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Official Review by David Mortimer, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
You wouldn't expect a place like Ogden, Utah to be rich in baseball history. Until, that is, you explore the names of those who have played or coached here over time: Frank Robinson, Tommy Lasorda, Prince Fielder, Chad Billingsley, Russell Martin, Ben Sheets, J.J. Hardy, and scores of others.
Since its inaugural season in 1994, the Ogden Raptors have been one of the Pioneer League's premier franchises. Thanks is due, in large part, to its historically high fan support, buoyed by ownership's efforts to thank fans by giving away upwards of one million free general admission tickets at local restaurants.
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".
Most of the choices here are your standard ballpark grub: Hot dogs ($4), nachos ($3.50-$4.50), pretzels ($3.50), caramel corn ($3.50), popcorn ($4), churros ($3), Cracker Jack (2 for $3), and peanuts ($4) are available at almost every stand. The same goes for beverages: soda ($3 medium, $4 large; $1.50 refill), bottled water ($3), Gatorade ($3.50) and canned beer ($5).
One unique wrinkle I discovered was the "value concession stand" along the first base line. Here, you'll find a variety of items for $1.50 each: corn dogs, pretzel bites, fries, a single scoop of ice cream, and smaller portions of items in other stands. This seems especially nice when bringing little ones who don't like to share.
Along the third base/left field concourse are stands called "Hardball Cafe" featuring heavier fare in regards to both food and drink: burgers ($5.50), footlong hot dogs ($5), bratwursts and Polish sausages ($4.50 each), chicken sandwiches ($6), and draft beer ($6 for 16 oz., $8 for 24 oz.), including the house brew, "Raptor Ale."
The park's signature item can also be found at Hardball Cafe the Raptor Burger ($7.50), a cheeseburger topped with a polish sausage. This unique combination gives this park just enough beyond the typical fare to push the rating to a 4.
Of Utah's three minor league ballparks, Lindquist Field has the most decidedly urban feel. Admittedly, this description can be taken both ways. The skyline beyond the outfield, combining Ogden's downtown with mountain majesty behind, is gorgeous, until you hit right field. There, a rickety-looking abandoned building spoils your view. Ongoing construction that borders other portions of the park also dims an otherwise beautiful area.
I also had some security concerns that come from being downtown. Having adolescent staffers in concession stands is the norm for the minors, but having them take my tickets and monitor the park entrance was a bit disconcerting. I was further disturbed when I saw what appeared to be a homeless man in the concourse eating a sandwich from the concession stand.
There are plenty of kids at the park, and a play area is provided for them in right field, but with no supervision that I could see. Another case of understaffing, either literally or figuratively (in terms of the average age of the staffers).
Highlights of the park include the "Tar Pit," the concourse beyond left field. Here you can lean up against the left-field wall, set your food on a tray, and enjoy a unique perspective of the game.
As mentioned above, much of the area in the immediate vicinity of the ballpark is under some kind of construction, which distracts from the charm of the park itself. There are still some quality, non-chain meal options along Historic 25th Street.
Roosters Brewing Company (253 25th Street, 0.3 miles away) offers a variety of house brews and a wider variety of quality meals. I recommend the Famous Fish Tacos at $12.95.
Two Bit Street Cafe (126 25th Street, 0.3 miles away) is an old mom-and-pop place that also features an antique store inside. When you're done browsing the collectibles, enjoy my personal favorite, a Garlic Burger with blue cheese that comes with kettle chips for $5.45.
Ogden has led the Pioneer League in attendance every year since 2000, drawing less than 100,000 fans in a season only once, when 99,812 fans passed through the gates in 2000.
Yes, the free GA tickets may inflate these numbers a bit, but the end result of a mostly-filled ballpark makes for a more compelling experience. It's a nice blend of long-time loyalists and newcomers to both the team and the sport. Plus, it's essentially the only game in town during summer, as sports at nearby Weber State University enjoy their summer break.
As far as I could see, you don't have to pay for parking. Ample street parking is available surrounding the park. Just be sure to check the street signs to ensure you're in the clear.
The ground level concourse has a decent width, but can be crowded quite easily. The upper level concourse is much more narrow. There is a lone elevator for those who need assistance reaching the upper level, but navigating this area could prove challenging.
Each bathroom appeared a little bit different, but most could use some additional cleaning and repair. One bathroom I entered had cup holders alongside each fixture for convenience. A nice touch, but I hope they're cleaned as well as the rest of the bathroom.
The key to getting the best value is to snag the free GA vouchers I mentioned earlier. Ogden's seating chart puts the GA sections along the right field line, but an usher also told us that our vouchers could get us chair-back seats along the left field line. (With the largely adolescent staff, however, it didn't look like you'd meet much resistance sitting just about anywhere.)
Even with free admission and free parking, the urban blight beyond right field combined with the somewhat questionable security would make me less likely to frequently bring the entire family.
One point for a clever play on the dinosaur theme. On the lineup board as you enter the park, the Raptors' opponent is listed as "Prey" with the team name (in this case, the Idaho Falls Chukars) handwritten in parentheses underneath. The visiting dugout is also emblazoned with the word "Prey." Just a silly, clever thing to reinforce the team's image.
One point for the new scoreboard. Having a modern-looking scoreboard can add so much to a park, especially one in the smallest of the minor leagues. The Raptors' website made a significant amount of noise regarding this new addition for 2011, and seeing it in person helps you understand why.
One point for the "value" concession stand mentioned above. With so much of the food industry catering to penny-pinchers with value menus, it's refreshing to see at least one park attempt to do the same.
There is a lot of good about this park and its game-day experience. Making a few small tweaks -- improving park security and working with the city to brighten up the right field skyline -- would make it even better.
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253 Historic 25th St
Ogden, UT 84401
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