Once you begin to drive inland in Southern California, there aren't many bodies of water to be found. Lake Elsinore is one of the few exceptions and not too far from this body of water is a minor league franchise that is quenching the thirst for baseball fans in the area.
The Storm play their home games at The Diamond, built in 1994 at a cost of $22 million. Upon arriving at The Diamond, you'll quickly notice the brick clock tower and tree-lined walkway. At one end of the walkway, you'll find a wire sculpture of a pitcher and one of a batter at the other end.
As soon as you walk through the gates, you are greeted by a rather spectacular view. Straight ahead you'll notice a sunken playing field (similar to Michigan Stadium) with the Elsinore Mountains in the background.
A single concourse above all of the general seating allows spectators to grab a bite to eat without missing the action. The concourse is peppered with face painting, book fairs (yes, book fairs), and food vendors. The home run fence has two sizable LED scoreboards and even an advertisement covered "Green Monster." This monster is located in right field rather than left, and like Fenway, has a hand-operated scoreboard at the bottom. The left field side has a much lower fence, but a considerable distance at 425 feet. I did have a nice chuckle when I was in the right field pavilion and got a glance at the area beyond the home run wall. It looked as if a nuclear war had occurred back there with all sorts of storage thrown in any open space available.
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".
At The Diamond, they do provide a lot of the more typical fare, but they do seem to put a small twist on the items to make it a little more than ordinary. If you're sticking to the simplistic hot dogs, a child can get one for $2 and the adult size runs at $4. Hamburgers, referred to as 1/3 pounders, will cost $5.50 and a crispy chicken sandwich goes for $6. The personal pan pizza is $5-$6 depending on the toppings and the Frito's Chili Pie (Frito's with chili and cheese) is $3.75.
Select "Value Meals" are also available including chicken tenders, fries and soda for $7.50. Just like the fast food chains, the ballpark is offering healthier options such as fruit to replace the fries in the corn dog meal for $6. Three different burritos are also available at the park ranging from $5.50-$6.50.
There seems to be some great dessert options at Lake Elsinore as well. Cookie ice cream sandwiches at $4.50, cookies and cream malt cups or jolly rancher popsicles at $3, as well as a Baskin Robbins stand and even a stand serving candy apples.
The beverage options include 20 oz sodas at $3, energy drinks at $3, and bottled water, coffee, or hot chocolate for $2 each.
For the adults, $5 will land you a mass-produced beer such as Budweiser or Coors and $6 will land you the "premium" beers of Sam Adams or Widmer.
If you're looking to save a few dollars on your beverages, stop by The Diamond on Thirsty Thursday, when you can get $1 beers and sodas. Having now visited every ballpark in or surrounding Orange County, I can confirm that this is the cheapest ballpark beer promotion around.
If you're really interested in filling up, I'd suggest stopping by The Diamond and purchasing a $13 ticket on "Fat Tuesday." This ticket not only admits you to entertaining Storm baseball, but also provides you with all-you-can-eat hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, french fries, and popcorn.
If your significant other is complaining that he or she wants a sit-down venue, you can stop in at The Diamond Club before or during the game. This 5,000 square foot restaurant offers great views of Lake Elsinore, the Cleveland National Forest, and the ballpark.
The atmosphere was definitely a more relaxed one as the children were having fun and the adults seemed to just be settling in for some Sunday night baseball.
While the evening began as a more casual setting, the volume of the PA system was extremely loud & "the voice of god" was extremely enthusiastic. This definitely seemed effective in jolting the fans' excitement.
What else really got the fans going? The weiner dog races had members of PETA on their feet, the inflatable ball races had two children running down the first base line, and the t-shirt cannon had all fans not allergic to cotton yelling and screaming for a chance to catch one.
Most seats are in a rather uniform seating bowl, with spacious fold-down seats and plenty of legroom. There doesn't appear to be a bad sightline in the house. The 11 luxury suites and press box were elevated far above the field, so much so that if you weren't looking, you may not notice them.
The Lake Elsinore Storm have more mascots than I've ever seen at a ballpark. Thunder the dog leads the way, being the self-proclaimed mascot of the year for 8 straight seasons. Not to be confused with the Philly Phanatic, he is a member of the "Canis Thunderus" family and has no problem getting the Storm fans on their feet to show their support.
Next up is Jackpot. He remained rather obscure during the game, hiding behind the right field scoreboard. He would make an appearance after every Storm run, busting out some clever dance moves.
GC, or Grounds Crew, Gorilla makes his appearances when the crew is mending the field. His enthusiasm is unparalleled and he even hit some players with what appeared to be a thunderstick between innings.
Hamlet, Rally Cop, and the Baskins Robbins mascot also make appearances during Storm games to spark the fans' excitement.
There is quite a bit of great natural scenery near The Diamond, including the Elsinore Mountains, and the lake itself. Any visitor is going to find some rather spectacular scenery in the neighborhood around The Diamond. The Elsinore Mountains are nearby and the Lake itself is just minutes from the stadium. The Cleveland National Forest is minutes away, and while the forest does contain some of the most beautiful views in Southern California, it was also not able to lure LeBron James.
Nearby restaurants include Del Taco, Nena's Pizza, El Ranchito Taco Shop, and Pizza Hut. Many of the locals will recommend Annie's Cafe. I've heard that breakfast is great here and understand that a new visitor is to tell the server when it's a first visit to receive a special treat.
I had to appease my appetite by stopping at the Lookout Roadhouse. While it is about 5 miles from the stadium, it is the spot that is truly Lake Elsinore. Off the Ortega Highway, it has a rather unbelievable view of the lake and surrounding mountains. It's a rather casual joint where you often can't distinguish the patrons from the employees.
Their menu has some fun choices, but their claim to fame is the country breakfast and their ribs. I had the plate of ribs for about $16 and I'm not sure whether it was the food or the view, but it was worth every penny to me! If nothing else, stop in for a beer and take a look at beautiful Lake Elsinore.
The area surrounding the park is rather barren and as a result made for some great parachuting grounds. Into the 5th inning, you could see parachuters falling from the sky!
On this given evening, the fans were out in limited numbers. This was rather surprising as the Storm had accumulated the best record in the California League during this season. While most fans were at The Diamond for baseball, it seemed that the younger fans were having the time of their short lives. With a multitude of inflatable games, playground, and a berm that they could roll down, they probably didn't even know baseball was being played for most of the game.
During the first half of the game, the most excitement that I noticed from the fans was when the Papa Johns Pizza giveaway was announced and the crowd went nuts hoping that a free pizza was coming their way.
I had to ultimately hand it to the fanbase as towards the end of the game, with their team trailing by a few runs, the fans were being as loud as I've heard at a minor league park in showing their support.
Hats off to whomever developed the team logo because the fans really seem to respond to it. At no other minor league venue have a seen such a large percentage of fans sporting the team's gear.
Getting to Lake Elsinore can be a little more challenging than the typical ballpark in southern California. If you're coming from one of the cities that are northwest of Elsinore, you can take 73 South, but the toll will cost you $4. If you take CA-74, or the Ortega Highway, through the Cleveland National Forest, prepare yourself for many twists and turns through one of the most rural areas of Southern California. If you choose to take the 91 to the 15, you could be taking a roundabout way as you must go around the National Forest.
Lake Elsinore is in a great location between both San Diego and Los Angeles, the stadium can be accessed via any one of the routes mentioned above. Once you've arrived in Lake Elsinore, simply follow Diamond Drive the whole way to the ballpark.
Parking is plentiful, but seems a bit steep at $5 considering there are hordes of open land surrounding the park.
The restrooms are large and spacious and rather easy to access from any seat. They are clearly marked by interesting characters that resemble Legos (Legoland is located in nearby Carlsbad, CA).
Lake Elsinore is constantly rated as one of the best minor league experiences around by a variety of resources and I would like to confirm this. With the most expensive tickets being at $10 and options as low as $6, the ticket prices are extremely reasonable for the quality of the stadium.
While I did scoff at the parking prices, it is only $5 and the food prices are reasonable for ballpark food. I have to once again level-set and mention that this is Southern California. It's difficult to find car insurance that is cheaper than $5 per hour, so maybe the parking fee isn't too out of the realm of expense.
If you opt for dinner at the Diamond Club, the fare is also reasonable, just what you'd expect at any sit-down chain restaurant.
The Diamond appears to be one of those can't-miss investments that fans of all ages can enjoy. If you're in Southern California, be sure to map out a trip to Lake Elsinore.
Due to the Southern California heat, the Storm allow each fan to bring in a single water bottle. While it seems rather simple, it is a critical perk for the area. The temperatures in SoCal often get a bit warm and without rain for weeks or months at a time, it gets rather dry. A fan can clearly see this in the condition of the field at The Diamond with multiple dry spots where the grass has not grown in. To help alleviate the heat, misting tents are available on both the right field and left field concourses.
The Diamond doubles as a venue for much more than baseball. Storm Entertainment holds some seemingly entertaining events that I would consider traveling a couple hundred miles to be a part of. They offer an Oktoberfest celebration, a Field of Screams during Halloween, a Grand Prix, Concerts, and a Farmer's Market every Sunday from 8 AM to 1 PM. The venue can even morph to a boxing venue with a seating capacity of 14,000. Heck, if Floyd Mayweather stops stealing iPhones, he might even hold his next fight here.
While it's often an overlooked feature, I enjoy when a franchise lists the players who have appeared in the major leagues after passing through. The Diamond has a large sign in the middle of the concourse entitled "Stormin' The Big Leagues" that shows the names of stars such as Jake Peavy and Chase Headley that have played for the Storm.
Certainly Lake Elsinore doesn't have the sexy ring that so many other Southern California cities do, but this place is certainly a diamond in the rough.
I would LOVE to attend a game here in one of their luxury boxes. They are very secluded and have
some rather magnificent views of the park. I've attended over 50 ballparks and never have I desired for an opportunity to sit in the luxury suites like I did here.
If you have a youngster, I'd recommend bringing he or she along for a visit. Never have I seen children have so much fun at a ballgame. Beyond kids, this stadium is certainly a can't-miss for any baseball fan.
Follow Drew on Twitter @Big10Drew
Been there over three times and still love it. The atmosphere is relaxed and there is surprisingly luxurious seating! Great place for families! There was an upscale restaurant with a view of the field as well.
32107 Ortega Hwy
Lake Elsinore, CA 92530
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