Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
2712 Mt Pleasant St
Burlington, IA 52601
Year Opened: 1947
Small Town Baseball in Iowa
Burlington, Iowa, has the distinction of being the smallest city in full-season minor-league baseball. The town of 25,000 nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River has been home to professional baseball since 1889 and for the majority of the last 130 years, has hosted a ball club of some type. The most popular nickname is the Bees which was first used in 1924 and has been the name of the current Burlington Bees club in the Midwest League since 1993.
The home of the Bees is Community Field, a facility that has had an interesting history since debuting in 1947. The 3,200-capacity ballpark’s original grandstand burnt down on June 9, 1971, but no games were lost due to temporary bleachers being installed. The ballpark would be rebuilt in time for the 1973 season.
The stadium was upgraded in 1999, including new bleachers and box seating, the elevation of the party deck, and an upgraded scoreboard. This was followed by a much more extensive 2005 renovation that made use of more than $1 million from the Vision Iowa fund. The changes resulted in a fully covered and expanded main concourse, a new press box, a new outer brick facade with wrought iron gates, and a separate building to house team offices, a ticket office, and a team store. The cost of the renovation came in at about $3 million.
The ballpark’s most distinguishable feature and what makes it unique to any other ballpark in the country is the canopy that arches over the main concourse behind the grandstand and the first few rows of the grandstand seating itself.
Perhaps the ballpark’s other distinct feel is the hometown atmosphere from the small concession stand, affordable pricing, the friendly banter among fans, and the hospitality by the Bees front office. To many, this is what the minor league ballpark should be all about during the spring and summer months.
Food & Beverage 4
Surprisingly, there is quite a bit of food that most baseball fans will not find at other stadiums in the country at Community Field. The majority of the menu items are featured at the main concession stand behind the grandstand and most items are well-priced.
The Lippy Dog is a must if you happen to be at a game from Thursday to Sunday. The item is made from a giant fried chicken tenderloin that is dipped in buffalo sauce and then served on a hot dog bun with either blue cheese or ranch dressing. The Lippy Dog is the Bees take on the chicken lip, the same item that is served on a stick instead of a bun throughout the state. The price is $5 for an item not found at any other stadium.
Another take on an Iowa favorite is the Bees-Rite sandwich which is the club’s take on a Maid-Rite sandwich. The loose-meat hamburger is best enjoyed with pickles, onions, and mustard. The Bees version seems a bit more glued together but equally tasty, even better is that it costs $4.
Iowa is also known for pork tenderloin sandwiches, a flattened piece of pork that is breaded and fried and served on a very small bun. Some tenderloins are big enough to share with someone you are at the game with. The cost is $6.
The concession stand offers both chicken and hog wings baskets for $7, a hog wing is a pork shank that I first tried last year at a Reading Fightin Phils game. There are also chicken strip baskets, brats, Chicago dogs, corn dogs, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs. There are also macho nachos and taco ‘n bag. You can wash all of these tasty treats down with Pepsi products.
The beer selection includes a variety of domestic beers from Budweiser, Coors, and Miller. Coors Banquet, Mich Ultra, and Pabst Blue Ribbon are also included at $4 for a 16-ounce can. A few premium brands will cost you .50 cents more and include Blue Moon, Bud Light Lime, White Claw, Red’s Apple Ale, and Smirnoff wine coolers. Two craft beers are on tap: 6-4-3 Double Play Brew and Kölsch-45 for $5 a pint.
The ballpark is small, quaint, and just how you might remember minor league ball from your youth. The grass parking lot offers plenty of space in front of the stadium and small ticket booths are housed by friendly staff who tell you to enjoy the game. There are a few more greeters at the wrought iron gates on both sides of the building that spell out the team’s nickname.
The concession stand, team offices, bathrooms, and a small team store that houses every game day program in team history and a trophy case are located in the same building and underneath the large canopy. The area features the four-team championship banners won by the Bees and perhaps the official team mascot Buzz can be seen posing for photos.
The grandstand is made up of a majority of bleacher-style seating except for the first four rows of box seating. The party deck located on the first baseline is raised ten feet above the field and features Stingerz Landing which offers four box seats with half-moon tables. The scoreboard just tells the score and does not include a video board and ads fill up the outfield fencing of the field.
Homers @ Third is a social and bar area down the third baseline where many conjugate to enjoy a beer or two while viewing the game. The area is slightly lower than the playing field and many lean up against the wooden fence. The area features table tops and stools and is quite busy on Thirsty Thursdays.
The ballpark is located in a residential neighborhood and about 3 miles from downtown along the Mississippi River. The Catfish Bend Casino has located two blocks from the ballpark; the casino includes a water park, go-karts, an arcade, and bowling for the kids. There are also bars, restaurants, a spa, and a golf course for adults. If you stay at the hotel, it includes free tickets to the Bees game.
A few more places near the ballpark are Dillons BBQ (pulled pork, brisket, and baby back ribs), Lips to Go (chicken lips and even a chicken lip pizza), Maid-Rite (loose meat sandwich), and Gators Grill and Sports Bar (pub food and drinks).
There is a collection of fans who reside at Homer's @ Third and share a few stories about the history of the club along with the ballpark itself. There are also a few fans who travel 200 miles round trip to watch the Bees. There is also Dancin’ Bobby who dances to every song that is played over the PA system in between innings.
The average attendance for games is around 900 and is among the lowest in all of full-season minor-league baseball. That is not surprising due to the town’s population and the three other Midwest League franchises within 117 miles of Community Field.
Community Field is located on Mt Pleasant Road about half a mile north of the intersection of Route 34 and 61. The stadium offers a free grass parking lot and once inside, most of the ballpark’s essentials (bathrooms, concession stand, and team store) are located behind the press box and grandstand on the main concourse.
Return on Investment 5
The price of a general admission ticket is $8, reserve tickets are $9, and box seats are $10. The ball club offers seating on Stingers Landing that sell for $48 and includes 4-box seats with half-moon tables. The parking is free of charge and concession items include affordable pricing and regional items.
The cost of a general admission ticket, a hot dog, pop, and popcorn are $2 on Monday nights. Tuesdays are 2 for 1 and Thirsty Thursdays include two domestic beers for $6. There are also specials on Bud and Busch Light on Friday evening games.
Community Field earns a point for its roof that creates a focal point at the ballpark and gives the facility its signature look. Another point for Homers @ Third is that features some of the club's most ardent fans plus a few regulars who enjoy hanging out with friends during the game.
A third point for the small-town atmosphere that can only be achieved in a town like Burlington and reminds many of us what minor league baseball once was a few short years ago. The fourth and final point is for the friendly staff that engages in stories either at the concession stand or in the gift shop.
Community Field is a rare treat in the world of minor league baseball and fits in a sort of like a square peg with many of the other ballparks in the Midwest League; however, that is fine, since sometimes it’s nice to attend a baseball game where the action on the diamond is the focal point and childhood memories can conjure through 9 innings of baseball.