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Official Review by Scott Montesano, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Minnesota is a state filled with beautiful community ballparks, but unfortunately Duluth isn’t one of those cities on the list. Wade Stadium was built in 1941, and after surviving a planned demolition in the late 1980s because the city was short on cash, the ballpark is at a point where it either gets a renovation or it will crumble. That is literally crumble, as part of the park’s signature tall exterior brick wall collapsed during the spring of 2013 during one of the region’s harshest winters in years. Thankfully, this has jump-started local and state politicians to look into funding the much needed upgrades to the park, but until then this is a park that shows every bit of its age of over 70 years. From chipped paint in the concourse, to forgotten landscaping in front of the stadium, the park isn’t very inviting to fans at all.
The stadium was home to minor league baseball until the early 1970s, then went mostly unused except for the occasional concert (The Beach Boys played there in the 1980s) until the revived Northern League took up shop in 1993. The Duluth Huskies of the Northwoods League have been the summer tenant since 2003 with St. Scholastica’s excellent collegiate program playing there since the 1990s.
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Wade Stadium is limited by its small concourse, but has the standard ballpark fare as well as Famous Dave's pulled pork and brisket sliders. A hot dog and beer aren't expensive at a total of $5, though one of the Famous Dave's items will run $6-$8.
There is a tented party area located down the left field line, but rarely have I seen more than a dozen or so people using it.
When the Huskies first started, they averaged about 1,500 fans per game, but in the last few years attendance has dropped into the low hundreds on most nights. Duluth's propensity for having cool nights in June, coupled with it being a community more engaged in participatory activities have reduced the crowds despite the Huskies' efforts. The game is mostly about baseball here with limited promotions that don't intrude on the game and likely are done to keep the club's older clientele happy. Families and young couples are limited and with the stadium being 5,000 seats, a few hundred fans have a hard time making noise. The overall effect is an emptiness of spirit throughout the old ball yard.
The ballpark is located on the west side of town, in an older part of the community. It's a residential area and the stadium is actually behind some houses. There is a limited selection of food and drink located nearby the park, but it is very easy to navigate to and numerous signs point drivers towards the stadium.
If you are looking for a meal, then you would be wise to venture into the Canal Park neighborhood or downtown Duluth, about 3 miles away from the ballpark. Stop into the Canal Park Brewery for a local beer and some pub food. The Dubh Linn Irish Pub comes highly recommended as well, a comedy club and restaurant.
With only a few hundred fans in attendance on most nights, one will have plenty of room to move around the 5,000-seat structure and explore. Those at the game are friendly and with the crowd skewing to an older demographic, one doesn't have to worry about there being too many - if any - rowdies at the game.
If not for the fact it's located behind some houses, it would be perfect. The park is an easy five-minute drive from I-35 which is the main Interstate connecting Duluth to the Twin Cities two-hours to the south. Parking is free and plentiful.
The park is old, but isn't necessarily historic with little atmosphere. The Huskies do their best to put on a minor league baseball show, but the stadium is a major drawback.
Duluth has one of the most vibrant downtowns and lakeside entertainment districts around. The area isn't located near the ballpark so it will take a separate trip but it has a mixture of chain restaurants and stores, with local establishments, tourist traps and local institutions.
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300 Canal Park Dr
Duluth, MN 55802
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4100 W Superior St
Duluth, MN 55807