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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The city of Louisville has been steeped with rich baseball history since the 19th century. Its first major league club, the Eclipse, were members of the American Association from 1882-1891, before changing its name to the Colonels after the 1884 season. The Colonels would join the National League in 1892 and remain in the league for the rest of the decade before owner Barney Dreyfuss acquired controlling interest of the Pittsburgh Pirates and allocated 14 members to the Bucs in 1900. One of those players was Hall of Famer Honus Wagner.
The Colonels would operate as a minor league club as members of the American Association until the league folded after the 1961 season. Six years later the Colonels were back as members of the International League as a Boston Red Sox affiliate, but would relocate to Pawtucket, Rhode Island after the 1972 season. In 1981 baseball would be back for good with the Louisville Redbirds and the St. Louis Cardinal affiliate would become the first minor league ballclub to attract over one million fans in a season in 1982.
The Redbirds would change its name to the RiverBats in 1998 and just Bats in 2002, but in between debuted at Louisville Slugger Field in 2000 along the shores of the Ohio River. The 13,131 seat “jewel box” would be one of the top drawing facilities in all of minor league baseball for the next decade replacing the aging 20,000 mammoth Cardinal Stadium.
A key design feature of the $40 million ballpark is the integration of a historic rail freight depot at the main entrance. The restoration of the late 19th century depot station is a vital component that is used from everything from hosting events, weddings, meetings, and children's play areas.
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".
There are more than 50 different menu options at Louisville Slugger Field, providing a combination of wonderful smells inside the ballpark as customers are delighted by the ballpark staples of hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, and beer.
The fried bologna sandwiches are thick and are also available double stacked and charred off a grill near the first base side. The iconic city delicacy is served on a bun with cheese and topped with ketchup or mustard. There are also healthier items including panini, chicken wraps, and other lighter fare sandwiches. The pork chop sandwich is served hot off the grill in the outfield concourse along with a side of crispy kettle chips.
There is a Mexican stand that allows visitors to create their own large nachos portions including toppings of tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, melted cheese, and sour cream. You can also purchase BBQ nachos with pork and barbecue sauce or Philly nachos with cheesesteak, peppers, and white cheese down the third base line. Personal pizzas by Papa John's are available at the ballpark at two different locations.
For dessert there is Graeter's ice cream, funnel cakes, and Hawaiian ice. Pepsi products are sold throughout the stadium and the beer choices include Budweiser, Coors, and Miller products.
The majority of the building features a brick exterior and is within blocks of the banks of the Ohio River. There are beautiful views of Louisville's skyline from the outfield seating area and the numerous bridges that cross over the river into Indiana.
The Bats do an incredible job of providing a link to their predecessors and the rich history of baseball in the city with pictures, banners, trophies, and artifacts all on display inside the main entrances. A glorious statue of Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and Louisville native, Pee Wee Reese, adorns the main entrance. Inside the enclosed main entrance there are more memorabilia, including photos from past Louisville players including Carlton Fisk, Willie McGee, Honus Wagner, and Billy Hamilton.
Inside it is a carnival of promotions featuring fireworks, happy hour, and live music on Thursdays, and ticket specials that should make any day of the week the center of excitement. There is a playground that includes a carousel for the kids in the right field corner, grass seating dotted along the left field walls, and plenty of room to roam around to take in numerous vantage points of the ballpark.
The large official team store carries a wonderful variety of merchandise, a covered party deck in right field caters to groups, and the official mascot is the friendly Buddy Bat who roams the ballpark offering hugs, high fives, and photo opportunities.
Louisville Slugger Field is located within steps of the Louisville Waterfront Park and within blocks of the KFC Yum! Center. The Troll Pub serves typical pub fare, but in a dungeon-like atmosphere where you can also take a picture with a ceramic troll. Adjacent to the Troll Bar is the Sidebar, where bourbon and bourbon-inspired cocktails are in fashion. A few blocks away is the popular 4th Street Live, a one stop destination for retail, dining, and entertainment. The pedestrian only covered street has two levels of fantastic nightlife.
Bardstown Road is a few miles by car where one can find a copious amount of pizza parlors, bars, small concert venues, and one of my favorite craft brew spots: Cumberland Brewery. Another favorite is the Garage Bar housed in a former auto service garage in the vibrant East Market/NuLu neighborhood serving up ice cold beer, Kentucky Bourbons, wood-fired pizzas, and Southern menu items. Also, a great spot for a few rounds of cornhole or table tennis.
Of course, there is the Louisville Slugger Museum, Churchill Downs (racing after dark during June and July), University of Louisville, and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience that is not your typical bourbon trail tour. You will be able to keep yourself busy in town before or after a baseball game. Make a weekend out of the visit and enjoy this great city.
The Bats attracted over 600,000 fans for each of its first 12 seasons at the ballpark. Those numbers have dipped down a bit in the past few seasons, but the team has averaged a very respectable 7,000 plus per game during that time. A Louisville fan enjoys a good night out, but maybe even baseball a little bit more. The crowd is decked in team gear, both new (blue and red) and old (purple and black), and can be heard talking with good old fashioned baseball lingo. Everyone in attendance is there for a great night out of baseball, food, and drink.
Whether you are crossing into Kentucky over the Ohio River from Indiana on either I-64 or I-65, Louisville Slugger Field is visible from the interstate. A quick distance from Exit 136C and you can find either parking on the streets (meters expire at 6pm) or in lots across the street of the stadium for $6. The choice is yours, but I have been lucky enough to find free parking at the meters for evening games a few blocks away from the stadium. It is well worth saving some money for a short walk.
Tickets are priced at $10 for bleachers/lawn and reserved seating, and $13 for premium level seating down the first and third baseline. Club level seating is $18 and includes a $5 food voucher in padded seating and access to club level bar, lounge, and restroom. The Bats also offer a Grand Slam ticket that adds an additional $12 to each ticket and includes a team cap, program, soda, and hot dog.
Against the Grain Brewery is connected to the stadium down the right field line. The fully operational restaurant is open year round and offers barbecue, hand crafted beers, and bourbon. The smell alone would merit an additional star and so could the outdoor patio seating that is lively before and after games. It's the best food and drink option at the ballpark.
The historic freight rail train depot is an enclosed section of the building that is draped with the various championship pennants won by the club since 1901, and is used for various events all year long.
The Outlook Deck is in center field and provides spectacular views of the city's skyline, bridges, river, and the game itself. There are picnic tables where fans can enjoy their food or take in live music before every Thursday night game.
One final extra point for the statue of city native Pee Wee Reese outside of the stadium near the brewery. The Hall of Famer played for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1940-1942 and 1946-1958.
A visitor can expect a great time at Louisville Slugger Field. The Bats provide affordable ticket pricing, an amazing food selection, wonderful views of the game and city, and history inside the ballpark. It is a classic looking baseball stadium situated in a great part of the city.
Member Review by batsblogger
Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Louisville Bats, is a great baseball stadium located in downtown Louisville along the banks of the Ohio River. There's plenty to do before the game, there's plenty to do during the game, and there's plenty to do after the game, all at a fair price.
Member Review by Michael David on Nov 08, 2012
This is a great ballpark. Just the facade alone while you're entering the park shows your entering someplace special.
Member Review by MarcV on Jun 27, 2013
Baseball has been an integral part of Louisville since the 19th century: Louisville Slugger bats, Honus Wagner’s, the National League, and the first minor league team to attract 1 million people. The current AAA baseball team, the Louisville Bats have called Louisville Slugger Field home since 2000. The 13,131 seat stadium has not only been one of top draws in the International League, but throughout minor league baseball. The ballpark successfully incorporates the rich history of Louisville baseball with the present day amenities expected by today’s ballpark traveler.
Member Review by Coachrob16 on Sep 16, 2014
We visited this stadium in the summer and had a great time. We sat in the first row of the left field bleachers. Had fun. The food was good and had many options. Really wasn't a bad seat at all.
Member Review by Coachrob16 on Jan 29, 2016
I really like the layout of this stadium. It is easy to get to and easy to get to your seats. Really great atmosphere as well.
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