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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

David E. Hastings Stadium at Exhibition Park - Guelph Royals

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

David E. Hastings Stadium at Exhibition Park 70 Division St Guelph, ON N1H 2B7

Year Opened: 1925

Capacity: 1,400

Intercounty Royalty

In 2022 the Guelph Royals returned to the Intercounty Baseball League. After a 2020 coronavirus absence and opting for another year off in 2021, when the remainder of the IBL teams opted to play, the Royals have filled the void in Wellington County for summer baseball. The amateur IBL, Ontario’s highest caliber baseball outside of the Toronto Blue Jays has been around since 1919, and Guelph’s entry was there at the beginning.

Taking the field for the first time in 1861 as the Guelph Maple Leafs and can trace some ownership back to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame member George Sleeman. Sleeman also founded Silver Creek Brewery, which was reincorporated by his grandson to become Sleeman Brewery, an iconic cornerstone in Guelph. In 1919, after a brief hiatus, the Maple Leafs would join the newly founded Intercounty Baseball League with Kitchener, Galt, and Stratford, and go on to win the first three league championships. After a few name changes, Guelph would settle on the Royals moniker in 1965. The Royals are currently owned by Shawn Fuller and boast nine league championships.

The home of the Guelph Royals is currently David E. Hastings Stadium. Located at Exhibition Park, Guelph has played at this particular location since 1925. The current Hastings stadium has been refurbished numerous times with the current grandstand opening in 1987. The stadium is named after David Hastings who was a baseball player from 1943 to 1968 and played for a number of years in the Intercounty Baseball League. He was also the mayor of Guelph from 1958 through 1960. He was only 27 at the time of taking office.

Food & Beverage 3

Concessions at Hastings Stadium are very affordable. The concession stand has a very simple menu with hot dogs, popcorn, caramel corn, peanuts, freezies, chocolate bars, and sour keys. A variety of soft drinks are available including both Coke and Pepsi. For fans wishing for an alcoholic beverage, there is a beer garden on the third base side of the grounds. Alcohol must be consumed in the beer garden area and is not permitted in the grandstand.

Atmosphere 3

Hastings Stadium is located in Exhibition Park. It is fairly typical of Intercounty League facilities that at no point hosted affiliated Minor League Baseball. The baseball grounds are very wide open and spacious, enclosed by a fence on the other side of the nearby hockey arena on the park grounds. The centerpiece of the stadium is the main grandstand which is not dissimilar to the grandstand in Brantford. The grandstand houses the pressbox and maintenance sheds as well as the seating area. The exterior of the grandstand is covered by aluminum siding pretty much everywhere that one might put on their home shed.

Team logos and recognition of the championship teams in Guelph (1919, 1920, 1921, 1932, 1970, 1993, 1997, 2003, and 2004) are displayed prominently on the backside of the grandstand exterior. Bleachers and chairbacks are both available in the grandstand, which has a capacity of 1,400. The surrounding area of the ballpark features some massive mature trees and there are plenty of opportunities to watch the game from various perspectives. Picnic tables are available and there is plenty of space for fans who wish to bring their own chair.

A new, classic baseball scoreboard can be found beyond the right-centerfield fence. The outfield does have a couple of unique features. The dimensions are symmetrical with 325’ down each of the lines and 369’ to straight away centrefield. However, rather than a curved outfield fence, the centrefield fence is a straight line that meets the right and left field walls at 393’. The outfield fence is also an attractive, yet very unique wooden style.

The gameday production in Guelph is very simple. The focus is on the game itself and there are not a ton of bells and whistles and promos to distract the patrons. Basically, the only promo is the 50/50 sale. The sight lines in the park are excellent and the atmosphere is simple and family and community-focused.

Neighbourhood 3

David Hastings Stadium is part of Exhibition Park, which is located in the Exhibition Park neighbourhood of Guelph. The park also has other ballparks, walking/running trails, tennis courts, and soccer and football fields. The rest of the neighbourhood is fairly residential, but a short drive will bring fans to some spots for pre and post-game libations. Polestar Hearth, Fixed Gear Brewery, and Park Eatery are good choices.

Guelph does offer a number of different sporting options. The Guelph Storm of the OHL and Guelph Nighthawks of the CEBL both play downtown in the Sleeman Centre. The University of Guelph also fields a whole host of athletic teams. The football Gryphons play at Alumni Field, the hockey Gryphons play at the Gryphon Centre Arena and the basketball Gryphons play at the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre. If possible, fans should consider trying to catch the annual Frosty Mug game at the Sleeman Centre which pits the Gryphons against the rival Laurier Golden Hawks. Heading east to Downtown Guelph will offer some other things to do including whatever is playing at the River Run Centre.

Heading out about 5 km to Woodlawn Road will offer fans the best opportunity to find a place to stay in Guelph. The Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Inn can be found there.

Fans 3

It is very difficult to evaluate fans of the Intercounty Baseball League as attendance figures are not published. That being said, the 2022 season seems to have a decent following. That could be because of the presence of former Toronto Blue Jays player Dalton Pompey, or the return of the Royals after a two-year hiatus. Either way, the Royals seem to be drawing a couple of hundred fans per night, which is more than the friends and family crowd that can often be found at Intercounty games.

Access 4

David Hastings Stadium is located in Exhibition Park, which is located in the Exhibition Park neighbourhood of Guelph. Exhibition Park is west of Downtown Guelph and not terribly difficult to get to. The park is west of Highway 6 by a couple of blocks, so a little driving through the city will be necessary. The stadium is at the north end of the park and there is plenty of free parking near the stadium the park.

Patrons should be considerate of not parking too close to the stadium for fear of their car getting plunked by a foul ball. For fans who wish to take public transit, there are buses available on London, Westmount, and Woolwich Roads which will require a small walk to the stadium. Fans interested in public transit should check out the Guelph Transit website for fares, maps, and schedules.

The accessibility of the stadium is pretty good. Although there are stairs to get into the grandstand, of course, there are plenty of areas where fans with mobility issues can watch from. There are washrooms accessible from the outside in the nearby hockey arena which provide enough service for the crowd at hand. Thankfully, portable toilets are not found at Hastings Stadium nor are they relied upon.

Return on Investment 4

As will all Intercounty Baseball League experiences, the Guelph Royals offer tremendous value for little money. Tickets for the Royals are $10. Parking is free and concessions are very reasonable. The game day experience is pure and simple and fans will not drown in endless promotions or distractions.

Extras 2

An extra mark for the longevity of the Guelph Royals having been around for over 100 years and being a founding member of the Intercounty Baseball League. An extra mark for winning the very first IBL championship in 1919 (as well as the next two).

Final Thoughts

It is nothing but a positive to have one of the cornerstone franchises of the Intercounty Baseball League back on the diamond. The Guelph Royals have been welcomed back with open arms after a covid hiatus. David Hastings Stadium is as competitive as any stadium in the IBL and has some unique features. Taking in a Royals game will, no doubt, satisfy sports fans desiring a pure baseball experience without all of the bells and whistles. Royalty has its privileges.

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

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