had their Single-A franchise in Elmira from 1993-1995 and it needs a fresh coat of new paint. Other evidence of the Marlins and their teal revolution exist on the roofs of the dugouts that were installed at the time of their arrival.
There are many stories that can be told about the baseball that has been played here. Photos of Babe Ruth, Don Zimmer's wedding and a contract signed by Earl Weaver don the interior royal blue walls. Also in this area are the twelve different championship banners won by the Pioneers in numerous leagues that date back to 1914. If you need more proof of the stadium's glorious past, talk to a few fans and they will tell you one of their favorite stories from their youth.
Dunn Field is located along the river and situated in a residential neighborhood. Many of these homes look as if they are post-Victorian models and are kept up quite nicely. In fact, you may be lucky to see groups of folks outside on their wraparound patios entertaining guests en route to the ballpark. Unfortunately, there are not any restaurant or entertainment options within walking distance. Downtown is three miles away and there are few places I would recommend a few local establishments.
Legends Bar & Grill has the local delicacy of chicken spiedies on their menu, and the Elbow Room features a great selection of wings and burgers.
If you are a fan of microbreweries, Horseheads Brewing and Birdland Brewing Company both feature local favorites in the nearby town of Horseheads. Chubby's is popular among the local populace for their pizza and atmosphere.
They have been playing baseball in Elmira for more than 126 years and games at Dunn Field have become a rite of passage. They have seen the Pioneers play in Single-A, independent, and now in the collegiate wood bat league. The crowd is laid back and relaxed underneath the historic covered ballpark.
They are willing to share a few stories about baseball when they were younger and all indicate that the place has not changed much in quite some time. One gentleman's wife was looking through an old program from the early 1980s and discovered that it was signed by Wade Boggs when he was playing in the Red Sox system. The husband remembered asking for the autograph, but blanked out that it was the major league Hall of Famer. There are many more great stories to share and it could fill up a book.
I enjoy having signs and directions to the ballpark directly from the interstate. They are listed on I-86 with other Elmira attractions in town. There are a couple more signs that will guide you to the stadium's entrance and once you are there, there is ample free covered parking near the stadium. This is the one time where you can put the GPS away and enjoy the ride to the ballpark.
Tickets for adults are $7 and for students/seniors the cost is $5. The Pioneers offer VIP seating in their box seats that includes waitress service for $10. These are the old fashion seats that are two rows in back of home plate. I would come back in a heartbeat.
The charm of Dunn Field would be enough to attract any ballpark traveler to Elmira. The ample sized stadium has the look and feel of many great minor league ballparks that are no longer around. It is clean, spacious, and ideal for a relaxing day of baseball viewing. What is better than watching a simple game at a perfectly simple and beautiful historic stadium?
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229 Oakwood Ave
Elmira Heights, NY 14903
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Horseheads, NY 14845
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