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Official Review by Bill Kintner, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Werner Park is one of the most unique baseball ballparks in the country. It looks nothing like a traditional minor league ballpark. When fans walk in they immediately see the field. It is open with much of it in direct sunlight and the Storm Chasers have taken the "family experience" to a new level with tons of activities and games for all fans.
Werner Park was designed to be a ballpark, not a stadium. It does not have any upper deck general seating. It is more of a "pit-design," where the fans enter the ballpark and the seats are all in-the-ground below the concourse.
It really does not look like a typical ballpark where fans walk up to a big structure, with seating sections stacked up above the field. It looks like a series of buildings over-looking a baseball field and it was a really neat concept for a baseball ballpark.
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".
They have everything you would expect at a ballpark. They also have Omaha Steaks, soft-serve ice cream featuring Roberts Dairy Milk, La Mesa Mexican food, Extreme Pizza and a booth called Hot Dog Nation where fans can get a variety of hot dogs.
Hot dogs: $3.75 A big and very good dog (Hebrew National) with a nice blend of spices and a warm, but slightly hard bun. Rating: A
Large pop corn: $5.00 Slightly warm, but salty with a good corn taste. Rating: A-
Nachos w/ cheese: $4.75 Great chips that were whole, not broken and good cheese. Rating: B+
Pepsi: 32 oz plastic cup $4.00.
All general seating is below the main concourse. There are some private boxes and group seating areas that rise above the concourse, but that is it. The concourse circles the ball field. Behind leftfield is the AT&T Home Run Porch where fans can see the action from bleachers with chair-backs. Next to that, in left-center, right-center and rightfield is the McDonalds Seating Berm where fans can bring a blanket and sit on the grass.
Now fans might have to pick a few grass jiggers out of their pants, but they can also stretch out and take a little nap too. Try doing that at Wrigley Field.
The most unique seating area is down the left-field line in foul territory. It is a fan dugout down the leftfield line that seats up to 18 people and can be rented by groups.
There is a lot going on at Werner Park besides baseball. There is the Borsheims Diamond, where kids can play wiffle ball. There is Storm Chasers staff to help keep the games organized and as a nod to our sue-happy society, they make the participants wear a batting helmet while batting in the wiffle ball area.
Next to that is a basketball court which somehow did not have a sponsor's name attached to it. There is the Centris Family Fun Zone, which is a huge play area for kids and yes, there is a merry-go-round. There is also the Left Field Picnic Area, the HyVee Pavilion and two party decks that can be rented by groups.
The most unique sponsor tie-in is a one-seat row that is sponsored by DateOmaha.com. On Thirsty Thursday (dollar beers) they put a single man or woman in the seat and interview the single person, which is broadcast on the score board. Anyone that is interested in that person (hopefully single) can text a message to the single person's e-mail.
When I was a kid in Cincinnati, if the Reds had this type of entertainment at Riverfront Stadium, I probably would have missed every great moment I ever witnessed sitting next to my dad. With today's short-attention span kids, the attractions at Werner Park seem to work well for both kids and parents.
Every seat is a nice and wide 21 inches with a cup-holder and a great view of the field. There are also plenty of places to stand and watch the action. The concourse circles the field and it is about 1/3 of a mile around the concourse. It is worth it to take a little stroll around the ballpark to check out the baseball game from various angles and to see all the attractions.
There is nothing in the immediate neighborhood yet. Well there are soy bean fields on two sides and you can see some housing developments in the distance that are still being built. In the near future, there will be a 300 acre development called Pennant Place which will feature retail shops, restaurants, offices and two hotels, but until that happens fans will have to drive east about five miles on highway 370 to Shadow Lake Shopping Center. There they will find a large variety of food, drink and shopping.
These fans at Werner Park are certainly not rowdy fans. That is not really the Nebraska lifestyle, but they seem to be content fans. The Storm Chaser fans seem to have a really good time. I would even say they seem to be having more fun than most fans I see at MLB ballparks.
They have attractive college girls helping run their on-field promotions and as an added bonus once or twice a game they hop up on the dugout and "shake it" for the appreciative fans.
The Storm Chaser fans made noise at all the right times and after home runs, fire shoots up in the air from two smoke-stack type cylinders out along the center field concourse, which makes for some interesting reactions from unsuspecting fans.
Of course, there are plenty of fun promotions staged between innings that will entertain any baseball fan.
This particular night there were 8,871 fans in attendance for a Friday night game. They also awarded a startled fan a $2000 package of cool stuff for being the 12 millionth fan to attend a AAA baseball game in Omaha. This was also Friday Night Fireworks and probably over two-thirds of the fans stayed to watch the 20 minute show.
Werner Park is located in the suburbs, surrounded by almost nothing. It is easy to get to. It is on Highway 370, about five miles from Interstate 80. There is free parking, $2 parking and $5 parking depending on how much you want to walk. The furthest lot is less than a quarter mile away. There are also a few porta-potties out in the far reaches of the parking lot for fans that get a sudden urge from nature.
Tickets on weekdays run from $6 on the berm to $15.50. On weekends the berm seats are still $6 and all other tickets are an additional dollar. They have other discounts for children. Food prices are no bargain until you compare them to other minor league parks and then they do not seem so steep.
Attending a Storm Chasers game can cost as little as $6 for an adult. Even if you eat something, this is still a very good value.
I will award a star for being a good value, another two stars for being such a unique ballpark. They get a star for being such an entertaining venue and a final star for being a comfortable ballpark.
Omaha is a great baseball town and this is a low-hassle, low-cost fan experience at a very unique ballpark. Put it on your baseball road trip tour, you will have a great time.
*Pictures courtesy of the Omaha Storm Chasers.
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