- Matt Finnigan
Cowboy Field - Gem City Bison
Photos by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
Cowboy Field 2307 Willett Dr Laramie, WY 82072
Year Opened: 1962 Capacity: 56,000
NOTE: The Gem City Bison will not play in 2023, but plan to return in 2024.
Laramie's Gem City Bison Deliver a Taste of America
In many ways, the Gem City Bison exemplify everything good about small-town baseball. Laramie, Wyoming’s entry in the Independence League, offers low ticket and concession prices, seats that put fans close to the on-field action, and a slew of kids (and even a couple of dogs) enjoying it all. This new wood bat collegiate league opened play in 2022 with teams in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho, and, yes, Wyoming, with the Bison and the Casper Horseheads.
The Bison call Cowboy Field home. Situated on the east side of the University of Wyoming’s main campus, Cowboy Field was home to the school’s NCAA Division I baseball program until the school discontinued it in 1996. Since then, the field has hosted youth and high school baseball teams and events. The Bison have infused new life into 600-seat Cowboy Field, which opened in 1963, returning college baseball to the facility for the first time in 26 years.
Fans seeking extravagance and luxury will want a different experience. But fans who appreciate good baseball, a small-but-engaged crowd, and an intimate interaction with the game will not be disappointed. The Bison have created that experience in Laramie, filling a void for a small but enthusiastic contingent of fans.
Food & Beverage 2
An enticing aroma wafts from Cowboy Field into the adjacent parking lot, signaling that food is being grilled. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs are the only grilled items. They are good but fans will not find much more than that. The Bison do not offer a wide variety of food and drink options. Canned beer (Budweiser and Coors) and hard seltzer (Bud Light and Topo Chico) are available, as is bottled Gatorade, water, and Pepsi products.
The Bison offer only the basics. Potato chips, candy, popcorn, and snow cones are also sold at Cowboy Field’s single concession stand. The selection is somewhat limited but the food is good and the drinks are cold.
Cowboy Field is old. It opened in 1963 and served as the University of Wyoming baseball team’s home field until the school eliminated NCAA baseball in 1996. There have not been many updates to the stadium in the ensuing 26 years. The grandstand is a concrete crescent of approximately 12 tiered rows that rise behind home plate, looking to the northeast. Cowboy Field does not have permanent seats, so plan to bring a chair, a blanket, or prepare to sit on concrete. There is no seating along the outfield foul lines or beyond the outfield fences.
Seats on the third base line, behind the Bison dugout, enjoy the shade for games starting in the late afternoon or early evening. It can make even a 95-degree day tolerable. Perhaps not surprisingly, the visitors’ dugout along the first base line (and the seats on that side of the field) receive an unhealthy blast of direct sunlight until the sun sets.
The combination of a ballpark that has no modern amenities and a team competing in a new, amateur wood bat league would not produce a good atmosphere. However, give credit to the Bison front office and a small but enthusiastic fan base for creating a fun game day experience.
There isn’t much to the neighborhood around Cowboy Field. It sits on the east side of the University of Wyoming’s campus, near apartments and university parking and away from the heart of campus. There are no nearby shops or restaurants. During summer, when students are not on campus en masse, the environs near the stadium feel particularly empty. However, a 5-minute drive west on Grand Avenue will take you to Laramie’s Main Street, a commercial district with more than 30 places to eat and drink.
The Bison do not draw a large number of fans. However, those that come are engaged, intelligent, and responsible for helping to create a good atmosphere for baseball. Fans respond to the action on the field and enthusiastically play along with in-game promotions. The team smartly works with local youth baseball teams to participate in pre-game introductions and promotions between innings, and kids come to Cowboy Field in large numbers. Fans also bring dogs – a great dane was recently spotted holding court in the stands to the delight of everyone.
Cowboy Field Fan and Dog, Photo by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey
Cowboy Field is not difficult to find and there’s more than enough free parking to accommodate fans coming to a Bison game. The stadium is about a 10-minute drive from exits along Interstate 80: take Laramie’s Third Street exit if arriving from the west and Grand Avenue if arriving from the east.
The only way to access the grandstand is by walking up one of two staircases, one on the left field side and one on the right field side. Fans with mobility issues and those in wheelchairs will have a difficult time accessing the grandstand – a point that the Bison and University should work to remedy in the seasons ahead.
Return on Investment 4
The Bison provide an excellent return on investment. Parking is free and close to the entrance. The most expensive seat in the ballpark costs $12. General admission costs $8, with discounts available for seniors and members of the military. The team discounts by $1 for each ticket purchased through its website.
Food and beverage prices are also reasonable. Cheeseburgers ($5.25), hamburgers ($5), and hot dogs ($3) are priced well short of what fans expect to pay at a ball game. All alcoholic beverages sell for $7 per can, with soda at $3, water at $2, and candy for $2-$3. Popcorn costs $2 a bag. As with tickets, the prices for food and beverage should not break anyone’s bank.
The Bison earn a point for their branding. The team colors (brown and yellow) mimic those of the Wyoming Cowboys – a smart marketing move to entice UW fans to buy merchandise in school colors. But the typefaces, design, and logos are as good as for any team in baseball. Now, if the team would only get a bison mascot to greet fans as they enter Cowboy Field.
Another point goes to the group of young cheerleaders. They take their jobs very seriously and their efforts help fans enjoy the games.
A Gem City Bison game does not replicate a World Series game at Yankee Stadium; it doesn’t need to. The Bison instead provide an excellent baseball experience to a community that supports it. With the team welcoming kids into all aspects of the game – short of playing it – the Bison have a solid start to becoming an important part of the Laramie community.
Follow Matt Finnigan’s stadium journeys on Twitter @mattfinniganco