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Official Review by Andy Mantsch, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Unique is the key word that seems to define Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, and it doesn’t end with the “The Simpsons”-themed team name and statues around the park. From the concave center field berm in front of a right field family fun park to a New Mexico Green Chile Dog from Pecos River, a 'Topes game offers a wide variety of attractions for the whole family.
Professional baseball has existed on and off in Albuquerque since 1880 and has seen the Browns, Dons, Cardinals and Dukes before the Calgary Cannons moved to Albuquerque as the Isotopes in 2003 as a AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. At that time, the old Albuquerque Sports Stadium underwent a $25 million renovation and re-opened as Isotopes Park, sporting its unique design and 13,279-fan capacity.
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".
Options, options and more options. Walking the concourse at Isotopes Park reveals so many food options, it took three innings to choose my main course. There are local businesses like Dion's Pizza, Donut Mart (complete with cake-sized donuts) or Island Noodles that offer some unique baseball game fare, or you can go with the park concessions like Santa Fe Trail, Pecos River or Batter's Up. The menus are full of the old ballpark standards, plus some unique foods with a New Mexico twist, like the Overstuffed Burrito, Indian Taco, bean burrito or the delicious New Mexico Green Chili Dog. Pricing for the standard ballpark food is reasonable at $4-$6, and the more unique items are slightly more at $6-$9. After sampling some of the unique items, I'd recommend spending the extra couple bucks!
Around the park, there are several beer vendors, with the Isotopes beer the only local brand. The strange part is that, despite the size of the park, there is no general admission bar like most MILB parks. However, the luxury box bar above home plate is a pretty spectacular upgrade option for those willing to pay up for the experience.
This is where the park really shines, with its unique look and feel. A beautiful mountain backdrop in center, comfortable seats with cup holders galore (even in the rest rooms), huge scoreboard with two video screens and veritable amusement park beyond the tiered berm in right field are just some of the cozy features of this ballpark.
Heat can obviously be a factor, but all of the seats from the first base dugout around the third base line receive at least a fair amount of shade. The bleacher seats in right offer a great elevated view with the sun at your back. Avoid the seats far down the left field line, especially further back from the field, because there are several rows with obstructed views that require a lot of head turning.
Orbit is one of the most famous mascots in the minors, and the dancing and acrobatic antics are impressive for a minor league mascot. One of the most famous parts of the entertainment scene is the chili race between a taco, red chili, green chili and salsa.
The field is the gem of the park. The star-mowed grass in the infield with a beautiful center field berm rolling up to a concave wall makes for both a great view and tricky fielding for the outfielders on deep balls.
I was torn on this rating, based on the immediate surroundings of the park. On one hand, you have the UNM football stadium and the infamous "Pit", where the Lobos play basketball in front of some of the rowdiest fans in the country immediately across the street, but on the other, there are no restaurants within walking distance. When I asked the parking attendant, I was directed to a series of fast food restaurants down the street. I did see some tailgating in the University Stadium lot, and the area seemed incredibly safe. Apparently, the UNM bar scene is a little over a mile up the road, and downtown is a short drive west, as well.
I was impressed with 'Topes fans before I even reached Albuquerque. I ran into fans from as far north as Pueblo, CO who were passionate about the team, and overheard a lot of hardcore baseball talk that you don't always get, even at major league games. The family-friendly environment (not to mention that it was firework night) also attracts fans looking for a fun time, but even they seem well-versed on the 'Topes. Everyone was very friendly, and I got into several conversations about why they love their 'Topes. I even ran into some fans at the hotel who were back in their hometown for the weekend just to go to a 'Topes game.
The Park is located not far east of I-25 and south of I-40 near UNM and in the sports complex for the university. I-25 is easily the best way in and out coming from most directions, and coming from downtown you'd cross under I-25 and take the same route in. Parking is $5 regardless of where you park, so it's easy to park within walking distance. The 'Topes draw a lot of fans, so hopping back on I-25 after the game can be a bit hectic, but nothing too bad. The stadium gates are full of attendants, and there's not a holdup getting into the game.
Isotopes Park isn't the cheapest deal in the minors, but it's not the most expensive, either. The ballpark does offer considerable bang for the buck. $5 for parking anywhere you go isn't the cheapest, but it's all in UNM lots, which offer ideal tailgating and easy access both driving in and out and for walking. Food prices are reasonable, and if you choose to pay for the more expensive items, you're going to get quality local food. Seat prices range from $9.25 to $26.50, with cheaper GA options on the right field berm. The value the park adds in extras and experience makes it worth the price.
This park adds a ton of unique touches. The Simpsons theme with benches around the park ties nicely to the Isotopes theme, and the kids zone in right field is a very unique feature for attending families. I'll say the only missing thing (especially for a park this size) is the standard minor league party deck or general admission adult area. Although incredible family friendliness can't be said to be a fault, congested concourses and beer distributors selling unique beer at stands spread all over the park means it's not the most adult-friendly park in baseball. For the hardcore baseball fan, though, the fan experience and uniqueness of the park more than makes up for anything that may be missing.
Isotopes Park is definitely one of the nicer venues in minor league baseball and is full of character. There is a distinct New Mexico feel to the food, the entertainment and the fans that gives it that local charm that often lacks in larger parks. This is definitely worth the visit if you're bringing the whole family, or just wanting to kick back and watch some quality professional baseball.
Member Review by GArchuleta
It may not be "Duff Stadium" -- the mythical venue of the minor league team in the television show, "The Simpsons," but the real-life Isotopes Park is just as entertaining. When minor league baseball returned to Albuquerque in 2003, the team chose a name with national appeal, borrowing the nickname from a 2001 episode of "The Simpsons," in which the owners of the hometown Springfield Isotopes threaten to move their team to Albuquerque.
Isotopes Park opened on the exact same spot that held the Albuquerque Sports Stadium -- home to the Albuquerque Dukes from 1972-2002 -- and has managed to harness a mass appeal similar to its moniker.
Member Review by hilch on Aug 15, 2013
Isotopes Park is a great place to watch a game. The scenery is tough to beat anywhere with the great view of the mountains. Great food around the park, love that they incorporated local food into the experience. The past few seasons have seen a huge improvement for baseball fans as opposed to the casual fans in just for promotions, fireworks, etc.
Member Review by Steel Collins on Jan 04, 2014
The ballpark itself is beautiful; very well done. But when we were there the food was cold and unappetizing -- and ruined our evening. The concession server we had was not very friendly, and certainly did not seem proud of what she was serving -- and for good reason. The prices were a little high, and the food was cold and dry.
Member Review by Baseball Buddha on Apr 15, 2014
I thought this was a beautiful park with a lot of different site lines, it is well taken care of, I thought the food choices were excellent! I had my first ever Funnel Cake, why do they call it a Funnel Cake? Because they use a funnel to pour the batter into the hot oil! I walked around the park twice, the temp was a bit cold and it was a Monday so the turn out wasn't that great. I highly recommend this place!
801 Yale Boulevard SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106
1600 Gibson Blvd SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106
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