Coca-Cola Park – Lehigh Valley IronPigs
Photos by Joe Rogers, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43
Coca-Cola Park 1050 IronPigs Way Allentown, PA 18109
Year Opened: 2008 Capacity: 10,100
A Swine Time to be Had By All
Built in 2007 at a cost of $50.25 million, making it one of the costliest minor league stadiums ever built, Coca-Cola Park opened its gates in 2008 to starving baseball enthusiasts in the northeastern corridor of the Keystone Commonwealth. Those fans have continued to turn out in droves to cheer on their beloved IronPigs (a nickname derived from the term “pig iron” which is used in the manufacturing of steel, for which this region of Pennsylvania is renowned). The stadium is equipped to handle these rhapsodic fans with 8,278 actual seats, but can accommodate an additional 1,900 of them with its popular center field berm seating area raising the total to 10,178. And if you don’t think they need them, guess again, as the Pigs have averaged a Minor League Baseball best 9,011 fans per contest and they have surpassed 600,000 fans annually since that inaugural season, which is the longest active streak in the minors and are currently on pace this season to keep it intact.
In order to maintain this popularity, Lehigh Valley brass has been outstanding in remaining in front of the fans’ seating and hospitality demands, and so Coca-Cola Park has undergone a few significant seating additions over her last nine seasons. The organization introduced their most recent renovation in 2015, and titled it the “Pig Pen” – a very unique seating area located on the field level and in extraordinarily close proximity to the bullpen area in left field. Previously, in 2013, the club unveiled the extremely popular “Hot Corner,” rightfully dubbed due to its location behind third base, and the “Bacon Strip,” a bi-level seating area located along the right field wall featuring drink rail counter tops. Prior to that, the Red Robin Tiki Terrace & Oasis made its debut, and has continued to remain a very popular area to relax and enjoy a drink and baseball conversation.
Keeping in line with the new generation of ballparks, but definitely going a step or two higher, there are plenty of luxury options at Coca-Cola Park. The park features four luxury suites (BSI Dugout Suites) directly behind home plate, and below field-grade level, offering an amazing view and perspective. There are a few other suite options and party porches for group outings, including the Coordinated Health Club Level suites located on the 300 level that features an oval shaped bar which is a social hub prior to, and during the game. Very visible on this level is the regions’ rich industrial and baseball history with beautiful reminders everywhere in the form of artwork and photos.
It is with these seemingly subtle touches that Coca-Cola Park has been able to maintain her charm and great looks even though in today’s ballpark trends, she should be slowly approaching her mid-life crisis.
Assisting in her beauty, perfectly situated in left-center field may actually be the park’s finest attribute-a striking nine-story scoreboard, reportedly the largest in Minor League Baseball, adorned by a tilted Coke bottle that pops its top spilling out fireworks following an IronPig home run.
Food & Beverage 4
Following a visit to Coca-Cola Park, Peter King of Sports Illustrated and ESPN fame was once quoted as saying “Aw Shuck’s Roasted Corn out in right field. Now, I’ve been to many ballparks in my 52 years, and I’ve never seen a roasted corn concession at a ballpark. But this corn was … well, I’ll just say if I had my choice between a Kansas City Porterhouse or an Aw Shucks ear, I’d take the corn.” And yes, folks, it’s that delicious. Bathed in tasty butter and dressed with a secretive southwestern blend of spices and Parmesan cheese makes a trip to one of its two locations (behind Section 116 and in right field) mandatory.
As one would assume, with a nickname like IronPigs, there are a significant number of food stands referencing the team’s moniker including: the Pig Stop, Pork & Chips and Hog Heaven to name just a few. Their delectable offerings of course include: a Bacon Funnel Cake, the Porker Grande, a Three Little Pigs Sandwich and practically anything you could cook-up related to swine.
If pork is not your twist, and you are still searching for that perfect pairing for your ear of corn, there are still a plethora of alternatives at relatively reasonable prices. The Chicken Cordon Bleu Cheesesteak is one of these tasty options and can be found at one of the two Philly Grill locations along the concourse on either baseline. Once you find what you’re looking for to eat, head on out to the Bud Light Trough and grab a Fegley’s Amber Lager, brewed locally to help wash it down.
The ‘Hog Wild’ fan base creates a very lively atmosphere not found in a lot of ballparks at this level. Following a few very dismal years with not a lot to cheer about, the IronPigs are poised to make a run at an International League championship and the crowd’s enthusiasm is a reflection of this. Besides enjoying the play of a few future Phillies’ all-stars, there are a number of between inning on-field antics and contests to keep the fans entertained and on their feet including: t-shirt tosses, sling shot contests and the extremely popular Pork Race featuring: Chris P. Bacon, Diggity, Hambone, and Barbie Q., a few of the Ironpigs’ mascots, which usually takes place during the middle of the game and is always entertaining.
The ballpark is situated in the eastern part of Allentown and in very close proximity to neighboring Bethlehem. Unfortunately, for everything this park has going for it before and during the game, there is a very limited number of worthwhile options following.
Stahley’s, a friendly and fun little family restaurant and sports bar is one of your few options for a pre or post-game beer and is located just a 1.5 miles from the stadium. If you are looking for a little more action than what you witnessed on the field, head on over to Bethlehem following the game and visit the Sands Casino (10 minute drive). With the Lehigh Valley International Airport being only a few minutes away, there is no shortage of hotel options should you require one. The Renaissance Allentown Hotel is probably your best and is located just two miles from the park and if you’re looking to save a little, the Wingate by Wyndham is great option and one of the area’s better rated hotels, and also just a short commute to Coca-Cola Park.
Since Coca-Cola Park opened its gates in 2008, fans donning a wide array of IronPigs jerseys and t-shirts have been revolving the turnstiles at a mind-boggling rate with every seat in the ballpark being sold for 393 of the 557 (70.6%) regular season contests prior to the start of the 2016 season. It is this passion, energy and enthusiasm that have earned them several distinctions over the past several seasons, including being named FoxNews.com’s “Best Fans in Minor League Baseball.”
They seem like a knowledgeable group, in tune and attentive to the action on the field and will definitely share their feelings with an umpire should he miss a call. According to Steve Roche, the Director of MLB Business for Majestic Athletic, “The IronPigs are treated as the 31st club of Major League Baseball,” and this is evident as nearly every fan, young or old, is showing their team spirit with a jersey or t-shirt.
Allentown, and more specifically Coca-Cola Park, are fairly easy to access from all points off of major thoroughfares 476 and 78 and local state roads 22 and 22. It is an hour drive from Philadelphia and roughly a half hour more from Scranton, Harrisburg, Lancaster and New York City. There are three entry points for parking, with the Dauphin Street entrance recommended when traveling from downtown Allentown. In addition to the Dauphin Street entrance, entry to Coca-Cola Park can be gained off American Parkway and Union Boulevard. If you would prefer to have someone else do the driving, download Uber and use the code IRONPIGS to get up to $15 off your first trip to the ballpark. According to the IronPigs, there are 2,500 on-site parking spaces and the cost is $5 a vehicle and they are located within a very short walking distance to the entrance.
Return on Investment 5
Let’s face it, the Phillies minor league system was absolutely one of the worst in baseball two or three seasons ago after mortgaging their future to maintain their winning ways in a chase for a second World Series title. After the departures of a few of its stars via trades bringing in an influx of fresh young talent, the same system is now one of the best in baseball and many of them can be seen at Lehigh Valley for a lot less than it will cost to see them play in a year or two at the big league level. This, coupled with the fact that the food is relatively easy on the wallet as you can grab a hot dog ($2) and a Mason Jar of beer ($7.50) for less than $10 makes your ROI very high.
Ticket prices range from $25 for Iron Tickets, which include a $10 Field Level ticket as well as $20 of ballpark credit to nine dollars for Capital BlueCross Lawn seats. Lawn seats can be loaded with five dollars of ballpark credit for an additional three dollars. The vast majority of seats can be purchased for $20 or less.
Coca-Cola Park is very family oriented and thus kid friendly which is evident here with the Red Robin Kid Zone located down the left field line. It features a free playground area; in addition, the little fans can take advantage of a number of games, including speed pitch, slides and more at a small cost. All-inclusive wristbands are available for $10 allowing unlimited play throughout the game.
AT&T Plaza, located down the opposite line is an inviting area for adults and children alike. This area doubles as the social center of the park and its main entrance, and is a great place to sit down and enjoy a pre-game meal and beverage while enjoying a local act on their entertainment stage.
Adjacent to the Plaza, the Majestic Clubhouse Store features a wide array of items, including official and replica IronPigs jerseys and claims to sell more merchandise than any other minor league club. The store mimics the industrial appearance that is present throughout Coca-Cola Park and features an open-grid ceiling along with hardwood and diamond plate steel flooring. Thanks to a partnering with nearby Majestic, the merchandise and the feel of this place is definitely Major League.
The Pork Center, MILB’s first fan-interactive social media command center, is located down right field line as well and features a quad-screen set-up for social media tracking, game watching and more. There is an IronPigs employee stationed there who can assist you with uploading a “selfie” of you with your new Pigs gear and may even post it on the outfield video board.
There is no jaw-dropping skyline beyond the outfield like you see in most modern day stadiums, unfortunately, the park’s location was not conducive to that element, and nothing seemingly too aesthetically pleasing, however, Populous, the sports design firm that is responsible for the new era of retro-like ballpark designs still managed to subtlety knock this one out of the park.
A night out at Coca-Cola Park is one of exceptional value and pleasure. As a fan, one can appreciate the great lengths in which Lehigh Valley brass and game day staff go in order to insure that their fans are continually pleased with their experiences at the park. I actually can’t wait to get back!