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Official Review by Sean Strugnell, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, mercifully referred to as “the Nat” is located in central Vancouver, British Columbia. The stadium was originally built in 1951 and was home to the Western International League’s Vancouver Capilanos. Since then, the stadium has been host to several different teams and leagues. The stadium was renamed Nat Bailey Stadium in 1978 after local baseball aficionado and restaurateur, Nathaniel Bailey, who is most famous for his chain of White Spot restaurants, which continue to operate in Vancouver to this day. The stadium’s name was modified again in 2007 to its current mouthful, Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium. Since 2000, the stadium has been the home to the Vancouver Canadians of the Class A short season Northwest League.
The stadium itself is a single bowl layout with a seating capacity of 5,132, with the majority of the seats under cover behind the infield, and two exposed seating areas along each side of the outfield.
The first impression of the stadium is via the concourse at the entrance doors. It is small and somewhat cramped, but I think this adds to the nostalgic feel of the stadium. It smells wonderfully of popcorn and hot dogs and is in very good condition for its age.
Northwest League (or NWL) is a Class A short season minor baseball league, and the Canadians (usually referred to by locals as “the C’s”) are the Northwest League affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. They are the only team in Canada that is affiliated with a Major League Baseball team.
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 several concession stands offering everything from hot dogs and popcorn to sushi. Prices are a little on the high side ($7.50 for a foot long hot dog and up to $10 for a sushi roll), but hey, this is Canada. The stadium earns a bonus point for having a good variety of food including a frozen Lemonade Stand and a Mini Donut Shop. Service is very good - the staff is quite friendly and there are negligible lineups after the game starts. Beer and some snacks are served in the stands but I only saw our server twice throughout the entire game, so I would not suggest depending on this service unless you don't want to miss any of the game.
In addition to the food kiosks in the concourse, there are a number of other interesting features including a team merchandise stand and the "Bud Kerr Wall of Fame" celebrating the history of the stadium and its teams.
The seats are either solid wood or metal which, although not super comfortable, are the only options in an outdoor stadium in Vancouver's rainy climate. Access to the seats is a little cramped so you really have to stand up if someone wants to walk past you.
Sight lines from anywhere in the stadium are excellent. I sat in various locations, and there are very few seats that don't have an excellent view of the game action.
The scoreboard is one of the highlights of the stadium as it is one of the few manual scoreboards still in operation. Watching the numbers pop in and out of the square holes makes you think you are watching a classic game from the 1960's. There is also a smallish "jumbotron" right above the manual board that provides fans with live stats as well as instant replays.
Fans can access the field level seating areas to watch the pre-game warmups, and there are lots of people cheering on the home team before the game starts. The pre-game activities are of the typical "first pitch" and "recognizing the local little league champion" variety.
The overall game atmosphere is absolutely fantastic. This stadium is just the perfect size to feel an intimate connection to the ballgame. The field's foul territory is exceptionally narrow, and fans that sit in the first section along either first or third base get a feeling of being really close to the action. From my seat in the 10th row just above first base, I could clearly hear the first base coach and many of the players as they hollered at each other during the game.
The only thing preventing me from giving five stars is the PA system. From my section, it was totally unintelligible. Not only could I not hear what the announcer was saying, the muffled, buzzing, distorted sounds that came from the speaker distracted from the otherwise pleasant game environment.
The stadium is located in a beautiful section of town, directly adjacent to Queen Elizabeth Park, which is one of Vancouver's finest public parks. However, the neighborhood surrounding the stadium and the park is residential, with absolutely no commercial activity nearby. Luckily, Main Street, which is a vibrant commercial street boasting a multitude of small shops, restaurants and pubs is only few blocks away from the stadium.
During the game, the fans are lively with lots of participation in the various chants and clapping between plays. This is a very family oriented stadium with a lot of children and elderly people in attendance. I did not witness any rowdy people - even the serious beer drinkers behind my seat were well-behaved.
Fans seem knowledgeable about the rules, with many classic moments of outrage about some of the calls the umpires make.
Getting to the stadium is relatively easy by car. There are ample signs as you get close, and the parking lot seems to be a decent size for the stadium capacity. The $7 parking fee is an extremely good value, especially compared to outrageous parking charges for the NHL, MLS, and CFL stadiums downtown. If $7 still sounds too steep, plan to do some walking. The stadium is located in a residential area, with extremely limited public parking on the streets.
Public transportation access is available via Skytrain (the nearest station - King Edward is just over 1 kilometer away). Buses that run along Main Street can get you within 3 blocks. Cost for public transit ranges from $2.75 to $5.50 depending on distance and the time of day.
Washrooms are small and a little outdated, but clean.
Seats are extremely affordable. The most expensive seat is $26 and the cheaper seats go for less than half of that. This is much less expensive than the local MLS team, the Vancouver Whitecaps, and MUCH cheaper than the local NHL team, the Vancouver Canucks. Although food prices are a bit high, parking and ticket prices make this stadium the best professional sports bargain in Vancouver.
Hard tickets are good quality heavy stock paper with lots of color.
Team merchandise is readily available and there is a good selection of clothing and gear.
There is a lot of history associated with the teams that have called "the Nat" home. The stadium does a great job celebrating that history with murals and memorabilia of past teams and players.
The stadium also boasts a kids play area just outside of the third base stands complete with a bouncy castle and inflatable slide. This would be a godsend for families that take small children with smaller attention spans to the games.
The stadium has a long-standing tradition of hosting a generous number of mid-day games, known locally as "Nooners." On weekends, the stands are filled with families, and on week days these games are heavily supported by the Vancouver business community. It is not unusual to see many well dressed business people at these games networking and enjoying a nice day at the ballpark.
I attended the final weekend game of the regular season, and after the game had finished, the stadium permitted all the children in attendance to run the bases. The kids all received a high five from the team mascot, Bob Brown, as they arrived at home plate. This was a nice touch and was a great example of the family oriented atmosphere.
Member Review by Carol Schram on Aug 16, 2012
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.
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.
Member Review by refmichel on Sep 04, 2014
Went with friends. Absolutely loved it. I'm from the east so the stadium reminded me of the ones in Québec City (QC), Trois-Rivières (QC), Burlington (VT) and Portland (ME).
Very well maintained stadium. The fans were totally into the game and their team.
Food is stadium standards but good choice of beers (especially Granville Island beer).
Nothing much around the stadium and coming from North Vancouver for a 7:00 p.m. game was somewhat a grind.
Cambie & 33rd Avenue, Queen Elizabeth Park
Vancouver, BC V5Y 2M5
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