I have to admit that I was not too excited about watching a game at Volcanoes Stadium. I first visited the stadium in 2009, and was not impressed with what I saw. Thank goodness first impressions can be misleading, since my second time at the ballpark was much better than expected. The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are members of the Single-A Northwest League and have called the cozy park home since 1997. The 4,252 seat stadium was privately funded for $3 million and was the first new baseball stadium built in the state since 1940. Since its inaugural campaign, the team has averaged 3,000 fans per game per season. Not too shabby for a ballpark I once snubbed my nose at.
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There is an allurement inside the ballpark with specific sections on the concourse. At the Foul Line BBQ stand you will be able to enjoy a nice sized portion of pulled pork on a bun with the choice of five different barbecue sauces. The pork is slow cooked at the stadium and would taste amazing on a pile of nachos with cheese.
The Dog House serves one of the stadium's signature items, the killer kielbasa, which is massive in size and served with a great tasting locally made bun that soaks up the juices or the toppings of grilled onions and peppers, chili, and/or cheese. Being half Slovak myself, I opted for mustard and chopped onions.
The Volcano burger and sausage are other popular options that are also massive in size and fit right in with the banality of food options that are available for the rapacious consumer.
If you are interested in lighter options, near the main entrance is Cafe Ole, Asian Wok and Health Nut concession stands. You can enjoy tacos, teriyaki bowls, pizza slices and chicken wraps that are little lighter on fat and sodium content.
If you have room for dessert, check out the ice cream stand for banana split sundaes prepared from nine different ice cream flavors. I must have gained a few pounds after my visit, but that is fine when you're at the ballpark.
As for the beverages, there are at least nine different beers on draft from Coors Light, Deschutes Pale Ale, Full Sail ESB and my favorite Alaskan Amber Ale. If beer is not your choice of beverage, there are glasses of red and white wine and hard lemonade varieties. Prices range around the $5 mark for either draft or can, which makes it easy for someone on a budget.
There is a lot to like about Volcanoes Stadium. It has the ambiance of what a day at the minor league ballpark should be for the casual fan. There are multiple concession stands staffed by friendly servants and there are plenty of small tables and tents on the concourse selling merchandise or handing out local information. There are even vendors in funny wigs selling food and souvenirs. I relish visits like this, since I am going to have an old fashioned minor league visit without any of that pretentious nonsense that you see in many big league venues.
The only problem on my most recent visit was the ominous clouds hovering up above and as each pitch was tossed a little more rain fell down. Bummer, I was really enjoying my seats in back of home plate, but as I sipped my Alaskan Amber Ale I was told about the Lava Lounge tucked in the left field line.
Added in 2002, the wooden shelter serves as a bar where mix drinks, beer, and wine are served for adults 21 and over. I was told that on most nights it is a place where to purchase a drink and walk back out to either your seats or outside tables; however, you had a dry open view of the diamond as the game proceeded, so it was even more popular than usual during this visit.
Adjacent to the Lava Lounge are other additions to the park since its inception. This includes a permanent concert stage and the home run porch, which is just grass seating behind the left field wall.
At the other end of the stadium, down the right field line, is the children's play area. It was a little desolate during my visit, but I am sure it is a place of joy for youngsters and parents alike on dryer days.
It was pointed out by a few staff members that the stadium won a design award from the American Institute of Architects in 1999. It was quoted that Volcanoes Stadium had the particular ability to create a sense of community in an exceptional fan-friendly environment. I would have to assent with the institute's statement.
The stadium is located north of Salem and within the city limits of Keizer. The 237-acre Keizer Station shopping complex is adjacent and directly south of the stadium off I-5. The outdoor shopping plaza feels more like a small town that features large retail stores such as Best Buy, Marshal's, Petco, Michael's, Guitar Center, and Bed, Bath & Beyond; restaurants, Panera Bread, Taco Del Mar, Adobe Republic, Outback, and Round Table Pizza; and services, Aspen Dental, Verizon Wireless, FedEx, and Key Bank.
You are also in the Willamette Valley, where there are dozens of wineries dotting the area. The Oregon capitol house is located a few miles south in Salem.
Even with the chance of rain threatening the ballgame, a coterie came out with umbrellas and ponchos to conflate against the Oregon weather. In the end, the rain prevailed and dampered what looked to be a decent crowd on hand. Many in attendance had hope that there was a chance that the rain clouds would pass with little precipitation, but in the end the rains prevailed. One gentleman refused to leave the game until an official announcement was made, much to the demise of his spouse. Stubborn, maybe; crazy, perhaps; dedicated bunch of baseball fans; indeed.
If traveling north on I-5, you will need to take exit 260B. Unfortunately, there are no signs notifying the driver and you will quickly realize this once you pass both Keizer Station and the stadium. If traveling south, the ballpark is recognizable and you will take exit 260A. Once off the interstate, you will travel through the shopping complex and into the parking lot, which costs $3 to park in. As long as you know that the stadium is at Keizer Station, then you will find it easily, just do not be like me and miss your exit.
Tickets to watch a game vary between $7-$12 in advance, add an extra buck to those prices for game day purchase and a robust $20 for the diamond club section of 101-113. It's a fair price for a stadium that offers a wide selection of food, drinks and promotions. The team offers special nights that include kids' nights on Monday, prize wheel spinning on Saturday, double play tickets on Tuesdays, and $1 adult beverages in the Lava Lounge on Thursdays.
There are also fireworks, dedication nights, and special appearances made throughout the rest of the summer. The whole experience is a nice return on your investment, no matter how you look at it.
I enjoyed the quality of the food, the Lava Lounge for adults and the general ambiance of minor league baseball that can be somehow missed at other ball yards across the country.
Volcanoes Stadium is a place that is among the pinnacle in fan-friendly environments. The staff is friendly, the food is fantastic and the drinks are top notch. Shame on me for thinking anything negative during my first visit. If you ever find yourself in Portland, it is a short 40 mile drive south to Keizer. Take my advice and watch a game. It is one of the better experiences that I have had in recent memory.
Volcanoes Stadium, which is referred to as "The Crater," opened in 1997 and it's of the home to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes of the Northwest League. They're the Single A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The team recently extended their player development contract with the Giants for two more years through 2012. The stadium is located conveniently off I-5 in Keizer, Oregon. The team uses nearby Salem, the capital of Oregon as part of its name in order to entice corporate sponsors to advertise with the team, hence the name Salem-Keizer.
Having traveled the country, I have to say that this is one of my favorite minor league teams ball parks! Their employees are a delight and it is well worth the time and money. I was helped by a nice man named Thomas Weeks who made my family feel at home. One of the ushers named Mark was also helpful and we were pleased to see that the ball park hires people of all aptitudes. Loved the Volcano Burger and the $1 beer night! The ladies in the main concession also invited our son out that night and that was sweet. We would like him to come home now. Overall a success.
The location of Volcanoes Stadium is perfect. It is easy to get to and right next to a shopping area that includes restaurants and some great stores.
The stadium is beat up though and the jumbo tron / scoreboard only works some of the time.
Some of the food options are good but it can take 20 minutes to get a hot dog.
No real giveaways occur during the year for fans and there isn't much for activities in between innings.
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