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Official Review by Carol Schram, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, locally known as “The Nat”, is home to the defending champion Vancouver Canadians of the Class A Short-Season Northwest League. The Canadians are the affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, and the only MLB affiliate in Canada.
Principal Owner Jake Kerr was a long-time season-ticket holder who purchased the team in 2007 and signed a 25-year lease to operate the stadium. He has made significant upgrades to improve the fan experience and celebrate one of Minor League Baseball’s most historic ballparks.
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".
The Nat offers all the usual traditional fare-Nathan's hot dogs, chicken strips, French fries, peanuts and popcorn. The stadium serves craft beer from Granville Island Brewing-lager, pale ale, and hefeweizen. Lines are long for cooked food before game time, but snacks and specialty items are sold at separate kiosks where service is much quicker.
Prices are higher than you'd see in a US ballpark, but that's typical with Canadian dining. They take great pride in their custom two-foot hot dogs, and in classic west coast style, sushi is also available. The third-base food court also features pulled pork sandwiches and Whistler Brewing craft beers.
The Canadians offer private box packages next to shallow left and right field. There's also a large Picnic in the Park area farther out in right field, featuring an all you can eat spread for $37 per person. Bookings are limited to groups of 30 or more.
Overall, you'll find good variety and lots of different dining options.
Western Canada might not seem like an obvious destination to enjoy America's pastime, but 61-year-old Nat Bailey has enough charm to put it on any baseball fan's 'must-visit' list. The setting is gorgeous and the recent renovation has made the ballpark an impressive balance of character and comfort.
The groundskeepers take great pride in presenting one of the cleanest parks in baseball, with an emphasis on old-time charm. One of the last manual scoreboards around is complimented by a modern video board with all the stats you'll need to follow the game action.
The stadium is located in a tranquil neighborhood in central Vancouver known as Little Mountain. The area to the east is largely residential. The stadium sits between baseball-diamond-filled Hillcrest Park and stunning Queen Elizabeth Park, creating a beautiful view beyond the fences.
Hillcrest Community Centre is adjacent to the stadium. It was built to house the curling events at the 2010 Winter Olympics and has since been converted into a massive aquatic facility with indoor and outdoor swimming areas, fitness centre, and other amenities.
Dining options in the immediate vicinity are limited, but Main St. is just two blocks east, featuring a wide range of funky independent restaurants. The Main features a casual menu with a Greek emphasis, along with daily drink specials, live music, and sports on the big screen. For fine dining or a special occasion, Seasons in the Park boasts an amazing view at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park.
The Canadians boast a strong local fanbase that has grown even stronger since they affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, then won a league championship. In 2011, they set a single-season attendance record of 162,162. They expect to surpass that number in 2012, despite losing one game to a rainout.
The Canadians operate at about 85% of their capacity, but General Manager Jason Takefman reports that their goal is to ensure that game-day tickets are available for walk-up patrons.
For the Monday night game that I attended, the attendance was 4,130. There's a strong core of longtime season ticket holders who the Canadians treat like family. The crowd ranges from older couples to rowdy beer-drinkers along the third base line, and lots of young families.
The energy is high, with fans doing the wave and joining enthusiastically in between-inning entertainment like the "Chubby Chicken Dance" and the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
You won't see a lot of scorecards at a Canadians game. Fans of all ages come to have a good time, but when the action heats up on the field, there's no doubt that the faithful know their baseball.
Parking is an issue almost everywhere in Vancouver. The stadium lot is not particularly big, and parking is $7.00-a bargain compared to rates of up to $40 downtown for the Canucks, Lions, and Whitecaps. There is also free nearby street parking, though some is limited to resident-only.
Access by transit is quite easy. The stadium is about 1km from the King Edward Canada Line Station. Buses along 33rd Ave., King Edward Ave. and Main St. can bring you even closer.
The restrooms are large, clean and have been recently re-tiled while maintaining their old-time charm.
Regular game-day tickets range from $12.50 to $22 Canadian dollars. This is on the high side for minor league ball, but with the Canadians' strong attendance, the market can support the pricing, and the fan experience is terrific.
All ticket sales are handled by the organization, and they take pride in ensuring that every customer gets the seat that's right for them.
The $22 "Diamond Club" seats include premium in-seat service.
Plenty of extras are offered at Nat Bailey Stadium.
One point for the outstanding kids area, fully supervised with loads of activities for the little ones. Kids have no shortage of opportunities to burn off their ballpark sugar-buzz.
One point for the nod to Nat Bailey's history in the concourse along the third-base line. Check out plaques commemorating the builders of the franchise, vintage baseball cards, and the Bud Kerr Wall of Fame. Directly opposite, a timeline highlights special moments in franchise history and some of the brighter stars like Sammy Sosa and Nick Swisher who once wore the Canadians' red and white.
One point for the "Nooners at the Nat". No other team in a short-season league offers 13 day games, which are some of the Canadians' most popular. The business community shows up in droves to network in the sunshine while enjoying the game.
One point for promotions, special events, and sponsor partnerships. This year, events have included a "Dog Day of Summer," where fans were welcome to bring their 'best friend' along, as well as five movie nights on the big screen after games. The Canadian host several fireworks nights throughout the season, and run some great in-game promotions. The night I was there, Balbino Fuenmayor's seventh-inning home run "slugged the mug." It bounced off the A&W Root Beer sign in left field, and that meant every fan left the stadium with a coupon for a free A&W Teenburger and Root Beer.
And one point for the Canadians' top-to-bottom commitment to their guests' experience. From the ticket takers to the concession staff to the folks who went the extra mile to show me around and answer questions during my visit to the ballpark, the staff makes you feel like they're glad you're there, and that you're part of the Canadians family.
Member Review by profan9 on Aug 21, 2012
This seems to be a Triple-A experience in a Single-A Leage. Nat Bailey Stadium is iconic and has been around a long time. The grandstand is nice, expecially the hardwood ceiling of the overhang. The crowd is loud, and in the grandstand the sound bounces around makes it seem even louder. The hall of fame/museum mural is well worth your time. This venue is well worth your time. I wonder if this may be a AAA destination for the Blue Jays in the not so distant future.
Cambie & 33rd Avenue, Queen Elizabeth Park
Vancouver, BC V5Y 2M5
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