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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
And then there was one.
The inception of the Pacific Coast League brought baseball to the west coast. Of all of the cities that started out as charter members of the league, there is only one city that still has a franchise. The Sacramento River Cats represent Sacramento as the final original city in the Pacific Coast League with other cities like Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco having graduated to Major League Baseball.
Professional baseball in the California capital dates back to the Sacramento Salons all the way back to 1903. The Salons represented Sacramento on and off until 1976, when Sacramento went without baseball for a significant period of time. In 1999, fresh off of a Triple-A World Series Championship, the Vancouver Canadians were purchased by the late Art Savage and moved to California to become the River Cats. Since that time, the River Cats have been the premier franchise in all of Minor League Baseball. It seems that everything the River Cats have done, has been done perfectly.
Upon arriving in California, the River Cats have called Raley Field home. Located across the Sacramento River in West Sacramento, Raley Field was built with no public or tax dollars. It was financed by the River City Stadium Financing Authority with bonds that have been paid by baseball revenue and zero tax dollars. The stadium remains owned by River City Stadium Management LLC. The stadium naming rights were sold to local super market chain Raley’s.
The River Cats have enjoyed unprecedented success, earning 12 Division titles, 2 PCL titles and 2 Triple-A World Series titles. As the AAA affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, patrons have grown accustomed to seeing future major leaguers play at the highest level. As a result, in 2012 Forbes Magazine named the River Cats as the most valuable franchise in Minor League Baseball.
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 many options in the ballpark for those looking to get a bite to eat. Patrons can find just about anything they would want, combined with some unique items. Hot dogs, pizza, nachos and soda are available, but patrons can also find root beer floats, a California BBQ stand featuring tequila lime ribs, a chipotle black bean burger, and garlic or chilli cheese fries.
Miller Light, MGD, Coors Lite and Tecate make up the beer selections. A neat feature is the walk-in beer fridge, which is especially great on a really hot summer day. Coca-cola products are also featured at Raley Field.
Raley Field features a really good atmosphere for AAA baseball. A nice view of the bridge which crosses the Sacramento River to the City of Sacramento is the backdrop when seated at the south end of the stadium, behind home plate.
There are also various seating options available including the Jack Daniels Terrace in the upper deck of the right field side of the stadium, and the Home Run Terrace on the left field side. Just past right field, in home run territory, is the grass seating. Whatever seating you choose, you have the opportunity to see the game in a ballpark with fantastic sightlines, and a fun, family friendly atmosphere.
There is a strong focus on the fan, and that can be seen through the décor. There is a large kid-zone with inflatable fun that is on the first base side of the stands, however on the day of this review it was completely abandoned and deflated. Being the affiliate of the Oakland Athletics is a huge part of the atmosphere. There is not a better team in all of Major League Baseball at developing talent and the River Cats are the beneficiaries of that relationship.
Raley Field is located in West Sacramento, on the west side of the Sacramento River. Just across the bridge in the city of Sacramento there are some great options for pre or post game meals and fun things to do. Just east of I-5 is the Sacramento Downtown Plaza which features some decent shopping options, as does the rest of the immediate area. The Sacramento History Museum and California State Railroad Museum are some tourist sites you may want to consider if you are there with the family or have an interest. You may want to try Railroad Fish n Chips, Rio City Café, The Firehouse or Fat City Bar and Café before or after your River Cats experience.
The Sacramento River Cats have been in the top two in attendance in the Pacific Coast League. Each year the River Cats have averaged over 8,000 fans per game. The 2013 season has been no different. When the fans consistently show up like this, it is hard to get much better. It is for this reason that they have shown such longevity and success.
Raley Field is located just west of I-5 across the river. It is also north of I-808, which offers an alternate route that may not require crossing the bridge. Getting there is easy, and maneuvering through the stadium is easy.
Minor League Baseball offers great value for the dollar and the River Cats are no exception. The majority of tickets for the River Cats can be had for under $25. Concession prices are good and parking is reasonable. There are also numerous promotions, including Family Value Tuesdays, which offers $1 hot dogs and $1 desserts. Combine that with the ability to see the premiere team in the PCL, and you can't go wrong.
An extra point for the souvenir soda cup that you can bring back into the ballpark for every game and get cheap refills. It's a good value and better for the environment.
An extra point for the student painted mosaic tiles which are found on all of the pillars throughout Raley Field.
An extra point for the friendly ushers who all wear Hawaiian shirts and straw hats for a unique flavor.
An extra point for the massive success that the River Cats have found over the years.
It doesn't seem like the city of Sacramento will be welcoming Major League Baseball anytime soon. The River Cats are the final original team from the Pacific Coast League and they have shown significant success on and off of the field. Not only are the River Cats one of the premiere teams in all of Minor League Baseball, but they are also one of the premiere experiences. When in Northern California taking in the Giants and Athletics, make sure that you make the trek to Sacramento as well. It is well worth your time.
Member Review by ryannorris
It would not be a stretch to say that the Triple-A affiliate for the Oakland Athletics has a much better ballpark than the boys in Oakland. Afterall, it's hard to say O.co Coliseum is a "ballpark" at all. Raley Field however has been charming fans since it hosted the first ever Sacramento River Cats game in 2000.
The A's became affiliated with the then Vancouver Canadiens in 1999, just prior to their move south to West Sacramento. They ended up just west of the beautiful Tower Bridge that connects to Old Town and downtown Sacramento. Vancouver has since established a new franchise, using the old Canadiens moniker.
Since it opened, Raley Field has turned into the buzzworthy destination for inland Northern California. Along with hosting the Pacific Coast League River Cats, they showcase summer concerts in a truly beautiful setting. Its convenience to downtown and state of the art facilities have allowed the field to supplant Arco Arena as the concert destination of choice. Arco is aging and miles outside of any substantial neighborhood.
In the 12 years the Cats have played in Sacramento they have won their division 10 times and the entire league four times. The consistent allure of playoff baseball and a top notch facility makes the club a market success.
Member Review by rugbymatt on Aug 28, 2013
Raley Field is spacious and accommodating with numerous big ball park features. A great value made even better by a top team!
545 Downtown Plaza Suite 1115
Sacramento, CA 95814
1100 Front St
Sacramento, CA 95814
1112 2nd St
Sacramento, CA 95814
101 I St
Sacramento, CA 95814
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