Since 1983, they've been playing minor league baseball in Peoria, Illinois. After a long history as a baseball town, a team returned in 1983 as an affiliate of the California Angels, known as the Peoria Suns. Today, the team plays as the Peoria Chiefs and is a Class A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Beginning the 2013 baseball season, the Chiefs are a Class A minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Their home park, O'Brien Field, has been home since 2002.
Located across the street from the headquarters of Caterpillar Inc., O'Brien Field is also home of the Bradley Braves collegiate baseball team. There is a sense of community that one feels in the ballpark, and as you walk through the town of Peoria. O'Brien Field definitely offers a solid baseball experience.
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The prices seem to be a bit high overall, but you will be able to find all of your ballpark favorites at O'Brien Field. My recommendation is for the Polish Dog, big and juicy with just the right amount of spice for $3.75. A somewhat ugly but extremely tasty item is the pork chop sandwich. It can be found down the right field line and will cost you $5.25.
Pepsi products are available and a large souvenir cup will cost you $4.50, about fifty cents more than most parks. Beer selection includes Budweiser and Bud Light, as well as Leinenkugel products at a concession behind home plate. They offer the Sunset Wheat beer, one of my favorite baseball beers for $5.75 for a small drink.
Ballparks that are enmeshed with their city have a certain appeal that is tough to beat. O'Brien Field is one of those parks. I was fortunate to attend a game on a weekday late morning where the team hosted several summer camp programs for kids. This meant that most of the seats were full. And a full stadium is a fun stadium.
Seats offer plenty of leg room and there are cup holders available. No bleachers, just green plastic seats throughout the seating area until you get to the berm down the lines and in the outfield. There seems to be more staff than most minor league ballparks, and they are all very attentive to the fan experience.
As an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, the O'Brien Field stands are filled with blue hats with the red "C", and you'll see plenty of Chiefs gear scattered throughout as well.
Overall, the atmosphere is above average compared to many other parks, and you may mistake it for a AAA level, but not major league level of baseball interest.
Two blocks from O'Brien Field is Kelleher's Irish Pub, with a solid menu and great beer selection it is a favorite of fans and of the Peoria Chiefs staff. They have 22 beers on tap with great quality and selection. Food offerings include traditional Irish dishes as well as amped up bar favorites. Most choices are in the $8 range. Its red brick and oak interior feels comfortable, yet fancy without pretention. Plus, they'll have the Peoria Chiefs game on tv at the bar.
Although a chain that can be found throughout the Midwest, Granite City Food & Brewery is a good place to spend some time before or after a game. Located less than a mile away from O'Brien Field, you'll find hand-crafted beers, outstanding appetizers and burgers.
There are passionate fans that were lined up outside the gate more than a half hour before their ticket could be accepted. Throughout the game you'll hear fans call players by their first name, and cheer wildly. This isn't the norm at O'Brien Field, but their presence certainly adds to the experience and helps to cover those fans in attendance that are there simply as part of the scenery.
There is plenty of parking on the street or in the nearby parking lots, although the lots will cost you $5. I recommend parking down at the corner of Water and State so you're near Kelleher's for a stop before or after the game. It's free there on the street. Bathrooms are clean and there are no notable lines to wait through.
There is no doubt that the biggest drawback is the pricing, which on almost all fronts, is more costly than many of its minor league contemporaries. Ten dollars is not unreasonable for a box seat, but $7 is a bit much to sit on the grass, and most of the food items are about fifty cents more than they should be. It certainly isn't a deal breaker, but the experience currently does not meet the total cost.
The Peoria Chiefs have had many prominent big leaguers come through over the years, including Albert Pujols, Dan Haren, Joe Girardi, Mark Grace, Rafael Palmeiro, Greg Maddux, and Wally Joyner. The Bradley Braves, who share the stadium, also have the number retired of Kirby Puckett. Even though none of the aforementioned players actually played at O'Brien Field, you are surrounded by their names and numbers, and that definitely adds to the experience.
Beyond that, the stadium's placement in the fabric of the city of Peoria makes for a great experience, and one that anyone who lives in central Illinois, or who loves baseball, should see.
The Peoria Chiefs have been in Peoria since 1983 and have since made baseball a summer tradition in Central Illinois. The Atmophere is great with a great view of downtown Peoria.They celebrate their history with banners and video clips before the game. The concourse is wide and the seats are comfortable and spacious.
The fans are into the game, cheering for good plays and rooting on the team no matter what the score.Parking is $5 but you can park on the street for free. The food is expensive but good and with a good variety. Extra points for having some of the best ushers who are very nice and helpful, and let you sit where you want on nights with light crowds, for being Cubs affiliates, being close to Chicago, and providing programs and scorecards for free.
It was a Greg Maddux t-shirt giveaway game and many, many fans were lined up well in advance of the gates opening.
It is walking distance (less than 1/2 mile) to the Peoria riverfront which has restaurants, a visitors center, a park and walkway along the river, and a riverboat cruise option on the Spirit of Peoria paddle wheeler.
The palm trees are still there, the souvenir shop offered hat pins, and I was able to find a post card of the stadium (very rare when visiting the minor leagues).
The one downfall was the game was not broadcast on the radio.
It's worth a visit to see Peoria and a game at O'Brien Field
100 Conference Center Drive
East Peoria, IL 61111