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Official Review by Steven Burke, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
In the far west suburbs of Chicago sits Fifth Third Bank Ballpark home of the Kane County Cougars, Chicagoland’s only affiliated MiLB team. The Cougars began play in Geneva, Illinois in 1991 and just celebrated their 25th season in 2015.
The Cougars have been on a bit of an affiliate carousel during their years of operation, having gone through the Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins, Oakland A’s, Chicago Cubs, and (beginning in 2015) the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks affiliation actually works well for the ballpark as all of the fixed chair back seats are a shade of red similar to the Diamondbacks’ color scheme, and reminiscent of Chase Field in Phoenix.
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".
This is a great ballpark to splurge on the food and beverage options, as the Cougars have a wide variety of great food to satisfy every member of the family regardless of their taste preference. The home plate stand and baseline bites stands have a wide variety of the usual ballpark fare. Entrees include pulled pork sandwich or chicken tenders & fries ($6.50), cheeseburger, hamburger, or turkey burger ($6.25), veggie burger ($6), corn dog & fries ($5.50), bratwurst or pizza slice (cheese, sausage, or pepperoni) ($5), jumbo hot dog ($4), and kid's hot dog ($3.25).
Snacks include nachos grande ($6.25), cheese fries ($5.25), French fries ($4.25), soft pretzel or regular nachos ($4.50), lemon chill & dove bars ($4.50), cookie ice cream sandwich, peanuts, cracker jacks, and popcorn ($4).
Beverages consist of fountain Pepsi products (large $5, regular $4.25 & kids $3). Bottled water is $3.75 while draft beer ($6.75) and premium draft beer ($7.50) are also available.
Wannemaker's Grill down the right field line has a wide variety of grilled meats and sandwiches including an Italian Combo ($8.50), BBQ pork and Italian beef ($7.50), giant Polish sausage ($7.25), hamburger, cheeseburger, and grilled chicken sandwich ($6.25), Italian sausage ($5.25), jumbo brat ($5), and jumbo hot dog ($4). There are also other various specialty stands on the concourse.
A great feature that is sure to catch on at ballparks around the country is the Cougars Craft Beer Cave which is located on the concourse down the left field line and is a restaurant style walk in cooler with more craft beer than you can imagine in a ballpark all for $6. The staff operating the cave have been educated on the selection and styles stocked in the cave.
This is not a ballpark that is located in a downtown metropolitan area with a skyline view beyond the outfield wall, but what the ballpark does provide is a view of trees and nature. A reason this ballpark provides such a great atmosphere is that they have embraced and emphasized the enjoinment of going to a ball game to create a wonderful setting. The wood façade of the picnic and group areas beyond the outfield wall give a wonderful feeling of nature. Watching a game and looking out beyond the outfield fence gives a feeling of a ballpark in the middle of a nature preserve; you would never guess you are still in Chicagoland.
The ballpark also contains a wide variety of seating options. The picnic group area beyond the outfield fence is known as the Leinie Lodge, and it is a great section for group outings with picnic tables, umbrellas, and a deck. There are lawn berms down both baselines and a recent addition to the right field berm is an area with Adirondack chairs and stone seating areas.
As for the regular seating bowl, the eight rows closest to the field are regular chair back seats with the remainder of rows consisting of bleachers. There are promotions every half inning. The Cougars Den gift shop is located on the concourse to the first base side and is large with a wide variety of Cougar merchandise.
Sunday home games feature an organ with performances by Nancy Faust who played the organ for the White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks during her career.
Geneva isn't exactly a bustling area as far as shopping, eating, and lodging. However, there are still plenty of places within a few miles of the ballpark worth visiting.
Atwater's Restaurant (fine dining) and The Little Owl Restaurant (casual American fare) are both good options relatively close to the ballpark.
If you take I-88 and exit at the Aurora outlet mall, then you will pass plenty of options going towards the ballpark. A few favorites within 10-15 minutes of the ballpark are Penrose Brewing Company taproom for drinks or Two Brothers Brewing Company for drinks and a full food menu.
Cougars fans generally consist of families with children, as you might expect in the Chicago suburbs at a minor league baseball game. There is a social atmosphere at Fifth Third with the diehard fans that attend for the sole purpose of watching a ballgame seeming few and far between. However, the ballpark is welcoming, safe, and all attendees are friendly.
Chicagoland traffic on the roadways for weeknight games can be plentiful. Interstate 88 is the best access point as you exit at the Aurora outlet mall exit and drive through Warrenville before arriving at the ballpark in Geneva.
Due to the abundance of small food and beverage stands, the concourse is a bit crowded. This is most prevalent during the games with higher attendance, which tends to mostly revolve around firework nights with the large amount of families that usually attend the games.
Parking is $5 for general parking and $10 preferred parking, which is a closer walking distance to the stadium's entrance and needs to be purchased pre-game.
For not being located in a downtown area, the parking price can seem excessive for some. Tickets are reasonably priced at $13, $11, and $9. However there is an additional dollar charge when purchased the day of the game. Get your tickets in advance if you want to save a little, especially if you're traveling with a group.
The Cougars Craft Beer Cave walk in beer cooler deserves another mention. As the craft beer scene becomes larger and larger, the Cougars seem to be ahead of the curve with this great feature that I would expect to expand to other ballparks quickly.
A extra mention for the small upgrades that the team makes on a yearly basis to keep the ballpark up to date. It isn't the newest ballpark in the Midwest League, but it is well maintained and embraces the nature around the ballpark to produce a great atmosphere.
Nancy Faust on the organs on Sundays is something purely Chicago that should be experienced at the ballpark. If you have a choice of when you attend, make it a Sunday.
Another extra for the organization celebrating their 25th year operating in Chicagoland. There are many options for entertainment in the area, but through a well run organization the Cougars have carved out their niche in the market.
In an geographic area with two MLB teams and many independent teams the Kane County Cougars produce a great environment for the only MiLB franchise in the area.
Member Review by paul
Forty-three miles from Chicago, in the small suburban town of Geneva, waits a nice baseball experience. Fifth Third Bank Ballpark is an unremarkable stadium, but filled with great food and drink, so the sum experience leaves fans feeling like they experienced a great minor league park.
The Kane County Cougars have been a continuous minor league franchise since 1952. The team originated in Decatur, Illinois, and moved to Wausau, Wisconsin in the mid-1970's. In 1991, the Cougars found their current home in Geneva, Illinois. Since that time they have been affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins, Oakland Athletics, and Kansas City Royals. Beginning the 2013 season, the team is an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
Member Review by megminard on Jul 12, 2013
The Kane County Cougars, the Single A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, are a member of the Midwest League, and play at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark (5/3) in Geneva, IL. Fifth Third Bank Ballpark is a family-oriented stadium and is worth a visit not only to watch a ballgame but to visit with friends.
The stadium opened in 1991 as Kane County Events Center. In 1993, it was renamed Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium in honor of the person most responsible for bringing minor league baseball to Kane County. On May 3, 2012 (5/3 day), it was renamed to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
The Kane County Cougars have been a continuous minor league franchise since 1952. The team originated in Decatur, Illinois, and moved to Wausau, Wisconsin in the mid-1970's. In 1991, the Cougars found their current home in Geneva, IL. Since that time they have been affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins, Oakland Athletics, and Kansas City Royals and, beginning the 2013 season, the team became an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
Member Review by Teabags on Jul 25, 2013
for the baseball fan or family man you have it all here. the stadium is new and offers all the features of a new era park. the stadium is easy to get to and offers plenty for kids to do. They have an amazing history of players that have come through here. Good food and beer options.
Member Review by newsome321 on Jul 02, 2014
Nice place to watch a game. Great food options as well!
Member Review by ZeldaFreak1000 on Jul 21, 2014
I came to watch the Cougars take on the Quad Cities River Bandits. We lost by about 6 points but I still had a blast, there was a crazy moment at the game when bees swarmed the field. It later got handled by crews there. It's just a great family experience.
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