Opened in 2005, Jim Patterson Stadium offers U of L fans the opportunity to see a baseball team on the rise. Local entrepreneur Jim Patterson’s seven figure donation to the athletic department spearheaded the initial construction costs of $8.5 million. Mr. Patterson and his wife then made another contribution in 2012 so that U of L could break ground on expanding the ballpark to a total capacity of 3,000. Additional funding for the $4 million expansion came from fans that purchased red baseballs for $300 and/or gold baseballs for $1,000, autographed them, and then placed them inside a U of L logo monument that stands in the hallway between the main concourse entrance and the seats behind home plate.
Scattered throughout the stadium are many unique features that have quickly made the ballpark iconic. Along with the U of L bird logo monument, fans that enter from the main front gates pass by three large baseball bats that form a water fountain underneath them. Leading up to the baseball bats is a plaza that features concrete baseballs that are about the size of a speed bump.
Upon entering the facility, fans are greeted with a black steel entrance that welcomes them to Jim Patterson Stadium with the name of the facility in between two iconic lanterns that have become the symbol of Jim Patterson Stadium. Down the first and third base concourses, fans will notice a brick wall on each side holding up the ballpark’s support beams. These walls were taken from the former Parkway Field which saw the likes of Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Jackie Robinson.
Since the Cardinals have moved from the Old Cardinal Stadium to Jim Patterson Stadium they have enjoyed a great deal of success. Included in their long list of accolades is the 2008 Big East Championship. Jim Patterson Stadium itself has hosted NCAA Regionals in 2009, 2010, and 2013 as well as a Super Regional in 2007.
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I came away very impressed with the multiple concession stands around the complex. What sticks out the most are both the variety of concession stands as well as the variety of products available. At the main concession stands, fans can purchase the regular ole candy, popcorn, soda, and hot dogs. However, U of L took their selection a step further by selling their sodas in two different style souvenir cups while selling their popcorn in replica batting helmets.
Down the first base line, there are several different concession stand kiosks offering specialty foods. By far and away, the smell of the Philly Cheesesteaks dominates the entire first base concourse area. Not only are there multiple food stands aside from the main ones at the entrance to the ballparks, there is also a Cardinals Pro Shop stand down the third base line making it easy to purchase both food and apparel in one trip.
So what is my favorite item off the concession stand menu? Without a doubt, it has to be Louisville Cardinals' Ice Cream. Team branded ice cream isn't something you find at the ballpark very often, and the University of Louisville certainly went above and beyond in offering their fans creative food products. Walking around the facility, there is really only one thing missing from the ballpark-a permanent restaurant.
Even though my visit was plagued with sprinkles and showers of rain, I still came away with the impression that U of L baseball is one of the best supported baseball programs in the NCAA. What is most impressive is the enormous amount of Louisville decorations surrounding the facility as well as the amount of Louisville red worn by the fans instead of just casual attire. There's no doubt that Jim Patterson Stadium is solid Card Country.
It would be helpful if there was a larger canopy over the seats. Perhaps that will be included in a future renovation. Yes, I do like the open air feel of the ballpark, but at the same time very few seats are covered by the existing canopy. Although that may be a good thing on days that are sunny and 72 degrees, it's a very bad thing for fans who come to games that are filled with rain and chilly winds.
Unfortunately, the seats that were recently installed happen to be the exact same size and shape of the ones used at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, which are known for being way too small and uncomfortable due to the fact that they don't fold up or down. Long term it would be nice to have better seats in such a beautiful ballpark.
Overall, you just can't go wrong with a visit to Jim Patterson Stadium. The crowd support is there, most of the amenities are there, and the feel of an NCAA baseball game is there. I came away with the overwhelming feeling that I was on the road to Omaha with a team looking to capture a championship. I also came away with the feeling that U of L baseball is on the rise. There is no telling how grand of a facility Jim Patterson Stadium will be 10, 15, or 20 years from now, the 2013 season.
The neighborhood around Jim Patterson Stadium offers a lot of great things to do and see. The main thing that gives Jim Patterson Stadium such a great experience is the view of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium beyond the outfield walls of the ballpark. As fans look out beyond the ballpark, they will get the sense that they are on the campus of a major university whose sports facilities are a way of life.
Also beyond the outfield is one of the main CSX tracks running through Louisville. As these trains pass by the ballpark they often sound their horns in support of the Cards. As someone who enjoys trains, this was a great site to see.
Around the ballpark itself, the neighborhood is mostly student housing. Otherwise, the neighborhood is mostly old and historic homes that are a part of Old Louisville. Walking through these neighborhoods on the way to the game is yet another great perk of the U of L experience.
Lastly, I am a huge fan of the way U of L has designed the gateway entrances around their sports complex which Jim Patterson Stadium is in the middle of. Painting all of the bridges red, black, and yellow while placing huge U of L Cardinals logos in the middle of intersections definitely improves the spirit and feel of the area.
The only thing I would like to see U of L work on around Jim Patterson Stadium is to keep building facilities that form a ballpark village directly around the facility. Currently, the university already has a health services building behind the first base side of the ballpark. I would love to see more retail, student housing, and overall entertainment buildings built around the ballpark so that the facility becomes an epicenter for the U of L experience.
U of L fans have been very supportive of their baseball team. Yes, it's easy to draw fans when you're winning, and yes, it is easy to draw fans when the Cardinals spirit is trickling down from the men's basketball team winning the 2013 National Championship. But at the same time, fan support for U of L baseball has been constant and sustainable.
With fans like Jim Patterson donating huge sums of money for improvements to the ballpark, these diehard fans have been willing to put their money where their mouth is. I look for U of L baseball to remain at the top of the NCAA with their strong fan base.
During my most recent visit in spring, 2013, the weather was anything but great as a constant sprinkle of rain hit fans in the stands throughout all 9 innings. However, the Cardinals fans were true, cheering on their team.
Getting to Jim Patterson Stadium by car is fairly simple. Most fans arrive at the ballpark by starting out on I-65 and then exiting at the Freedom Hall & Kentucky Fairgrounds exit. From there, they take a simple turn onto Central Avenue and head west until they've arrived at Jim Patterson Stadium which is just past Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Once you arrive at Jim Patterson Stadium, parking becomes a whole new ballgame. If you are willing to walk, you can find many free parking spaces off the roads that surround the student housing next to the ballpark. But if you don't want to walk, you may be in for a difficult time. With a retail complex and railroad tracks surrounding the ballpark, there isn't much paid parking within the immediate blocks around Jim Patterson Stadium on Central Avenue.
What is your best bet for parking? Easily, parking in the open parking lots directly north of the ballpark is both convenient and safe. Yes, it takes a while to find them if you are from out of town, and it is a struggle to fight through small city streets to get to them. But, once you wind through the student housing, parking one block north of the ballpark is a pretty good deal.
The city of Louisville is actively discussing constructing light rail and street cars that would run from the University of Louisville to Downtown Louisville. With an enormous amount of railroad tracks surrounding the ballpark, this would be a nice addition to the infrastructure around the complex.
Given that U of L baseball has been highly competitive in the Big East Conference and looks to do the same in the ACC, taking in a Cardinals' game at Jim Patterson Stadium for free is something I don't expect to be matched at any other NCAA baseball facility. That's right, fans enter the game at Jim Patterson Stadium for FREE!
This rare and unique decision made by the U of L Athletic Department appears to be paying off as well. Attendance has been stellar while lines at all of the concession stands are always filled from one end of the ballpark to the other with hungry fans who have a little extra money in their pockets to purchase food and apparel.
I give one point for U of L incorporating two walls from Parkway Field into the design of the ballpark. I do wish the university would do something big with the Parkway Field site to bring back the good ole days, but I'm thoroughly satisfied with U of L allowing a piece of Parkway Field to serve as the anchor for future success at Jim Patterson Stadium.
I give one point for the constant improvements U of L is making to Jim Patterson Stadium. In the last few years, the outfield berm has been remade, the main grandstand has been expanded, and the main concourse around the main entrance has been enhanced. It's always a good thing to see a ballpark constantly upgraded.
Finally, an extra point for the affordability of attending a Cardinals baseball game. Free admission, free parking, and reasonable concessions make for a great day of college baseball.
Not only has U of L been on the top of the Big East baseball world for quite some time, they have also shown a sustainable commitment to improving their baseball program. After opening Jim Patterson Stadium in 2005, U of L was not satisfied with maintaining the status quo. With just 8 years into the ballpark's life, the university expanded the ballpark once more so that over 4,000 fans could take in a Cardinals' game at one time. With supporters like Jim Patterson, the sky truly is the limit for Louisville Cardinals' baseball.
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