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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Bernie Arbour Stadium - Hamilton Cardinals

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

Bernie Arbour Stadium 1100 Mohawk Rd E Hamilton, ON L8T 2S4

Year Opened: 1970

Capacity: 3,000

The Redbird Nest

There has been a Hamilton team as part of the independent Intercounty Baseball League in Ontario since 1958. For the lion's share of that duration, the team was named the Cardinals. Originally known as the Hamilton Beavers, Hamilton has also been known as the Red Wings, Marlins, Real McCoys, and Thunderbirds. From 1975 to 2004, they were known as the Cardinals but changes in ownership often resulted in different team names. In 2018, the Cardinals nearly folded after being owned by Gary Molinaro. Molinaro appointed his autistic son J.P. as team president in an unusual, yet uplifting scenario. In 2018 the team was saved by the Hamilton Community Group and continues to this day in this capacity.

Home for the Cardinals is CARSTAR Field @ Bernie Arbour Memorial Stadium. Bernie Arbour Stadium, the common reference for the home of the Cardinals, opened in 1970 and was a former home to Minor League Baseball with the Single-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals calling Hamilton home from 1988 to 1992. The team was known as the Hamilton Redbirds and played in the New York-Penn League. Hamilton also housed the Hamilton Red Wings, a charter member of the PONY League, a precursor to the NYPL, from 1939 to 1956.

They were known as the Cardinals from 1946 to 1955. After winning the championship in 1955, they were again renamed the Red Wings. The current Hamilton Cardinals can claim one IBL Championship in 1978.

Food & Beverage 3

Concession options at Bernie Arbour Stadium are fairly limited, as with most IBL venues. Hot dogs, fries, pizza, and sausage are all found at the concession window which is part of the permanent grandstand section. Other snack items include popcorn and chips, freezies, and packaged ice cream items. Canned soda, water, Red Bull, and coffee comprise the soft drink options, while tallboys of beer or cider are available for $8. There is also a secondary tent that sells beer and cider.

Atmosphere 3

Bernie Arbour Stadium is located in Mohawk Sports Park, an athletic facility that includes soccer pitches, baseball diamonds, a track, and field facility, and hockey rinks. Bernie Arbour Stadium has a permanent concrete structure for the main grandstand behind home plate as well as a ticket window and permanent gates for entering and exiting. The structure also includes a press box, washroom facilities, and a concession stand.

Wrought iron gates give the stadium a little bit more of a professional look than some of the other venues in the IBL. It very much looks like a venue that has housed affiliated Minor League Baseball in the past. The City of Hamilton and the Cardinals have done a wonderful job with painting the structure blue and white and featuring the Cardinals logo all over.

The main grandstand in the stadium is unique among IBL venues in that it sits a full story above the field. This restricts the opportunity to have that field-level view from right behind the plate that some patrons enjoy, however, it does offer a better view of the diamond overall. Sightlines are pretty good and the screen behind the plate is mesh netting as opposed to solid chain link found in other venues. There are aluminum bleachers on both the first base and third base sides of the diamond for fans who want a view of the field that is not through the mesh netting.

The Cardinals do have an IBL Championship from 1978 and on the day of this review, the alumni of the team were honoured, however, there were no noticeable banners, flags, or plaques commemorating the achievement. Also, some display of the history of Hamilton baseball would have gone a long way to improve the atmosphere at Bernie Arbour Stadium.

The game day atmosphere is fairly simple in Hamilton. The music is typical of most baseball experiences and the PA announcer is fine. The on the field host needed to do a little practice with his script and avoid mispronouncing the names of cities and the people who are being honoured.

Neighbourhood 2

Mohawk Park is located on “The Mountain” in Hamilton, which is the southern half of the city, near the Lisgar, Huntington, and King’s Forest neighbourhoods. A nice area of the city, Mohawk Park is huge, with numerous sports facilities, however, there are not a huge number of pre and post-game options for food or drink. Lime Ridge Mall can be found to the west of Mohawk Sports Park but for the most part, chain restaurants are what will be found there.

Even further west and a little south, to Upper James St., is where a few more options can be found as well as the South Hamilton Square shopping Mall. Possibly IOS Estiatorio & Wine Bar would be a good selection or the Spring Grill House. Otherwise, heading downtown would be the best bet for something unique.

There are a few other sporting options that can be found in Hamilton. First and foremost would be the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL, who play at Tim Hortons Field. Forge FC of the Canadian Premier League also plays at Tim Hortons Field. The Canadian Football Hall of Fame can be found on the second level of Tim Hortons Field.

The FirstOntario Centre can be found downtown and is the home of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs and now the NLL’s Toronto Rock. On the northwest side of the city is McMaster University and the Marauders play football at Ron Joyce Stadium and basketball at Burridge Gymnasium. The south end of Hamilton is where the airport can be found and a top-notch tourist attraction near the airport is the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

For fans looking for a place to stay close to Bernie Arbour Stadium, the Courtyard by Marriott Hamilton near South Hamilton Square is available.

Fans 3

It is difficult to assess the fans in the Intercounty Baseball League as the attendance figures are not often reported. That being said, the game that was reviewed had a decent crowd of a few hundred fans. IBL fans normally consist of a handful of hardcore, regular fans, friends and family, and youth baseball teams. The Cardinals remain consistent with the league. Bernie Arbour Stadium is one of the largest venues in the league and there were no congested areas. Fans in attendance usually offer polite applause, but specific comments against players and umpires are easily audible.

Access 4

Getting to Mohawk Sports Park is not difficult at all. The park is north of both the Lincoln Alexander Parkway and Red Hill Valley Parkway and is significantly easier to get to than the downtown venues from out of town. There is plenty of parking available in the park for the number of fans that attend Cardinals games. There are HSR bus stops along Upper Kenilworth on the west side of the park for those who wish to take public transportation. Fans should consult the Hamilton Street Railway website for schedules, fares, and maps.

Moving around the ballpark is not difficult at all, however, there are plenty of stairs in the grandstand and bleachers which could be limiting for those with mobility issues.

The washrooms are part of the permanent structure and spacious enough to accommodate Cardinals patrons.

Return on Investment 5

The investment for a Hamilton Cardinals game is one of the lowest anywhere. Tickets for adults are only $10 and students/seniors are only $5. Children under 10 are free. Tickets are transferable to other games. Tickets purchased are not specified for a single game, which is no doubt a function of the large capacity and small attendance. Concession prices are good and parking is free. Overall, it is simple to take a family of four to a game for less than $30. Intercounty Baseball is not at the same level as affiliated ball, however, it is still enjoyable and on a nice summer afternoon, it is a great way to get some entertainment.

Extras 2

An extra mark for the Hamilton Cardinals Alumni Association, which connects former players and the teams and honoured championship teams at the game reviewed. An extra mark for kids running the bases … in the top of the 3rd Inning!

Final Thoughts

Taking in a Hamilton Cardinals game is a great way to spend a summer evening or afternoon. Bernie Arbour Stadium is one of the best venues in the province also. It may not be a tourist destination and Intercounty Baseball may be lower than the affiliated ball, however, it is the top league in Ontario and for a hardcore ballpark traveler, a trip to Bernie Arbour Stadium will be worth it.

Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9.

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