Dow Diamond – Great Lakes Loons
Photos by Michael Risignuolo, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Dow Diamond 825 E Main St Midland, MI 48640
Year Opened: 2007 Capacity: 5,200
The current Loons franchise is of relatively recent vintage, more so at its current location. In the mid-90s, this former Wisconsin team in the Midwest League moved to Battle Creek, Michigan staying there until 2006. After many attempts at combating low attendance failed (including paying fans $1 to attend games), the then Southwest Michigan Devil Rays were sold to the Michigan Baseball Foundation and relocated to Midland in 2007 as an affiliate of the LA Dodgers.
A new stadium for the team broke ground in the spring of 2006 on land donated by Dow Chemical, who also quickly grabbed the naming rights for what would be called the Dow Diamond. The 5,500-seat park was opened on time a year later for the newly renamed Loons’ home grand opening. For their tenth anniversary in 2016, the team branding was given an overhaul, leading to cosmetic updates around the park.
The Dow Diamond is simply a stand-out, not just in the Midwest League, but in the minors as a whole. It is above average in nearly every category, while really shining with a great commitment to value and excellent food selection.
Food & Beverage 5
For a low-minors ballpark, the Dow Diamond definitely punches above its weight on food and drink for the Midwest League. While most stadiums at this level will have a main concession and maybe a stand or two, the whole infield promenade of the Dow Diamond is loaded with wall-to-wall specialty carts to scratch most itches.
The two “Great Lakes Grills” on either side of home plate are the main concessions. They have a wide selection of your ballpark standards, including burgers ($7), pizza ($5.50), hot dogs ($4), brats ($5.50), and chicken sandwiches ($7) and tenders baskets ($8.50). If that doesn’t do it for you, you can try the Sausage Shack ($7-$9), Wraps and Salads ($8), Tito’s Burritos ($9.50), Smokehouse BBQ (sandwiches and plates, $8/$11), Cactus Carlos’ Super Nachos ($9), Philly Finest or Chickadelphia (cheese/chicken steaks, $9), or The Wing Wagon ($8 for six), not to mention the Sweet Spot for dessert (pie and cheesecakes, $6/$7).
Most of the main concessions sell $7, 24-ounce beers of Killian’s, Molson Canadian, Blue Moon, and Miller. That rather bland beer selection is rescued by the Midland Brewing Co concession near home ($8 for their selections), Leinenkugels between home and third ($7), and especially the Microbrews stand near third (rotating selection for $8 draft and $7 cans). The Cove in short left field adds in cocktails ($8) and wine ($8, also available at Leinenkugels). The Dow Diamond is part of the Pepsi generation for your non-alcoholic needs.
Always eat local is my motto. Grab some suds from the Midland Brewing Co at home ($8), and try out a super-popular pulled pork plates at Smokehouse BBQ ($11). And there’s nothing more Midwest than some cheesecake for dessert (Sweet Spot, $7).
From the green-conscious facility on up, the Dow Diamond is a great place to watch a game, and its park and amenities would be right at home in much higher categories of the minor leagues.
The Dow Diamond is an excellent facility, especially for low-A ball. The two entrances at either end of the park put you on a wide promenade that circles the entire stadium. The main seats descend from the walkway around home plate from short left field to short right field. The entirety of the outfield seating is general admissions picnic hills. A second level of luxury boxes, party rooms (including “Lasorda’s Landing”), and the press box hovers above from first to third base.
A giant digital video board sits against a backdrop of trees in right-center field, powered by a bank of solar cells just beyond the right field wall. Left field is anchored by the all-you-can-eat Northern Lights Pavilion and Cove party area, while the right field corner has Lou E. Loon’s Lookout, a play area.
Lou E. Loon is the lead mascot, joined by Rall E. Camel. The between-inning entertainment is filled with minor league standards of contests, quizzes, and give-aways, but the fan service team is particularly high-energy and feeds off the crowd, which is always nice to see.
Photo by Michael Rusignuolo, Stadium Journey
Any of the seats in the reserved area provide a great view of the game, so don’t feel a need to splurge on Diamond Boxes. And don’t be afraid to be frugal and grab a GA ticket. There’s a ton of space to sit in the outfield, and you can still get a great view of the game.
Dow Chemical has their world headquarters in Midland, and in case you forget, the Dow name is omnipresent around the city. It won’t be mistaken for a metropolis, but it is a decent company town with fair amenities, especially restaurants.
American-cuisine Cafe Zinc is downtown near the park at the H Hotel, right next to foodie-haven Table. For less structured fare, local favorite Lazlo’s Diner is to the east, and some swear the trip out west to Annabelle’s Own Eatery is a must-do for any trip to the area. If the restaurants in the immediate area don’t wow you, there are dozens more in Center City Midland, a short drive to the east.
Considering the corporate headquarters, it is not surprising that most of the things to do in the town (including the ballpark) have the name “Dow” in them. Nature adventure and play area Dow Gardens and Whitling Forest is to the north of town, the mid-century modern architecture gem Alden Dow Home and Studio is also nearby, and the Midland Center for the Arts in the same area for some culture with your nature and architecture.
There are only three hotels near the park downtown. The upscale H Hotel and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott are right down the street from the park, and the budget Midland Motor Inn is to the east off of State Road 20. A further half-dozen hotels are north of town by the Jack Barstow Airport about 10 minutes drive to the north.
While the Loons don’t look to have a big fan base on paper, the experience at the ballpark puts to lie the middling numbers with active and involved crowds at the park.
The Loons have been lolling in the bottom-middle of the pack in the Midwest League for a while now after falling off from their record-breaking attendances a decade ago. They’re not doing terrible, but they aren’t tearing up the league in any real way, averaging about a half-full stadium per game. That may be true on average, but the game I attended was a sellout, which apparently isn’t an uncommon occurrence.
While many families come to minor league games for what happens between the baseball action as much as what occurs on the field, the Midland fans are quite engaged with the game itself and are definitely following the action. The crowd is loud and raucous, and when there is something to cheer about, the opposition definitely hears it.
Located downtown in Midland, the Dow Diamond is pretty easy to get to, and it is a snap to get in and get around once you’re there.
Midland lacks any mass transit except for a Dial-A-Ride program, so driving is pretty much it. The park is located downtown right off one of the two main drags, and it is just off state roads 20 and 10. The closest interstate is I-75 about 15 minutes west of town. There is a regional airport in the north of town, but the closest major airport is Detroit, about two hours to the south of the park.
The main lots are right by the park, with about 2,000 spaces at $5 a spot. Should these lots fill up or you not want to front the $5, several nearby businesses have free parking on game days.
There are two main entrances at opposite ends of the park that open an hour before game time: Home Plate and Center Field. Both are located right by the main lots for the park. Line-ups to get in can be long, especially at the Center Field gate, so it may be worth walking around to see how the line is by the VIP parking lot at Home Plate. Once the gates open, the lines are quickly ushered inside, so it isn’t too bad.
A wide promenade that connects to both entrances circles the park, so getting around is quite easy, without any major choke points.
Return on Investment 5
The minor and independent leagues usually live or die by offering an affordable night out for families, and the Loons certain deliver on that important metric, providing a great value for a night of baseball.
Diamond Boxes by the field–the best seats in the house–are $15, Reserved Box seats further back are $10, and General Admission lawn seats are $7, with everything $2 more on game day. And those lawn seats aren’t for a single bleachers section or a small picnic area, but a picnic berm that extends the entire outfield.
Nearly all the food is under $10–and there are some really cheap kids’ items available–and the priciest drink in the joint is $8. Parking is $5, but only if you don’t want the longer walk from one of the further free lots, and the program is a free give-away. It is an excellent deal all-around.
That deal is made even better with specials every day of the week, such as Military Mondays (active military and veterans eat free) and Hump Day Happy Hour ($3 draft beers on Wednesdays). They really deliver on the promise of affordable entertainment.
The Dow Diamond has a ton of extras stuffed into its confines. There are a ton of memorials and recognitions. The stadium dedication plaques are by the home plate entrance, right next to the spacious Midland County Sports Hall of Fame. The teams’ pennants are right near the three retired numbers on the upper deck of the infield on the first base side. Out in center is an extensive “Road to the Show” exhibit, near a fire pit by the center field entrance. The first decade of the team’s history is celebrated in a large display on the third base side of the promenade.
The two-level team store, the Loon Loft, is on the third base side of home plate. The guest services desk is on the first base side of the promenade, near a free photo booth at home plate. There’s even a hit-it-here sign (for $500) on a tarp covering the service entrance in the right field corner, and the team song plays on the PA system before the game and after home wins.
You won’t go wrong seeing a game at the Dow Diamond, and you’ll do it for a reasonable price all-around.