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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Historic Simmons Field underwent a major renovation before the start of the 2014 baseball season in time for the debut season of the Kenosha Kingfish of the Northwoods League. The $1.4 million upgrades included new seating, multi-level suites, table top full service seats and the inclusion of kids and group areas.
The 3,218 seat stadium’s history dates back to 1920 when the Simmons Mattress Company built the ballpark to host its factory team. After the original structure burned down, a new grandstand was constructed in 1930. The original grandstand still exists, but all of the stadium seating was replaced with recycled seats from Baltimore's Camden Yards in 2014.
The ballpark was the former home to the Kenosha Comets of the All-American Professional Baseball League (1947-1951), the Kenosha Twins of the Midwest League (1984-92), the Kenosha Kroakers of the Northwoods League (1993) and the Kenosha Mammoths of the Frontier League (2003). Now it is the Kenosha Kingfish who look forward to many spirited years at Simmons Field, and if the first season is any indication, it looks to be the start of something spectacular in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
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If you attend a Kingfish game, come hungry, there is a lot of food to choose from on the main concourse. I found the Italian beef, black bean burger and cranberry-walnut chicken salad sandwich a bargain for only $5. I was further intrigued by the BBQ pulled pork nachos, funnel cake fries and the fried cheese curds (they are a bit sweet). Located at the King's Corner Grill are the Wisconsin Philly, Gyro Philly, Spicy Bacon Philly and the Rock-a-Hula Baby Philly sandwiches that are as affordable as they are tasty. My only complaint is that I was not able to try them all during my visit.
If you have room for dessert, you can enjoy deep fried cookie dough, banana splits, strawberry short cake kringle sundaes and chocolate and bacon covered frozen bananas. It is definitely a smorgasbord of state fair delicacies at Simmons Field. There are also 14 beer taps in the ballpark that feature predominantly local beers (sadly one of my local favorites New Glarus is not one of them) and will only cost you $4-$5 a glass.
When attending a Kingfish game, be prepared to have a good time. This is the type of ballpark one becomes anxious to enter when they pass the stadium en route to the parking lot. The staff and crew members make you feel welcome and at home. Any question that the patron might have, will surely be answered by one of the several volunteers.
The Simmons Field grandstand may date back to 1930, but the rest of the ballpark has a very modern feel. The official team store is located near the entrance offering a fantastic range of merchandise. The retro jerseys are a steal at only $25 and one cannot help from picking up a ball cap with the eye-popping team logo. Inside the shop is the original organ from the Kenosha Twins days at the park that is encouraged to be played by visitors.
There is also a sense of history throughout the venue. Old newspaper articles and pictures wrap around the main seating areas that provide a history lesson of former teams, players and events that took place at Simmons Field. It makes for some great reading and offers a few surprises, so give yourself some extra time to peruse the displays.
The official mascot is King Elvis who is a fish dressed in a white jumpsuit. He is found throughout the stadium and on the field.
The stadium features a hand operated scoreboard and plenty of party sections. The Bambino is a restored 43-foot long boat that incorporates the left field wall and offers unlimited eating for large groups for only $45. There are also postgame fireworks every Saturday night.
The ballpark is located in a commercial retail area that is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, creating a small town community feel. There are several great places to eat in Kenosha that are minutes away by car from the ballpark. The Brat Stop, located off of I-94, is a city landmark that I have been frequenting for the past 16 years. However, Uncle Mike's and Captain Mike's feature great wings, fantastic burgers and beer bingo on certain nights. Franks Diner, The Spot Drive-In, and Twisted Cuisine are other notable spots to enjoy a bite to eat when in town.
The fans have responded overwhelmingly well to the Kingfish, averaging over 2,000 fans a game during the inaugural campaign. The organization creates an extremely entertaining atmosphere for the casual fan to get together with friends, colleagues, and family.
Simmons Field is located minutes from I-94 on SR-50; once at the ballpark, the main parking lots fill up fast. Fortunately, there are various staff members dressed in Elvis jumpsuits who guide you to the various parking lots nearby. Many of these lots are local business parking and they are free of charge. A great sense of community is on display here in Kenosha.
You get a lot of bang for your buck with your ticket. The price points are $12, $10 and $8. There is the Founder's Club section for $25 that features all you can eat food, soda and three beers. However, it is what you can do with your tickets after the game. If the Kingfish score five runs, your ticket will entitle you to a free scoop of frozen custard at Culvers and your Kingfish ticket also gets you half off pints of beer at The Tilted Kilt for one hour after the game. If one were to take advantage of such offers, they would be getting a lot in return for around $10.
Another erstwhile minor league ballpark has been brought back to life in the Northwoods League. Simmons Field has been transformed from an outdated facility to a robust and energetic ballpark that appeals to the kid in all of us. I have a feeling there will be many more summers of Kingfish baseball in Kenosha.
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