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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
The brief history of the Lake County Fielders has been a tumultuous endeavor to say the least. The team's claim to fame has been attaching actor Kevin Costner to the ownership group. Unfortunately, that is where the positive story ends.
In their first year, stadium delays forced the team to play more road games than originally planned. In the second year, the team has encountered financial issues that have caused a player revolt which resulted in 9 players being traded and 14 more released. Soon thereafter, the radio play-by-play announcer quit on air . To call the 2011 season a disaster would be an upgrade over the reality.
The team is currently playing in a temporary or "pop-up" stadium in Zion, Illinois known as Fielders Stadium. The field is completely surrounded by a black chain link fence. Beyond the fence is a series of temporary seating looking out over the field. A chalky, gravel-like substance serves as the concourse. This indeed is the current home of the Lake County Fielders of the North American independent baseball league. It is less than ideal to say the least.
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".
The Fielders do what they can to make the food adequate, or even unique. For the most part though, the food is below average. There is one main concession stand located just inside the entrance. Here you'll find corn dogs ($2.50), BBQ chicken sandwich ($4.50), jumbo hot dog ($4), junior dog ($2.50), and chicken tenders with fries ($7). I tried the BBQ chicken, which was dry and just plain old bad.
I tried the pizza as well, provided by Papa Saverio's ($4/slice). I would say it was somewhere between below average and average.
The highlight of the food offerings can be found down the right field line in a little purple shack. Here you'll find a carnival-esque offering including deep fried Oreos, candy bars, and pickles ($3 each).
Bottled beer is available for $5 and bottles of soda go for $3.
Soon after entering the stadium, I heard the announcement that the 7pm game had been moved back to 7:30pm. There was no weather in the area, and no explanation given to the fans. This certainly helped to set the tone for a disappointing evening.
The current field is perfectly symmetrical, with left and right field foul poles located 325 feet from home plate. Straight away center is 400 feet. This just adds to the boring feel of the pop up park. Over the left field fence you will see the scoreboard, as basic as can be. Balls, strikes, and outs as well as runs, hits, and errors are displayed. The bad news is that the balls, strikes, and outs did not work during the game, making it difficult to keep up with the game situations.
There isn't much in the immediate vicinity with an Applebee's your closest option about 3 miles away. Moving south towards Waukegan may be your best bet. Along Lake Michigan to the east you'll find Illinois Beach State Park, a lovely place to spend a summer's day.
I was lucky to find another ardent traveler to talk about other parks. It was a welcome distraction from the low quality before me, and surrounding me. It was such a strange atmosphere. There were people here, perhaps mostly out of curiosity in wanting to see the opposition Yuma Scorpions' player/manager Jose Canseco. Overall, disappointment was in the air, even on a beautiful night for baseball.
Parking is $3, which isn't exorbitant, but when you are a struggling franchise, you would think that any overture that can be made to attract fans would be a no-brainer. I would have thought that free parking would have been offered.
Restrooms are also of the "pop-up" variety. There are outhouses or trailers available for patrons. They were fairly clean, but let's face it, this is not what you're looking for when you attend a ball game.
There are three ticket options. Box seats go for $15 and land you between 1st and 3rd base. Reserve box seats are only $7, and are my recommendation if you're buying a seat. The final option is general admission for $6, and those seats are bleachers located in right field. The truth is the ushers aren't real strong on enforcing your seat location, so if you're feeling sneaky, then you may want to go cheap. For me, it is worth the extra dollar to have a guaranteed seat.
Even with parking, some food, and a beer, you should still be able have an experience that goes for $20-$25. But cheap doesn't necessarily mean this is a good investment. Look, I like baseball, even bad baseball, but overall this just doesn't live up to any price. If the parking was waived, then that would help, but as it stands it would be hard for me to recommend making the trip.
I'll give the staff credit for maintaining a happy face. This is a tough environment to go to work, but the staff were universally friendly and welcoming, even if I did feel a bit of pity projecting from them.
I do sincerely hope that this situation can be turned around, but at the present time, the outlook is grim. I have been to well over 100 stadiums, and this is only the second time I am recommending against making a visit. Unless you just have a morbid curiosity, this is a stop worth skipping.
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