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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Baseball is a true religion in the heartland of America, and its church can be found at Eck Stadium–Home of Tyler Field on the campus of Wichita State University (WSU). Built in 1978 as Shocker Field with 322 seats (and no public bathrooms), “The Eck” has since grown into one of the top college baseball facilities in the country. It now seats nearly 8,000 fans and offers a fan experience not often found at a mid-level school. A poll of NCAA baseball coaches and sports information directors has consistently ranked the facility in the top 10 in the country based on general aesthetics, facilities, fan amenities, field playing conditions and tradition. As a result, WSU has been chosen to host the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament 26 times, winning the title 17 of those years and the regular season title 20 times. The Shockers take their home-field advantage very seriously. In addition to their conference titles, the team has made 27 NCAA Tournament appearances, made it to the CWS on seven occasions and won one National Championship (1989).
The Shockers have sent more than 30 players on to the major leagues in the history of the program. Among the most notable WSU baseball alums are Joe Carter, Eric Wedge, Mike Pelfrey and Charlie O’Brien.
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".
There are three primary concession areas: one on the concourse behind the main grandstand, one next to the ticket office and one out on Coleman Hill. All concessions are on a cash-only basis. Food may be brought into the stadium only in the Coleman Hill area, and must be brought in through the Coleman Hill gate only. The concessions management and the university have a solid commitment towards using locally-owned companies and local farm providers to supply the provisions for the stands. I think this is an admirable policy in a heavily agricultural state. As a result, the food is fresher, and the fans know their purchase supports the local economy.
Eck Ballpark offers a wide variety of typical baseball fare, as well as some items unique to Kansas. A quick review of the menu items includes hot dogs ($5), cheeseburgers ($6.50), chicken strips ($7), pulled pork sandwiches ($7.50), regular nachos ($6.50), Memphis nachos - a much spicier version of nacho ($9), french fries ($4), pretzels ($4.50), popcorn ($4), cotton candy ($5) and peanuts ($5). On the beverage side of the menu, bottled sodas (Pepsi products) and bottled water go for $4, while fountain drinks are priced at $3.50 for a 16-ounce cup, $4.50 for a 24-ounce cup and $5 for the 32-ounce cup, which comes with free refills. Some uniquely Kansas offerings are a malt cup at $4.50 and Shock Top, a Budweiser brand of a Belgian Wheat beer. While on the topic of concessions, Eck Stadium also features a Shock Shop, with a wide variety of WSU Shockers baseball items.
One of the first things you will notice when you arrive at "The Eck" is its sheer size. The grandstand soars above you as you approach the stadium, with the seating extending toward both first and third base. As you enter the main gate area, you will be passing through Bledsoe Plaza, which includes three baseball-themed statues, three different murals saluting the many Shocker greats of the past and a walk of fame featuring players who were All-Americans while at WSU, or made the major leagues.
Once inside the stadium you will understand why the stadium is so highly thought of by both Shocker boosters and the opposing teams. From the player's perspective, the field has a state-of-the-art Game Day AstroTurf surface and the dugouts are at field level. Teams also have access prior to the game in the Bombardier Learjet Indoor Practice facility (Wichita is a hub for aviation industry companies) located adjacent to the field.
Even though the stadium dates back to 1978, it has gone through numerous renovations, each aimed at improving the fan experience. The seating is arranged in a bowl shape centered on the pitcher's mound and extending to both first and third bases. The elevation of the seats provides great sight lines of the field of play. Both dugouts were lowered in height to allow the fans to be closer to the action, as well. The most recent renovation included the addition of 2,600 box seats and 1,300 chairback seats in the grandstand. An especially welcome design addition is the 33-inch-deep rows, which allow fans much better legroom and minimize the number of times you have to stand up as people go by.
Upper levels of the grandstand feature 18 skybox suites and access to the All-American Club. Super-Shockers can watch the game from its temperature-controlled environment, enjoy complimentary food and beverages, and receive priority parking. On the other end of the scale is Coleman Hill. This is a general admission seating area in the outfield. It offers a combination of grass seating for those who prefer to watch the game while seated on a beach towel to seating in one of two pavilions which provide cover from the elements and decks that can be set up with chairs for larger groups. The Coleman Company (headquartered in Wichita) has even provided outdoor products such as coolers and camp chairs to enhance the fans' comfort.
Finally, a new sound system and speakers were installed in 2014, providing excellent acoustics for announcements and music. The scoreboard is a state-of-the-art scoreboard, complete with video replays, radar gun readings for each pitch and clear-to-read LED wording.
The Eck is located just inside the northern boundary of Wichita State University. The area immediately surrounding the university is residential in nature, and you may need a car to reach the suggested restaurants. Two very popular and longtime Wichita restaurant staples near the WSU campus are TOPS Steak and Hoagies and Spangles Restaurant. For breakfast the morning after the game, The Good Egg has terrific omelets. The best nightlife near campus can be found at the Granite City Restaurant and Brewery. A wide variety of motel and hotel chains to meet most any level of budget can be found at the I-135/ 21st Street exit.
One of the best measures of fan support for a team is attendance. Every team is going to go through ups and downs over a period of decades. Since 2000, the Shockers have ranked in the top 25 in Division I for attendance every year. The average attendance per game is over 4,000, which is remarkable when you factor in weekday games and the often raw weather Kansas can experience in the early spring. WSU fans are passionate about their team and often can be heard doing the WUUUUU-SHOCK cheer during a rally or after a notable defensive play by the home team. They also travel well with the team to other MVC sites.
The WSU campus is located northeast of downtown Wichita. The directions to the campus are quite simple; take I-135 to the 21st Street/WSU exit. Take 21st Street until you reach the main gate entering the WSU campus. Eck Stadium will be immediately on your right as you enter the campus.
Once you get parked, there are four primary gates through which you can enter Eck Stadium. These are the Main Gate (next to the ticket office), the Plaza Gate (behind Bledsoe Plaza), the South Entrance (along the first base line) and Coleman Hill (near the right field foul pole). Concourses are wide and do not get too congested and restrooms are plentiful (except during the seventh-inning stretch).
Eck Stadium has variable ticket prices, depending on where you want to sit. Field Box seats are $12; Upper Boxes and Outfield Bleachers are $10; Upper Grandstand seats are $8 and Coleman Hill is $10. Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more. There is no charge to park at the Eck. The concessions at the stadium are of great quality, but somewhat overpriced. The Coleman Hill option allows fans to bring in their own food and drink, which can cut expenses greatly.
Eck Stadium provides several unique extras.
A mural of all-star players from throughout the years of WSU baseball can be found in the concourse area of the stadium.
The Coleman Hill section of the park is so much more than just "berm seating" that is found in other parks. The pavilions and other Coleman amenities make this a special place to watch a ball game.
Though not in the Eck, Wichita State University is the home to the first Pizza Hut, started by two entrepreneurial WSU students. The original Pizza Hut #1 is found on Kellogg Street.
One additional baseball-oriented attraction to visit while in Wichita is Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, home of the World Baseball Conference and the home field for the Wichita Wingnuts minor league team. It is located about five miles from WSU in downtown Wichita.
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2251 E 21st St N
Wichita, KS 67214
Wichita, KS 67206
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