For over a decade, the Lexington Legends have been providing minor-league baseball entertainment to the Central Kentucky region. Over the years, the Legends and Whitaker Bank Ballpark have seen famous manager tirades, famous pitchers like Roger Clemens, and one South Atlantic League Championship, which came after the Legends inaugural season in 2001.
From 2001 to 2010, Lexington's minor-league ballpark was known as Applebee's Park. Today, the ballpark is known as Whitaker Bank Ballpark, a nod to yet another great Lexington business. It is located on the north side of Lexington in the middle of an industrial corridor. It can be accessed from I-64 from the Broadway exit.
Whitaker Bank Ballpark has a lot of distinctive and unique features that keep fans coming through the turnstiles. Behind home plate is a restaurant sponsored by Maker's Mark that is open to guests with special passes. Down the first base line is the “Budweiser Pavilion” which allows guests to enjoy a cold beer while having a nice view of the game as well. Down the third base line, guests will find a wide variety of entertainment options for young Legends fans. The most notable of these options is a carousel which comes with a great view of the game as well. Lastly, guests can rest on the “Pepsi Party Deck” which is behind right field. Once more, this area provides guests with great entertainment with a great view of the game at the same time.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of local food products available at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. Since Lexington has been the original home to many successful restaurant companies like Long John Silver's and Fazoli's, I expected Whitaker Bank Park to have many local brands in their concession stands.
Whitaker Bank Ballpark certainly didn't let me down as I found Gold-Star Chili, which serves the famous Cincinnati style chili, down the first base line. I also found a Kentucky Proud stand which serves locally grown Kentucky products. I also thought the Legends did a good job reinforcing the Kentucky bourbon image with their implementation of Maker's Mark signs and logos throughout the ball park.
When you visit Whitaker Bank Ballpark, be sure to try something local at the concession stands. You'll have plenty to choose from and it will give you a unique feel and taste for how special food and beverage is in Central Kentucky.
Although the crowd was a little sparse due to it being a weeknight game, I came away satisfied with my ballpark experience. I liked that the Legends included all sections of the ballpark when they tossed out promotional shirts, baseballs, and other prizes. I had the opportunity to catch three promotional items during my time at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
I also like the way the Legends incorporated the Kentucky horse image into their ballpark by painting the facility hunter green and dark blue and by hanging flags over the grandstand that are reminiscent of a horse track.
When you enter Whitaker Bank Ballpark, you will instantly notice two good things about the venue- good fun and a good feel for the uniqueness of Central Kentucky.
The neighborhood around Whitaker Bank Park is most definitely the weakness that the Legends and the city of Lexington need to work on. Whitaker Bank Park was built in the northern part of the city instead of the parking lot next to Rupp Arena because the city wanted to spur economic development from downtown to New Circle Road on the northern tip of Lexington.
Although the ballpark is now over 10 years old, it certainly has not attracted the neighborhood entertainment amenities that it has the potential to bring in. I challenge the city of Lexington and the Lexington Legends ball club to make neighborhood development a top priority as they enter the next decade of baseball.
Currently, only a dollar store and coin laudromat can be found next to the ballpark. If you want to visit a nice restaurant or store, you have to drive all the way out to New Circle Road or go south into Downtown Lexington.
Fan attendance during my recent visit was a little sparse, but I chalk that up to the fact that it was a week day game and the team was stuck in the middle of the South Atlantic League standings.
The fans that did come to the game did a great job supporting the team as it seemed like well over 80% of the fans had some kind of Legends gear on. They also seemed to care more about the baseball game than what was going on around them which is very hard to find in minor-league ballparks these days.
As someone who spent 5 years in Lexington as a student at the University of Kentucky, I do know one thing- Lexington is loyal to their Legends!
No matter what direction you are coming from, accessing Whitaker Bank Ballpark is simple and easy. If you're coming from I-64/I-75, take the Broadway exit all the way down to Whitaker Bank Ballpark. If you're coming from northern Lexington, take New Circle to Broadway. And if you're coming from south Lexington, you can take Broadway all the way through Lexington.
Basically, no matter where you are in Lexington, you are just one or two roads away from the ballpark. And when you get to the stadium, you can either pay $3 to park directly in front of it or you can park in the residential neighborhoods on the other side of Broadway from the ballpark. Personally, I went with the free parking on the other side of Broadway.
I found my trip to Whitaker Bank Ballpark to be well worth it. The tickets were affordable, there were plenty of great seats still available on game day, and the Legends do an awesome job of making you feel right at home in Central Kentucky.
Whether you are 3 or 103, the Legends have plenty of entertainment for you to choose from at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. They also do a great job with their customer service as I was courteously greeted by at least five Legends employees during my trip to the ballpark. When visiting Lexington, Kentucky, a trip to Whitaker Bank Ballpark is a must.
I give one point for the design of Whitaker Bank Ballpark. The Legends and the city of Lexington did a great job incorporating the area's rich horse farm history into their ballpark. They also did a great job designing the facility to be open air with great views from all seats.
I give one point to the Legends for giving their guests a local feel by using products from around the Central Kentucky area. Usually, when you visit a ballpark you get a general feel that you could get at any other ballpark. At Whitaker Bank Ballpark, you get a taste of the town of Lexington.
Whitaker Bank Park in my eyes goes from one extreme to another with what they have to offer. I can see somebody fall in love with this place or I can see them hate this place, wishing they never invested a dime into the park. To me, I liked it all right, but to me there were a lot of issues that frustrated me.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: The variety is large, especially with having a Cincinnati Chili stand (Lexington is not too far away from Cincy). There are a lot of "Kentucky-themed" eats & drinks (bourbon). That was the good news. The bad news was it is nothing to really write home about in taste. I ordered a Bourbon Street Sammie (meatball sandwich with bourbon sauce; meatballs had cheese & bacon filled in it) and while the sauce was good, the rest of it was bland. They offered kettle corn which I am not a fan of, but ate some. The highlight was fresh squeezed lemonade, which was very good.
ATMOSPHERE: This place screams "Kentucky" with everything it has to offer. Since Lexington only has the Wildcats and it was well after basketball season & well before football season, they made sure you had a great Minor League experience, but they also had the structure itself make you feel like you were near the Kentucky Derby with structures of a stable & the "home run porch" in right field that looked like the structure of the derby.
NEIGHBORHOOD: The area around the place, is not desireable at all. Coin laundromat, which looked to be very ugly and a dollar store, which is also not appealing, are the only things around besides what felt like were run-down houses. There is nothing in the area you could grab anything as you would probably need to go downtown or hit the Lexington suburbs if you want some food.
FANS: It was a Saturday, so it explained why it was jam packed, but the fans were into the game from first pitch until the last out. They were friendly as can be on top of it.
ACCESS: It isn't entirely hard to get to as you hit the main road off of I-75, but then you have to wait on traffic light after traffic light, one lane roads, take unusual turns, etc. When you finally get there, it is a complete mess as the road itself isn't a wide road (only two lanes on both sides), which creates massive traffic issues. You get in the "main" parking lot, which is incredibly cramped and a mess in its own right, especially for a large crowd. To add on top, they charge you $5 to get in. Then getting out is a whole different nightmare. Don't try to park in the parking lot at the dollar store/laundromat. Cops were out there, making sure you didn't get "free parking."
ROI: While the stadium and the experience (save for parking and the neighborhood) was great, prices were in my eyes, a little too much for Single-A ball. The sammie was $9 and prices for the other food ranged anywhere from $4-7 (not BAD, but more than other places in the Minors). Prices for souvenirs were about what you expect, but maybe a dollar or two higher as well. Last, tickets for general admission were fine, but the rest was slightly more expensive than what you would get at other single A ball parks.
EXTRAS: As I mentioned before, you definitely felt like you were in Kentucky with the structure and you had murals of what Kentucky was famous for on the exterior (bourbon making, horse racing, etc.), which was great. The employees were friendly and you had an usher who would talk sports when he was able to and also dance whenever the Legends had a rally. There were "retired numbers" of a lot of the Legends players who made it to the Majors up along the wall, thus trying to show the recent success the Legends had in their short time of being in Lexington. Also, they were really gung-ho on the idea of now being affiliated with the Royals with new changes with the colors and logos, including the whole "fear the stache" bit.
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