To say Rochester, New York has a bit of baseball history is an understatement of biblical proportions. It has one of only six sports franchises in North America (and the only in the minor leagues) to play continuously in the same city and league since the 19th century, and (along with the Hamilton Canadian Football League team) is one of only two North American teams to win championships in every decade of the 20th century. The Rochester franchise has gone by the "Red Wings" name since 1929 and, since 2003, is the Twins affiliate in the AAA International League (after epic stints affiliated with Orioles for 41 years and Cardinals for 31 years).
Their home is the 10,840-seat Frontier Field, and while a regional telecommunications company might own the naming rights, the previous stadium's namesake, Morrie E. Silver, is still plastered around the park, starting with the new stadium's address of One Morrie Silver Way. Silver single-handedly spearheaded the effort to save the Red Wings when the Cardinals ended their affiliation in 1956. With 8,222 stockholders, he completed the "72-Day Miracle" to buy the team for Rochester Community Baseball and secure the affiliation with the Orioles that lasted until 2003. In addition to baseball, Frontier Field regularly hosts concerts and other sporting events, with several regional sports teams using the facility in the baseball off-season in the last decade.
Befitting its long and rich baseball heritage, Frontier Field offers an exemplary (yet cost-conscious) experience for hard-core baseball fans or just people seeking a fun night out with the family alike.
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 food and drink options at Frontier Field are exceptional for any park, let alone a minor league stadium.
Outside of the ballpark standards (which are served in several general concessions), there are individual kiosks for nachos, angus beef, subs, pizza, mac & cheese, a full coffee bar, deli, bbq, red hots, pretzels, pub food, allergen-free food, five different kinds of candy and treats, and local-favorite Red Osier Roast Beef. Most of the entrees are under $7, and whatever you are in the mood for is probably on offer. But if you can't decide, you won't go wrong with a Red Osier Roast Beef sandwich from their stand in right field, and you might as well try "the best peanuts in baseball" for $4 a bag for snacking during the game.
For thirsty patrons, the selections are similarly wide. Most concessions have Labatt Blue, Budweiser, and Bud Light ($6.50). Local breweries Genesee Beer & Ale and Rohrbach have their own stands selling their selections ($7.50 24 oz, $6.25 16 oz, and $5.50 12 oz), and if you want more than beer, there's the 10th Inning Bar in the left field outer walkway. They sell mixed well drinks for $6.75, shots for $5.75, wine for $5.75, and margaritas for $7.25. They also have a wide selection of Brooklyn Lager on tap for $7.25 for a draft. Try the home-team Red Wing Red Ale at the Rohrbach booth if you need something to get you started.
Frontier Field has got atmosphere in spades. There are two main entrances to the park: one near home plate, and one in left field, both of which open into wide entrance plazas. The games are well-attended, but the crowd moves quickly at the main gates. If the lines seem particularly long at the main entrance, you can go to the left field entrance, which opens at the same time--usually an hour before game time.
The park is nearly circled by two walkways. An outer walkway runs from the left field entrance to the right field picnic areas. At the ends of the walkways, they extend around the stands to connect the seating bowl promenade, which runs the same distance and splits the seats into the lower premium boxes and the upper regular boxes. There is a wide picnic table pavilion in left field, next to the visiting bullpen and connected to a picnic berm before the seats. Similarly in right field, there is the all-you-can-eat picnic area by the home bullpen and a corresponding picnic berm. In right center, a small special seating area has all-you-can-eat food and a small block of seats.
At the top of the upper seating areas from roughly first to third base run a layer of luxury boxes, with the press box (and stadium organ) behind home plate. A small party deck ends the luxury boxes on the third base end. At the top of the left field seats is the Hardball Cafe, one of the only places you can get food and drink while still watching the live game. Large overhangs cover the seats running to the outfield from first and third bases, and the luxury boxes also provide limited shade, so pick seats there to keep out of the sun or if rain threatens. All of the seats offer a good view of the action on the field.
One incredibly nice feature of the park is the entrance ramp just to the right of home plate that lets patrons walk out to see the game before them, looking out to downtown cityscape in the outfield, with the Kodak Tower peeking in from right field. Too often this real estate is crammed with premium seating. Three scoreboards keep you in the action: the main scoreboard in right center, a video board in left center, and a ball-and-strike running scoreboard in left.
Red birds Mitsy and Spike head the on-field entertainment team. Most of the between inning games will be familiar to anyone who has attended minor league games before. The typical offerings include races, contests of questionable skill, and quizzes.
But what really adds to the atmosphere is long-time Red Wings' organist, Fred Costello. One of the last remaining live organists in major or minor league ball, his pre-game and between inning playing really fills in a real baseball experience that can make fans of a certain age nostalgic for their youths at the ballpark.
Frontier Field is as close to the heart of Rochester as you can get. The park is tucked into the Kodak campus, which has historical interest in itself, but Rochester has a good deal to offer beyond that. Families will appreciate the Seneca Zoo, Seabreeze Amusement Park, the Rochester Museum & Science Center, and the National Museum of Play. Patrons of the arts and history will want to visit the Eastman Theatre, ARTISANworks, and the George Eastman House. The coast of Lake Ontario is at the north end of town, for all your water activities needs.
For those who want to stay downtown by the park, there are several choices. The Radisson Plaza is right down the street, while other chain hotels like Radisson Riverview, Hyatt Regency, and the Strathallan by Doubletree are all within walking distance. Nearby independent choices include the Hotel Cadillac, Inn on Broadway, and the East Avenue Inn. More options are available at the outskirts of town and by the airport.
Bars near the park are plentiful, from the closest (Frankie & Louie's Bayou Bar), to the Old Toad, Murphy's Law, Legends, and Christopher's. Dining options in the area include Rocky's, Tapas 177, Pane Vino, and Dinosaur BBQ.
The Red Wings have been around Rochester for a century and counting, so it is not surprising that the team has built up a "small" following in that time. There are those who say that the city's feelings about the team have diminished in recent years, and if that's the case, one can only imagine at what levels they worshipped this team in the past.
The park is packed, the people are into the game as much as many major league parks, and while there is still a preponderance of families, there are a great deal of baseball diehards. When you hear a group of fans arguing about the official scoring of a play while they fill out their scorecards, you know you're dealing with hardcore baseball fans.
There's not a lot of quirks to the fans, but when organist Fred Costello plays the Red Wings fight song on his organ, the fans sing along.
A regional capital in upstate New York and home of the (faltering) Kodak empire, Rochester is very easy to reach. For drivers, Rochester is just north of I-90, served by the Rochester "beltway" of 390, 490, and 590 (with the 490 "inner loop" going right by the park). Rochester is an hour to Buffalo by car, three hours to Toronto, four hours to Cleveland, and four and half hours to Pittsburgh.
Parking is $6 per game at Kodak Lots by the stadium (C&D). Cheaper parking is available further away at private lots, and for weekend games you may be able to utilize free street parking (but double-check your signs just to be safe).
Transit options are varied, as well. Amtrak, Greyhound, and Trailways all have stations in Rochester within walking distance to the park. The Rochester Genesee Region Transportation Authority bus lines 3, 9, 20, and 96 serve the stadium ($1 a trip, $3 all-day pass), and the Greater Rochester International Airport is southwest of downtown for those coming from farther away.
Getting around the park is a breeze thanks to two main concourses that run through the park. A wide exterior walkway circles the outside of the park, and a narrower (but still generous) interior promenade runs through the seating area, separating the lower box seats from the upper grandstand.
For watching players that are literally an injury away from the majors, Frontier Field offers great value. Lower-level Premium Boxes cost $11, Upper Boxes are $9.50, and Reserved Tickets (for the farthest reaches of the stadium and general admission) are $7. Everything is $1 more on game day.
There are several ways to bring the ticket cost down. Flex Packs get you eight tickets for $9.75 per Premium Box seat, Mini Plans (essentially a "buy five tickets and get one free" offer), and groups of 20 or more get tickets at $9.50 for Premium Boxes, $8.50 for upper boxes, and $6 for Reserved. Fan 4-Packs get four tickets, food and souvenirs for $8 per person for Tuesday and Thursday games. And the Big Hitter Club lets you bring special groups of 20 or more for only $5.75 per person.
The parking passes even have plans to reduce the bite for full season, partial season, and 10-game packs that reduce the parking cost by up to 25%.
Food prices can approach big league levels, with some food climbing into the double-digits, but most remain under $7, and beers top out at $7.25 for 24 ouncers at the specialty stands.
With a park this steeped in the franchise's tradition, it is not surprising that a lot of extras have been crammed in.
Let's start with memorials. First and perhaps most important is the Morrie E. Silver statue (with young baseball fans) at the main entrance plaza to the park. The big guy has memorial and dedication plaques at the home plate entrance to the stadium, as well. Joe Altobelli (who played for, coached, managed, general managed, and broadcast for the Red Birds) gets his own statue in the left field plaza. Not far away is a memorial to Cal Ripken, Jr. who came through Rochester when it was an Oriole affiliate. Three Hall of Fames line the park's exterior walkway: The Section V Baseball Hall of Fame, the extensive Red Wings Hall of Fame, and the Louisville Slugger Hall of Fame (not for the baseball bat, but for people who finish the monumental hot dog sold nearby by themselves).
Three retired numbers sit in left field: The aforementioned Altobelli and Silver (whose number 8,222 refers to the number of stockholders he got to save the team), and Luke Easter (36), a former Negro Leaguer who spent four years with the team in the early 60s, hitting 67 home runs. Governor's Cup banners are below the main scoreboard in right center, and banners celebrating former players who made it to the majors line the park's outer walkway.
Deep breath: And then there are the memorials to the Alling & Cory Paper Company in left field (on whose site the new stadium sits); commemorative plaques for the field; a civil engineering achievement award for the park; a generic dedication to sports; a memorial to the Rochester Baseball Commission; a flowered bench for "Flower City" Rochester... and a horse statue made of baseball gloves at the main entrance, appropriately named Horsehide.
A small kids area is in the left field entrance plaza, and an extensive team store is located near the main entrance behind home plate, with a majestic statue of Spike outside the entrance. Programs are a reasonable $1 and available at all entrances.
And the live organ stylizings of Fred Costello are seriously worth at least another +5.
Frontier Field does just about everything right in a ballpark, from a great, affordable experience, to a multitude of food choices, to an excellent place to watch a ballgame in a great baseball town.
Like many cities in the industrial northeast, the City of Rochester boasts a long and proud baseball tradition. Professional baseball has been played here going well back into the late 1800s, and the city has hosted various incarnations of teams and nicknames in various leagues over the decades.
The Rochester Red Wings have been a mainstay of the International League. They are actually a community owned baseball team, with shareholders and a local board of directors. The fortunes of the franchise have been shepherded by the Silver family. The namesake stadium, Silver Stadium, was a neighborhood ballpark in use for a generation, until the franchise relocated to their new downtown ballpark, Frontier Field, in 1996. This venue is truly one of the jewels in all of AAA baseball.
Cheap tickets, good friendly fans, decent baseball, excellent promotions, cheap parking, decent vendor pricing... worth every cent!
One of my favorite minor league parks! This place is all about the food. The variety is unmatched anywhere. Food is such a focus, there was a map of the different vendors waiting for us at our seat!. Love the live organist, who really was a focus at the game. A bit of other music thrown in made it fun. I would say having organ music right after a home run sure made the crowd seem subdued. Baseball City also put on a decent fireworks display after the game. The theme was boy bands this day. It was great ... until the little girl behind us asked why they were playing old people music!
I know I'm in the minority in not liking Frontier Field, but to me it just feels too big. The problem is that it was built as a dual use stadium (for baseball and soccer), so that is why the seating configuration is not the best. Too many seats are far from the action and there are not enough covered spots where fans can watch the game from. Also, it is missing a wraparound concourse, something which is found at almost all AAA ballparks nowadays. The best aspect of Frontier Field is the concessions. The variety and quality is probably the best I've ever encountered at a minor league ballpark.
For my full review of Frontier Field, check out my website : http://ballparkreviews.com/template2.php?in_name=Frontier%20Field&in_city=Rochester&in_state=New%20York
Great time. Awesome stadium.
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