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Official Review by Ryan Napralla, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Baseball is rarely, if ever, the first word that comes to mind with the mention of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Although not as rich as that of the Packers across the Fox River, Titletown’s baseball history lies on the east side at Joannes Stadium, the 2,500-seat home to the Green Bay Bullfrogs of the Northwoods League. “The Jo,” as it is sometimes referred to, was built in 1929 and has served as the home diamond for numerous Green Bay baseball teams, both professional and amateur.
Joannes Stadium hosted the Green Bay Blue Jays, a Class D affiliate of the Cleveland Indians and Brooklyn Dodgers, throughout much of the 1950s. Beginning in 1970, three amateur league teams called Joannes home over the span of 30 years. Since 2007, the Bullfrogs have been the primary occupant and the organization has done what it can to revive a facility that certainly shows its age.
A Bullfrogs game at Joannes Stadium will lack some of the amenities that baseball fans have become accustomed to in modern ballparks, but for baseball purists, “The Jo” offers a good seat at a reasonable price to watch up-and-coming college players play the game they love.
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".
Joannes Stadium now has a full-service concession stand down each baseline: Jeremiah's Frog Legs & Fries down the first base side and the Festival Grill down the third base side. The menus at each stand are similar; however each offers certain items that the other does not. For example, a ˝ lb. of cheese curds with ranch ($6), beer battered frog legs with paprika aioli ($5.50), and a pizza dog ($4) can be found at Jeremiah's while a Reuben Dog ($4) and a Spicy Bacon Philly ($5.75) can be sought out at the Festival Grill.
Pepsi products ($2/$3), bottled water ($2.50), and Gatorade ($3) are Joannes' kid friendly beverage options. In Wisconsin fashion, the Bullfrogs offer several beer options. Along with the standard Budweiser and Miller fare, the Bullfrogs offer many craft options, with an emphasis on Wisconsin brews: Hinterland (Green Bay), Ale Asylum (Madison), Capital (Middleton), Door County (Bailey's Harbor), and O'so (Plover). The Brew House, Bud Light Beach Club, and Festival Foods Beverage stand also offer hard cider and cocktail-flavored beers. 16 ounces of any alcoholic beverage will cost either $4 or $5 on average.
While the sun is out, Joannes Stadium is alive with young families, little leaguers, and party groups of young professionals. The main gate is adjacent to left field, which helps expose visitors to all that the ballpark has to offer. Most Northwoods League franchises pride themselves on offering something for everyone and the Bullfrogs are no exception.
Joannes is equipped with two fan decks: one in left field, just off the main entrance, called the Bud Light Beach Club and the Leinie's Fan Deck in right field. Both offer unlimited beer, soda, and ballpark food (hot dogs, burgers, brats, chicken salad sandwiches, etc.) from the time the gates open (one hour prior to first pitch) through the 7th inning. Fans planning a group event should seek tickets on the Leinie's Fan Deck first, as it has more seating and actually extends along the right field wall for a unique in-the-field-of-play perspective. Admission to the Leinie's Fan Deck is actually a better deal ($25) than the Bud Light Beach Club ($35).
Fans that are looking for an actual stadium seat should seek out either the Dugout Club Seats or the 1st Base Club sections ($10). The Dugout Club seats are located down the third base line, directly behind the visitors' dugout. 1st Base Club seats offer fans easier access to the restrooms and the team store as well as the company of the Bullfrogs' most devoted fans, as many of the host families and season ticket holders sit in this section.
The cheapest ticket at Joannes arguably offers the best view of the game. Eight dollars will earn fans a seat in the Reserved Bleacher sections, directly behind and just off home plate. These sections provide the best view of the entire diamond but the seat is simply a bleacher seat, no back. Sections 105 and 106 offer the only canopy cover in the park.
During night games, the sun is only an issue for the first four innings. The third base side, and more specifically sections 109-107 of the Reserved Bleacher seats, provides the most relief from the summer sun.
Joannes Stadium's small size allows the Bullfrogs' mascot, Jeremiah, to interact frequently with the crowd. Between high fives, pictures, and autographs with young fans, Jeremiah is on the field, often participating in on-field promotions. "Sing For Your Supper" was the one promotion that grabbed my attention as being unique. Two contestants test their karaoke skills by singing the same song (on this night it was "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey) in front of the crowd that chooses the winner. In each contestant's case, their singing became acapella long after the song cut out, which added to the fun. The winner received a free pizza buffet from a local pizza establishment.
Joannes Stadium sits just off the East River in a residential neighborhood south of Green Bay East High School. The stadium is a part of Joannes Park, which includes an aquatic center and skate park. Realistically, families could make a day out of the aquatic center and a Bullfrogs game. Admission at the aquatic center is $3.70 for children and $5.25 for adults.
For those looking for a place to hang out before the game, a few bars are within walking distance from the stadium in the Olde Main district of Main Street. Shenanigan's Pub and the Cock & Bull Publick House are about a six-block walk from Joannes Park. Both places will quench your thirst, but food options are limited. Los Banditos, a Mexican cantina that will satisfy pre-game hunger, is nearby as well.
Fans staying in town have a handful of hotel options in downtown Green Bay, including the Quality Inn & Suites, Hyatt on Main, Clarion, and St. Brendan's Inn. The downtown area is about 10 blocks northwest of Joannes Park.
Joannes Stadium is hoppin' during the early evening hours. Youngsters full of excitement and sugar take advantage of the Kids Zone along the third base side of the park. Young adults gather to belly up to the bar before retreating to their respective party decks. The Bullfrogs' staff is busy greeting their guests and making sure food and beverage is stocked.
However, as early evening fades into the night, the crowd tends to thin out. The promotions in between innings add time to the length of the game, so by the 6th inning, many families head for home. Seek out the 1st Base Club section for the best baseball fans in the park. There you will find people keeping scorebooks, season ticket holders shouting encouragement at the Bullfrogs dugout, and host families that hardly ever miss a game in support of their "adopted summer sons."
Joannes Stadium doesn't stick out of the northeast Wisconsin canopy like Lambeau Field does, so baseball fans visiting Green Bay for a game will want to be equipped with directions. From Interstate 43, exit onto Mason Street, head west into the city and stay on Mason Street until it intersects with Baird Street. Taking a right on Baird Street will bring fans to Joannes Park. The stadium is nestled along the East River, not visible from the street.
Joannes Park is a stone's throw from Green Bay East High School and the two share a large parking lot that will bring you just outside the left field main gate. Parking is free and may fill up fast on a busy night. Just up Baird Street, there is overflow parking outside old City Stadium, one-time home of the Green Bay Packers.
The third base side of Joannes Stadium is easier to navigate than the first base side. Fans will notice that the Tap House, Team Store, Jeremiah's Frog Legs & Fries, and restrooms are in close proximity with each other and the first base seating sections. On a busy night, this area can become congested quickly.
The only knock on "The Jo" is the lack of restrooms. There is only one set, along the first base line. However, the Bullfrogs organization has done a good job providing Port-O-Johns in other key areas of the ballpark. Lines are never an issue for restrooms or Port-O-Johns, however one more set of facilities along the third base line would be well-received.
If fans take full advantage of their ticket experience, they should leave Joannes happy. For instance, to buy a ticket on one of the fan decks and not eat and drink as much as you can (responsibly) would be a waste of money. I question whether the families of four that leave in the 5th Inning get their money's worth. On the flip side of that coin, games are long. If five innings of soda, ice cream, chasing foul balls, and a giant frog mascot assures parents of exhausted kids that will sleep through the night, then perhaps the game was worth the price of admission.
The Bullfrogs organization provides several different 7-game, half-season, and full-season ticket packages so that fans can maximize their hard-earned dollars. In addition, the Bullfrogs offer different drink, food, and ticket promotions Thursdays through Sundays of any given week.
Joannes Stadium is just south of City Stadium, home of the Green Bay Packers from 1925 to 1956. Packers fans might appreciate visiting the spot where Packers legends like Curly Lambeau, Tony Canadeo, and Don Hutson etched their names into NFL lore. Very little exists of the original structure and the Green Bay East Red Devils still use the facility, but a vintage gate and plaques commemorate the site's significance in Packers' history. City Stadium is also a stop on the Packers Heritage Trail.
Fans in town for an extended stay are encouraged to check out Bay Beach Amusement Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, which are a mere two miles from Joannes Stadium. Parking is free, as is admission to both the amusement park and wildlife sanctuary. Tickets for most rides cost $.50 per rider, with the exception of the Zippin' Pippin roller coaster. Riding Elvis Presley's favorite roller coaster (allegedly) costs visitors $1.00; still a great bargain.
Short of tearing it down and starting from scratch, the Bullfrogs have transformed Joannes Stadium and their off-the-field products into a solid summer baseball experience. The future looks bright for the facility and franchise, as both have been in the care of Big Top Baseball since 2014. Big Top Baseball owns three other Northwoods League franchises: the Madison Mallards, Kenosha Kingfish, and Wisconsin Rapids Rafters. The Mallards appear to be the crown jewel of the league, drawing an average of 6,000 fans a night. Joannes Stadium's capacity doesn't allow for those numbers, but the Bullfrogs are near the middle of the pack in average attendance at 1,100, up from past years of about 800 fans on average. The efforts of management and the staff are steadily paying off and summer baseball in Green Bay stands on a solid foundation.
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