Bill Taunton Stadium – Willmar Stingers
Photos by Bart Wilhelm, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Bill Taunton Stadium 1401 SW 22nd Street Willmar, MN 56201
Year Opened: 1979 Capacity: 2,000
Welcome to the Beehive
In 2010, the summer collegiate Northwoods League expanded into the small town of Willmar, Minnesota (pronounced Will-me, not Will-marr). The Stingers were born and they moved into Bill Taunton Stadium, a park that also houses Willmar high school ball, Ridgewater College, two VFW teams, and an American Legion team.
The “Beehive” is a popular destination in a town that I’ll admit I had never heard of before I started watching the Northwoods League. Part of the beauty of minor league and summer college ball is discovering places you’d otherwise never know about.
Food & Beverage 4
The main concession area at the Hive is down the third baseline. There are two food stands that have similar offerings. For a fuller menu, choose the “Ruff’s Rally Stand.” While they have standard items like Little Caesar’s pizza slices, $3 hot dogs, $4 brats and nachos, and $5 chicken sandwiches and burgers, they also get a bit more creative with their menu. Sriracha Brats with Pineapple Mango Salsa, Chili Cheese Dogs, Stinger Bites (chicken nuggets in BBQ sauce), Chicken & Waffles, and Beehive Burgers/Chicken sandwiches are all $6-$7.
Snack and dessert items such as peanuts, popcorn, and Dilly ice cream bars are all $3. They also have fresh kettle corn. The beer selection is a bit limited. For $6, you can get a 16oz can of Miller Lite, Corona Premier, or Minnesota Gold Lager. There are also 12oz cans of Angry Orchard Cider, Hop Valley IPA, and a few flavors of Truly Hard Seltzer. Gatorade and Pepsi products are sold in bottles for $3.
They’re definitely worth the price if you want to try something a little more unique than your standard ballpark fare. I enjoyed the Beehive Burger, which is a hamburger topped with pulled pork and fried cheese curds. Don’t forget the extra napkins.
The main grandstand is covered behind home plate and runs dugout to dugout. There are two main sections of seating. Gurley’s Box Seats are standard ballpark seats and sit in front of the main concourse, right behind home plate. Great views and no fans walking in front of you. Box seats are $13. The other main seating section is comprised of metal bleachers right behind the box seats. These run $10. Both ticket prices are a dollar more on the day of the game.
There are also several group areas available, two down the left field line, and one down the right field line. All three were sold out the night I was there. A couple premium sections are available such as the Concession Club and Beach Bungalows that come with all-you-can-eat food, but they have to be ordered through the ticket office or online.
The playing surface is all grass and is in decent shape. An electronic scoreboard is above the right-center field wall. Basic information is provided: runs, hits, errors, score, pitch speed, but does not include a video board. The crowd was close to a thousand people on the night I attended, which is really good for a Tuesday night.
There really isn’t much in the immediate area of Taunton Stadium. Downtown is a few miles away and the only thing within walking distance is a nice water park next door (great for hot days, open to the public, and less than $5).
1st Street, a couple miles away, can provide you with any style fast food that you want. Also within a couple miles of the park is Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill, a casual American restaurant known for its wood-fired chicken and steak. For breakfast, I’d recommend Frieda’s Café. Tiny little hole in the wall with great breakfast food. The Foxhole Brewhouse is a local brewpub that makes their own beer.
While there are a few hotels in town, they tend to be a bit a bit pricy because there aren’t a lot of them. I actually stayed about an hour south in Redwood Falls to save some money.
While a lot of the people at the game were part of large groups, people seemed to really be into the game. The promo team and the two mascots did a great job keeping the energy up right until the end. For the last inning of the game, one little kid behind home plate would yell out “Let’s go Stingers, let’s go” and the ENTIRE grandstand would stomp their feet twice on the metal floor. It got pretty loud, but I loved the spontaneity. A very large percentage of the fans stayed right until the last pitch.
Willmar is a small town in the middle of nowhere. The nearest interstate is I-94, about 65 miles away. Minneapolis is two hours to the east. US Highways 12 and 71 run through the town. Physical address of the stadium is 1401 22nd St SW. There is a free parking lot next to the stadium. On busy nights, it can fill up. I didn’t see where the overflow parking is located.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets are $11 and that will include a nice experience, a good crowd, and a great game. The Gurley’s Foods Box Seat Tickets are located in the lower level of the stadium and cost $13. The food selections are also creative, and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
The enthusiastic crowd gets an extra point. They show up and they stay into the game until the very end.
An extra point goes to the two mascots, Barry and Blue. In the world of mascots, some have “it” and some don’t. Barry and Blue play off the crowd and each other very well.
An extra point goes to the staff. Everyone is very friendly. Several workers noticed my Traverse City Pit Spitters shirt and talked to me about my team. The promotions team also does a very good job keeping the crowd enthused.
And one extra point goes to the Beehive Burger. I’m a strong believer that when you’re in Wisconsin and Minnesota, you should eat cheese curds. The Stingers fry them up and put them on a burger with pulled pork. Excellent.
I am pleasantly surprised with my visit to The Beehive. Minnesota has a great reputation for small-town baseball, mostly due to their many Town Ball teams. The experience in Willmar definitely stands out in the Northwoods League.