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Official Review by Scott Montesano, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Minor league ballparks are designed to be smaller versions of a Major League ballpark and Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud goes one step further as a miniature stadium. With a concrete grandstand and enclosed concourse, Joe Faber Field would easily be acceptable for the American Association level of play but with a tiny seating capacity its best use is for high school, college and the Northwoods League. Built in 1999, the stadium features a single concrete grandstand with the first set of seats 10 rows up from the playing field. There are two rows, an aisle, then 20 more rows all bleacher seating with backs.
Oddly, the seating structure barely extends down the lines and is almost entirely behind home not that much unlike depression-era, small town ballparks that doubled as fairgrounds grandstands. The seats are very steep which usually keeps one close to the action but unless a person gets a ticket directly behind home, seats in the outer sections don’t angle into the field and keep one far away.
There isn’t any seating atop the dugouts, but the team’s main tenant, the St. Cloud Rox of the Northwoods League added a three-tiered bar-railing party area down the left field line and auxiliary metal bleachers up the right field line upon moving to the stadium from their previous home Dick Putz Field across the parking lot in 2007.
The 2,500-seat stadium features all of its concessions, restrooms and souvenir areas under the grandstand in a closed off concourse that is perfect to escape the elements. The entire facility (which also includes a municipal golf course and a hockey rink along with the 1970s era Dick Putz Field) is well manicured. A pleasant walk up a lighted walkway connects fans with the main parking lot. The entire facility is well-maintained and clean, adding to the feel that it’s a big-time ballpark only on a miniature scale.
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".
St. Cloud Rox games feature the standard ballpark fare, but additional options exist down the left field line with the party area. One won't find crazy fried foods or noteworthy local options, but tried and true ballpark favorites and a decent beer selection. The quality is what sets this place apart as the facility is well-maintained and thus has restaurant-grade grills and fountain pop machines. Cost will run a person about $7 for a hot dog and a beer, a very affordable price.
The St. Cloud Rox keep their fans engaged and the evening enjoyable by taking full advantage of the ballpark's superior sound system. Joe Faber Field doesn't have a video board, but the music selection and sound effects the St. Cloud Rox use more than suffice and they can do it because of the quality of the speakers. Music tends to be more 80s arena rock than most minor league ballgames, but it works well in St. Cloud.
Promotions are held nearly every half-inning and the public address announcer is neither dull nor overly engaged. He gives the basics, but also injects humor and some wit without being loud and obnoxious.
St. Cloud is a cosmopolitan college town of 60,000 and though the ballpark isn't directly next to anything, it's only five minute drive to all the food and shopping choices one could want. The area's mall and numerous national chains are one street over from the stadium.
Since the Rox came to St. Cloud, the team has routinely averaged 1,600-1,800 each year, though the support has waned a bit with an ownership change and the team's lack of success after spoiling the fan base with two titles in the team's first five years. Still, the ballpark tends to be one of the loudest in the Northwoods League despite its size and a true baseball fan will enjoy the interest placed on the actual game. Without a video board, and other distractions like a kid's play area, people are forced to watch the action.
St. Cloud is an easy hour drive up I-94 from the Twin Cities and the ballpark is located near the city's main commercial district. There is plenty of free parking surrounding the stadium.
A good atmosphere, easy access and a well-maintained ballpark make this one worth a visit. Northwoods League baseball is a good brand of ball to watch and teams such as St. Cloud have been around long enough that they are a part of a community's fabric, which shows at a place like Joe Faber Field.
While Joe Faber Field was built in 1999, the Rox actually played at the older Dick Putz Field across the parking lot from 1997-2006. Dick Putz Field is not a twin, but could be described as an "older brother" as it's also a miniature stadium with a concrete grandstand. That stadium features even less seating (2,000) and no room for additions like a party deck.
The stadium still gets plenty of use with local leagues and youth teams and it's common place to see a game being played there while the Rox are home.
The Municipal Arena is also part of the complex and while only hosting high school hockey in the area, it would rank favorably with junior arenas and small college facilities.
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