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Official Review by Marcus Traxler, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
More commonly known to locals as “The Birdcage,” Sioux Falls Stadium dates back to 1941. It has hosted independent professional baseball for 20 seasons and was renovated for $5.6 million in 2000 to hold 4,500 people for the Sioux Falls Fighting Pheasants. Retaining a modern feel, The Birdcage is trying to add to the revitalization of baseball in South Dakota’s largest city.
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Sioux Falls Stadium's food selection is much like the atmosphere of the ballpark: straightforward. There are three concession stands, selling Coke products that all served the same menu. Nothing on the basic menu is more than $5.50 and from what I gathered, people were willing to order everything on it. I tried the jumbo hot dog ($3) to make sure they could execute the most basic of ballpark food and they did. The steamed dog and the solid bun made the money seem well spent. All of the food appeared to be properly valued and the nachos ($4) looked like a popular choice. The stadium also has a small ice cream stand under the bleachers.
If you're about eating all you can handle, the Pheasants give you all you would want, and for a decent price of $25 when you consider what you might spend otherwise. The spread includes hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips, baked beans, lemonade and beer.
As for the beer, they sold 16 oz. tall cans of Bud products for $3.50. 16 oz. draft products started at $4.50, with a 32 oz. option for $7.50. The stadium does have a dedicated bar area down the right field line, one that overlooks the Sioux Falls bullpen.
Sioux Falls has hosted an independent professional team since 1993 and in 2012, the team is in the midst of a big 20th anniversary campaign. Up until a few years ago, the team was known as the Canaries, which dates back to the 1900s in the Sioux Falls area. After an ownership change, the team went with the Fighting Pheasants nickname, which makes sense considering South Dakota's great pheasant hunting in the fall but there was a large contingent of locals who were not happy with the switch. The team definitely felt it at the gate and on the bottom line. Sioux Falls has supported the Pheasants better this year, with attendance up 46 percent early in the year.
Sioux Falls Stadium sits on the same property as the Sioux Falls Arena and Convention Center, where the rest of the city's minor league teams all play. An addition will be the city's new events center, which will be attached to the convention center and should be open in Fall 2014. The area is Sioux Falls' sports core, with high school football also being played at the municipal Howard Wood Field on the grounds.
There is a Buffalo Wild Wings behind the right field fence of the park (909 N West Ave) and contains the usual chain fare. Just down the street is Nutty's North (805 N West Ave), which is another bar and grill that is popular hangout spot near the park. The area around the ballpark lacks restaurants to go to, but there is a decent number of hotels if you'll be staying in the area. More diverse choices are located near I-29 at Louise Avenue and 41st Street, where a lot of Sioux Falls' shopping is available.
I thought the fans in attendance when I visited were split in interest between the action on the field and what was happening in their own respective parties, which when it comes to minor league baseball, is a good balance. The team had brand recognition when they were the Canaries and I think they have a chance to do that again with the Pheasants with a little more effort in the marketing.
With the confluence of stadiums listed above, it can be difficult at times to get out of the area, especially since it doesn't have an ideal layout. That said, I had no problem finding a parking spot (they're free) and no issue getting out after the game.
The stadium is easier to get to from Interstate 29 and can be reached with a few turns and following signage from Interstate 90.
I paid $7 for my ticket in the bleachers above the first base line but there weren't many people up there. I moved around and ended up in the third row behind the visitors' dugout at the end of the game. (I love that the staff allowed moving around from seat to seat, at least for my purposes.) The most expensive ticket was $12 to sit in the first eight rows around the infield and it can be worth it if you're there with a child, mainly because it's hard to get that close to the field for that price anywhere else. You can also get a ticket, hot dog and soda for $8 and 2-for-1 tickets on Tuesdays.
There's a berm behind third base that is popular with families for $7 and they have a kids fun zone during the weekend games that can keep the young ones busy.
One knock on the stadium would be that the scoreboard and video screen are old by comparison to other ballparks now and definitely could use an upgrade.
If you're fortunate to be in a group, the suites are very nice at Sioux Falls Stadium. The group seating in right field is grouped off in four unique sections, including one section with a bar rail right over the right field wall. Good stuff for groups and worth one point.
One point for hitter-friendly dimensions, if you pull the ball. The outfield fence is probably 10 feet tall all the way around but it's 313 feet to left field and 343 in straight-away left. The same is the case in right field ,moving from 410 in dead centerfield to 359 in the right-center gap and down to 330 feet and finally, 312 feet at the foul pole. Good to have some offense, especially when the players are not known very well.
Sioux Falls Stadium is a good ballpark and has the necessary modern amenities, but could use an injection of energy to make it the Pheasants' own. A few extra touches would make The Birdcage one of the better ballparks in the American Association, if not in the Upper Midwest.
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