One of the most stalwart franchises of the minor leagues, the Columbus Clippers moved into their new 12,000 seat digs at Huntington Park in 2009. It was quickly judged to be one of the best parks in their AAA International League, and even beat out some major-league parks for design award honors that year.
And it surely deserved every one. While a little on the pricey side in some aspects, Huntington Park is simply a jewel of a park no matter what the league, providing an amazing breadth of options and experiences to its visitors--and a great place to watch a game.
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Huntington Park offers one of the widest selections of food options of any park in the minors. Two main concession stands flanking the home plate area serve your standard ballpark fare. From there, there are only more options. Near the outfield entrance is a Bob Evans with family-friendly grub, and Donato's Dugout with Italian pizzas, subs, and salads.
In the AEP Power Pavilion in left-center, the Hall of Fame Bar and restaurant is on the second floor, serving up pub dishes, while chicken-joint Roosters on the Roof takes over the top floor, along with their own bleacher section to watch the game while you eat your wings. But the best of it all is out in right field. Sandwiches on Deck has premium stuffed sandwiches, but your best bet is City Barbeque, located across the picnic stage area from the sandwich shop.
Sandwiches of barbecued pulled pork, beef, or chicken are chopped up in front of you and served in slider-like sandwiches, along with a choice of sides. Cornbread is always a winner. They are a little on the pricey side, but well worth the cost, and often offset with discount specials.
Beer is on tap at nearly every concession stand, in small and large, domestic and "premium." Beer connoisseurs will appreciate the micro-brew stand from the Columbus Brewing Company, offering up more hand-crafted suds.
The designers of Huntington Park clearly put a lot of thought into it, from the center-field fence running along the abutting sidewalk, to the double-decked "Hamburger Balcony" out in right, to the complete refurbishment of the building in left into the Power Pavilion that houses restaurants and stores, with its own bleachers on the roof. The thought involved in the details are the one thing that really strikes you after being in the park for a while, and it really improves the experience. Downtown Columbus pokes up behind all of this to provide the backdrop for your game.
That consideration extends to the promenade. There is an exterior walkway around the park, and the seating promenade puts nearly all of the concession stands with easy viewing vistas of the field, so you don't need to miss any of the game while getting your food.
Entrances are located in left-center field, right field, left field, and by home plate. Your best bet for avoiding lines is the home plate entrance, furthest from Nationwide Boulevard, which opens earliest before game times. The home team is in the first-base dugout, so autograph seekers would do best to congregate there before and after games.
The only shade or cover in the infield is on the promenade or in the luxury boxes and VIP bar, so take that into account. The picnic area by City Barbeque and the Wendy's Hamburger Balcony out in right give you a place to hide from the heat or rain in the outfield.
Lou Seal and Krash the Parrot are usually the on-field ringleaders for your average minor-league fun and games, but there are regular appearances from special guests such as the ZOOperstars (animal mash-ups of sports notables--such as Harry Cannary--in giant inflatable suits) and Breakin BBoy McCoy, who generally take over the between-inning entertainment.
Once home to a now-departed state prison, the revitalized "Arena District" is a far friendlier home to Huntington Park, and it offers up a variety of entertainment options in addition to the Clippers. Literally next door is the Lifestyles Communities Pavilion (still referred to by its old name of "PromoWest" by locals) which houses outdoor concerts. Down the street, the titular Nationwide Arena provides another sports (NHL) and concert venue. Movies in style are reeled out at the Arena Grand Theater a short distance away. The greater Columbus area delivers more choices for culture vultures (Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus Symphony Orchestra) or those looking for family-friendly entertainment (COSI Science Museum, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium).
Those needing post-game liquid refreshment can go across the street to the A&R Music Bar, The Three Legged Mare in the Arena District (for the full pub experience), completely cheese out at the Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar, or go to any of the dozens of bars in the area. Most are bar and grills, but for food-first shops, there's Boston's Gourmet Pizza right across the street, three steak places within two blocks (Ted's Montana Grill, Rodizzio Grill, and bd's Mongolian Barbeque), or take a short walk for more ethnic-specific fare such as Bucca di Beppo.
Located right down the street from the Columbus Convention Center and Nationwide Insurance's national headquarters, it is perhaps no surprise there are a wealth of hotel choices near the ballpark. The Courtyard Columbus Downtown, the Renaissance Columbus Downtown, the Doubletree Suites Downtown, the Hilton Columbus Downtown, and the Hampton Inn Columbus Downtown are just some of the chain hotels available, while the 55 Lofts provides a more boutique choice for traveling fans.
Even on a holiday weekend, Huntington Park was packed (even the higher-priced VIP sections) with a loud crowd into the action. There are a lot of people walking around during the game and between innings, but a majority seem to be watching the game. This high up in the minors, there are slightly more baseball cranks than average in a minor league park, but the crowd is still dominated by families who are there more for the food and entertainment than the game.
Interstates 70 and 71 (along with their subsidiary roads) pass right through downtown Columbus, making it an easy drive from surrounding areas. It's just under two hours to Cincinnati and about two and a half to Cleveland, and Port Columbus International Airport is just east of downtown. No less than 13 parking lots dot the Arena District, and parking ranges from $3-$5 depending on proximity to the park and other events at venues in the area. COTA Blue Line buses 3, 13, and 18 also stop at the park ($2/$2.75), and it is well within walking distance of most of downtown.
The main promenade runs almost around the stadium, interrupted by the stadium running into the sidewalk out in right-center. This doen't seem to impede the traffic flow too much, as the concourse gets wider further out into the outfield, though if you have seats in left and want to visit City Barbeque, you have quite a walk on your hands. The seats and bar in the VIP section, however, are closed to mortal visitors, and are only accessible to those with tickets for the area.
Given the excellence of the facility and the relative low cost to see a game of almost-major leaguers, Huntington Park does dip into some MLB level excesses. The VIP Club and Loge seats behind home plate are completely separated from the general seating areas, making you pay to access every area of the park. Perhaps this is not unexpected for as storied and popular franchise as this, but it is still a little disappointing to see in minor league ball.
That said, the Loge and Club seats in the VIP area are only $20 each. Infield box seats are $12 ($15 game-day), outfield reserved seats are $10 ($7 for youth or senior), and general admission seats are only $6 ($7 game day), or $3/$4 (game day) for youth or seniors, making an affordable option for families looking for a night out.
Unlike most parks, those general admission tickets have a great selection of seating options, including the picnic berm in left, or the bleachers a little further on, the Hall of Fame restaurant, the bleachers on top of Roosters on the Roof, or the City Barbecue picnic deck and the Hamburger Balcony in right. Real penny-pinchers can stand outside of right field and watch the game through the grated walls in the outfield wall.
While the general concession stands generally keep food prices under $7, there are many food options that range much higher, especially at the specialty stands. The prices aren't particularly outrageous, but they would also be more at home in a major league park. The average price for a large beer is about $8, which isn't too bad, either.
Food cost is offset by the frequent discounts on certain days of the week, such as 50 cent wing nights, buck-a-bone rib nights, dime-a-dog nights, and $2 pulled pork specials. But be ready for some big-time lines in keeping with the big-time savings at the concessions with the specials -- get in early to avoid long waits.
Instead of the usual minor league free giveaway, the program is $2, but well worth the price, printed on good magazine paper with a quality scorecard in the center. The main merchandise stand is in the Power Pavilion out in left, and gives fans a wide variety of merchandise options to support their team. Smaller stores dot the walkways in the park at regular intervals.
Huntington Park does an excellent job of capitalizing on the history of the franchise. A statue to Harold Cooper (former Clippers GM, International League president, and previous stadium namesake) greets fans at the outfield entrance to the park in an ivy-trimmed monument that also includes tributes to the previous incarnations of the team. You can't walk ten feet inside without a celebration of recent team achievements. Further back team history is reflected in the former players who grace the signs for each seating section, as well as a hidden gem in the stairwell to Roosters on the Roof. Team portraits going back to the nineties line the walls up, letting fans see some current major league favorites earlier in their careers. A series of exhibits on "The Speed of the Game" regularly dot the concourse, dishing out interesting tidbits on the speed of certain actions in baseball and further commemorating former Clippers' players who particularly excelled. And the Columbus Victory Bell even finds its home in left.
Huntington Park is a must visit for any fan of baseball or baseball parks. The premium prices it sometimes charges are justified by the experience it provides, while still giving families options to make it an affordable night out at the park.
Opened in 2009, Huntington Park is home to the Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Everything is working in the favor of this being a great minor league baseball experience. There is close geographic proximity to the MLB team, plenty to do around the stadium, good food, and great views of talented players who are just one step away from the show.
Huntington Park is another example of a fantastic downtown minor league park. Located just blocks away from the home of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets, Nationwide Arena, the park nicely cements this area as the Arena District of Columbus.
A beautiful park, with a nice downtown setting, but everything in our gameday experience was a hassle. We came for a day game, mid-week... nice crowd, but not packed. the staff just didn't seem to be in any hurry to take care of people.
I've been going to Clipper games as long as I can remember and am a huge fan of Huntington Park as compared to Cooper Stadium ... it's kind of like comparing PNC Park to Three Rivers in Pittsburgh.
The atmosphere is amazing and the neighborhood is really non-existent as its an entertainment district. Great for games but come down on a non-game night and its as quiet as church mouse.
My only issue is the increase in prices for food since the team moved. The concessions are good and tasty, but when a hot dog costs me $4 it darn well better. But then, don't miss those famous dime-a-dog nights.
The park mixes what people want from a new stadium with some nice historic pieces. The right field is cool, the gift shop, food options, and parking options are good.
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