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Official Review by Blake Benzel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
It used to be that, if you wanted to watch baseball outdoors in Minnesota you would go to Midway Stadium and watch the St. Paul Saints. That was, of course, before the Twins got their shiny new toy in downtown Minneapolis. Despite this fact, the team is still an institution in the Twin Cities and it's one with its fair share of character and charm.
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Let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat. Midway Stadium is an independent minor league stadium. It's not going to have $10 sandwiches, nor is it going to have gourmet food. The majority of the food at Midway is $5 or under, sticking with the same mandate that many other minor league stadiums have gone with, making it affordable and family friendly.
The standard concession stands keep with the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid), but throws in a twist every now and then to keep things interesting. You can start out with your hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, pizza and BBQ sandwiches for those who don't like to mix it up. If you're feeling a little adventurous you can venture into the realm of mini corndogs, fish and chips or cheese curds (a Minnesota favorite) and if you want to really take a walk on the wild side, you can try the Walkin' Taco, the pork chop on a stick or the gyros.
Also, I would be remiss if I were to forget the sweets. There are stands that, in addition to the regular staples, also sell caramel apples, mini doughnuts, smoothies and ice cream, while every stand has Coca-Cola products on tap for the non-adult beverages and Miller products and Summit (a local brew) as well.
After all of that food, you're going to want to wet your whistle and there are certainly more than enough places to do that.
If beer's your thing, there's no lack of variety. From Blue Moon to Corona to Heineken, you can find just about anything to suit your fancy. The draft beers can get a little pricey ($7 for a large, $4.50 for a regular), but they more than make up for it with their picnic beers, which are $1 beers that can be had before the game. Not only that, but if beer's not your thing they have a wine bar with red, white and rose, all for $5.
If there's one thing that Saints games are, it's entertaining.
There is a certain lack of seriousness when you walk into the stadium, even from the players themselves -- not that they don't take the game seriously, but that there is a certain amount of levity present in the stadium.
From the opening of the game, when the team's honorary ball boy, Justin Bie-boar (if the name isn't enough of a hint, he's a pig) brings the balls to the umpire to the different competitions and mid-inning entertainment that sees games like the pizza toss, where competitors try to toss cloth pizzas from the stands into a box on the field, and karaoke with a real Japanese guy, which is exactly as gloriously irreverent as it sounds.
The crowd was kept active in the game with games like the K-man, where a player on the opposite team is chosen and, if he strikes out during the game people win food from Taco Bell. While the amount of games that they ran seemed forced at times, it did keep the crowd interested in the game and was an entertaining way to keep the excitement level up.
Most effective, however, were the PA announcer's frequent interjections between batters, such as announcing when a train goes by. It adds a certain levity to the game, as well as adds some extra entertainment to the stadium.
If there's one downside to Midway Stadium, it's the neighborhood it's in.
The fact is, it sits in the middle of an industrial district (a train runs right behind the left field fence). While there are restaurants around the area, there are none within walking distance of the stadium. Nelson Cheese & Deli, a sandwich shop, is the closest to the stadium.
As far as lodging, the two options near the stadium are the Bandanna Square Best Western and the Midway Motel. The Midway Motel proves that looks are quite deceiving. It might look like someplace you would go to become a victim in an old '70s slasher flick, but is indeed quite a pleasant place to stay and at only $50 per night.
Minnesota has always had tremendous fans for every sport and the Saints' fans are no exception. They know their stuff and they also realize that the team is an independent minor league team. Still, they support the team and they come out in droves to watch the games regardless of the outcome, and that says a lot.
The fans were what you would expect from a minor league game. There was a good mix between the die-hard fans, the casual fans and those coming just for the social experience. The party starts early with the fans, as many show up a few hours before the game to tailgate.
There are a number of bus stops near the stadium, as well as ample parking both on the streets and in parking lots. The stadium is just a few minutes from I-94 and is right off of Snelling Avenue, making it easily accessible from anywhere.
The only problem that I have with the access was that the parking next to the stadium was more expensive than the general admission ticket.
Honestly, there's not a better return on your investment than going to a Saints game.
Tickets range from $5 for general admission tickets to $16 for the most expensive reserved seating and $20 for box seats. In addition, you can order group tickets, such as the Hot Tub seats (exactly what it sounds like), the Walser Tailgater (a trailer pulled by a pick up where you get a load of food and beer) and many others for prices ranging from $125 - $500.
In all, you don't get much more bang for your buck than a Saints game. For $20, a person could get into the game, get food and have a great time "" you can't ask for much more than that.
From the time you walk up to the box office, you can hear the live band playing out front. Then you walk inside and you meet Sister Rosalind Gefre, who is both a nun and a masseuse. From there, you find the Kid's Zone that has a playground, a bouncy castle and an area where they can see how hard they can throw. Next to the Kid's Zone is a wine bar and a beer garden where you can both watch the game and enjoy your adult beverage.
Look, if you're heading to the Twin Cities to take in a pro sports game, odds are it's not the Saints. The Cities have teams in all four major sports leagues -- if you're coming to see sports, you're probably coming to see one of them, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't at least check out a Saints game while you're in town. You'll enjoy the quirk, the food, the atmosphere and you'll probably end up liking the baseball as well.
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