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Official Review by Bill Kintner, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Located on the edge of downtown Lincoln, NE, just across a small highway from Memorial Stadium, home of the storied University of Nebraska football program, fans can get their sports fix watching American Association baseball until college football season starts. The Nebraska Cornhusker baseball team also plays at Haymarket Park, but when it comes to minor league baseball, it is the home of the Lincoln Saltdogs.
Great care has been taken to design a ballpark that is modern, yet still embraces the time-honored traditions of baseball and the heritage of the Haymarket. The name Haymarket Park embodies the essence of the history of baseball and the history of Lincoln itself. One sportswriter noted that Haymarket Park is a smaller version of Victory Field in Indianapolis and I think that is accurate.
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".
Nothing exotic here to eat but Haymarket offers everything you would expect a Midwest baseball park to offer. You will find soft-serve ice cream, pulled pork BBQ, funnel cakes, fresh lemonade, assorted specialty hot dogs, Valentino's Pizza and here is a surprise; fruit cups and vegi-cups, for the three fans that might want to consume something a little more on the healthy side.
Another gem on the food front is that in the right field seating area, there is the Home Run Terrace where fans can get an all-you-can eat wrist ban for $25 (or $35 with alcohol) and then eat themselves silly for the entire ball game. That is a deal!
Hot dogs: $3, A very good dog that is red, with a slight blend of spices that is made by Wimmer's Meats and an average bun. Rating: A-
Large pop corn: $4, Slightly warm, totally white corn and it tastes good, even though it doesn't really have a strong butter taste. Rating: B+
Nachos w/ cheese: $3.50, Good chips that were whole, not broken and cheese with the slightest hint of spices. Rating: B
Pepsi: 32 oz cup $3.75.
A Saltdogs game is what minor league baseball should be. Fans seated close to the field, plenty of action between innings, the mascot (Homer the Haymarket Hound) running around between innings and fans smiling. They have T-shirt Tuesdays. On Wednesday night it is "Bark In The Park" where dogs are admitted for free, but they have to stay in the berm area, in case they do a doody. Thursday is "Thirsty Thursday" where fans can purchase reduced price beer and soda pop.
I also like the old fashioned organist that plays music all throughout the night. I don't think many fans can see it, but he even wears an old fashion straw-boater hat. You won't find that at an MLB park. Take that Fenway Park!
The night of my visit it was Jimmy Buffett night. There was plenty of Buffett music including the organist slugging his way through a few Buffett songs, fans dressed in beachwear and the Saltdog players even wore Hawaiian jerseys. The only thing missing was Jimmy Buffett himself.
Like many ballparks these days, there are smoking areas out beyond left field and beyond right field.
Located just a few blocks from the Haymarket area of Lincoln, fans can find plenty of restaurants, bars and coffee shops. You should be able to find about anything you want to eat in the Haymarket. Some that I have found that are pretty good are Buzzard Billy's Armadillo Bar and Grillo, which is a sports bar with a Southwestern themed menu.
Another is Brewsky's, which is a standard sports bar, with decent food and reasonable prices. Lazlo's Brewery and Grill is exactly what its name implies, a bar and grill. The food is good and the prices are reasonable.
Take some time to walk around the Haymarket and see what kind of fun you can find. You can easily walk there from the ballpark.
Most of the fixed seats were filled so there were close to 4000 fans in attendance, although there was no official figure announced because the game was rained out by a huge storm that blew up in the third inning. The fans were loyal and engaged in the game. They were loud when they should be and attentive during most other times.
There seemed to be a real connection between the fans and the players. Many of the players as they walked out to the field, stopped and talked to some of the fans standing in the stands along the foul lines. I found that really refreshing and something you will not find in higher levels of professional baseball.
Located just west of Interstate 180 and north of the historic Haymarket area, Haymarket Park creates a visually appealing gateway to downtown Lincoln. With a pedestrian walkway connecting the ballpark to both the Haymarket and the University of Nebraska campus, getting to the ballpark on foot is easy.
By car, it takes a few turns to get there from Interstate 180, but just follow the signs. Upon arriving by car, it is free parking. Try to find that at any Major League ballpark.
Aside from the free parking the tickets are pretty darn reasonable. You can get a ticket in advance for less than five dollars. If you buy the tickets in advance they range from $4.90-$14.90 for seating on the grass berm. If you buy them at the gate you can add $2 per ticket.
So you could go to a game and buy a ticket in advance, plus get a hot dog and a large Pepsi for under $12. Going to a Saltdogs game could kill your appetite for the hassle of going to an MLB game.
I will award a star because it is an outstanding value. Another star for having good old-fashioned organ music and a star for being near the Haymarket. And finally a star because the players play hard and they play the game the way it was meant to be played, unlike the sometimes lackadaisical millionaires in Major League Baseball.
If you go to a Saltdogs game and do not have fun, then you are not a baseball fan or even a person that likes to have fun. This is what professional baseball should be. A father can take his kids to a game and feed them for a reasonable price. Plus his kids will see baseball played the right way. You will never see a player hit a pop up and not run it out. So good baseball, at a good price and Little Johnny won't pick up any bad baseball habits from the players. That is a deal any father should love.
**Pictures courtesy of the Lincoln Saltdogs organization
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