Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
Edward A. LeLacheur Park
450 Aiken St
Lowell, MA 01854
Year Opened: 1998
Empty Nest Syndrome
Edward A. LeLacheur Park was built in 1998 in a partnership between the city of Lowell, MA and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. The ballpark is named in honor of the state representative who spearheaded the construction of the ballpark. From its opening until 2020, it served as home to both the UMass Lowell baseball team and the minor league Lowell Spinners.
The Spinners were the Class A Short Season affiliate of the nearby Boston Red Sox from 1996 to 2020. When Minor League Baseball was reorganized before the 2021 season, the Spinners were one of the 40 teams dropped from MiLB.
Founded in 1976, UMass Lowell baseball began competing in Division One in 2014. Now members of the America East Conference, The River Hawks qualified for 17 Division Two Tournaments and made two D-II World Series before moving up a level. Five River Hawk alumni have played in the Major Leagues, most notably Gold Glove winning catcher Mike LaValliere.
Food & Beverage 2
There is one concession stand open for River Hawks games. A very basic menu is served, with hot dogs and assorted snacks (pretzels, popcorn, cotton candy and assorted packaged candies) available.
Bottles of Pepsi products are sold here. There is no alcohol sold at this on-campus facility.
When there is a crowd of about 200 people in a decent-sized ballpark, you wouldn’t expect an over-the-top game day experience, and you won’t get one here. What you will get is an old-school presentation where the game is the focus. If you enjoy being able to hear the crack of the bat (well, since this is college baseball, the “ping” of the bat) and the chatter going on down on the field, you’ll enjoy your time at LeLacheur Park.
For local fans who attended Spinners games here, there’s kind of a surreal feeling at LeLacheur Park. All the Spinners signage is still up, as if the ballpark is in denial, and they are waiting for the team to show up once again.
For fans new to the ballpark, you can expect a laid-back, simple game day experience. Music plays over a nice sound system, and the PA announcer does his job in a professional, non-intrusive manner. The large scoreboard in left field is in a state of disrepair and doesn’t seem to be fully utilized as a result. A small scoreboard in right field displays basic game information. There is nothing going on to distract from the action going on down on the field.
The University of Massachusetts-Lowell straddles the Merrimack River near downtown Lowell. Located on the south bank of the river, LeLacheur Park is a short distance from the Tsongas Center, home of the UMass Lowell hockey team.
As is the case with many industrial cities of the north, the boon that brought prosperity to these cities faded, and with it went many jobs and money. During this time, the city of Lowell obtained a reputation as a violent, crime-ridden city, best to be avoided. Recent decades have been kinder to Lowell, and there has been a growth in business, cultural, and educational development in the city. Statistically, Lowell is safer than many other New England cities of similar size but unfortunately, Lowell’s bad reputation lingers to this day.
The city of Lowell was a major center for manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution. As a result of this rich history, Lowell contains many buildings of historical significance, several of which have been preserved by the National Park Service and remain in use today as the Lowell National Historical Park. Fans arriving early to LeLacheur Park can walk along the Riverwalk and observe some of the rapids that powered the old mills. Fans of American literature should be sure to check out the memorial for native son Jack Kerowac, located a short distance from LeLacheur Park.
The area around LeLacheur Park has seen a great deal of development since the opening of the ballpark, but it hasn’t resulted in increased dining or lodging options for visiting fans. Fans looking for a place to gather before or after a game for a bite to eat or drink may check out the El Jefe Taco Bar, located a few blocks from the ballpark. Other than this, you’ll have to travel into downtown Lowell for more options.
The crowd at LeLacheur Park can accurately be described as a “friends and family” crowd. Usually numbering between 100-200 fans, many of the fans in attendance have a personal connection with the players on the field. It’s also not unusual to see fans of the visiting teams in attendance at River Hawk games.
There’s not a big turnout from the student body at River Hawk baseball games. The students who do show up are not there to make a lot of noise or make a spectacle of themselves. There’s lots of room to spread out at LeLacheur Park, and the students take advantage of all this room and scatter around the park.
Lowell is a city with a population of about 115,000 citizens located about a half hour northwest of Boston near the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border. Straddling the Merrimack River, Lowell came of age during the Industrial Revolution as a mill town. Many of those mills have been preserved as part of the Lowell National Historic Park.
LeLacheur Park is located on the southern bank of the Merrimack River a short distance from downtown. While Lowell is served by Amtrak train and Greyhound bus service, most fans will drive to LeLacheur Park. Interstate 495 runs just south of Lowell, and the Lowell Connector takes motorists from the interstate into downtown Lowell. The ballpark is about two miles from the end of the Lowell Connector.
Fans will enter the ballpark via an entry tower on the right field side of the stadium. A single concourse runs atop the seating bowl from the right field foul pole around to medium left field. The field is visible from most points on this concourse. The single open concession stand and the one pair of open rest rooms are on the first base side of the ballpark. All seats are available for use during River Hawk games. They consist of green stadium seats, with some metal bleachers in sections further down the lines. With the small crowds present at LeLacheur Park, lines are not an issue, and you have your pick of seats.
Even though the Spinners have only been gone for two seasons, the ballpark feels like it’s in a serious state of disrepair. Spinners signage is still present all over the ballpark. Ads on the outfield walls are faded or ripping, the scoreboard is not fully operational, the green seats throughout the park are faded and showing their age, painted surfaces around the park are peeling, and cement all along the concourse is cracked and patched. It creates a sad feeling for fans who visited throughout the halcyon days of the Spinners.
Return on Investment 5
Admission to a River Hawks baseball game is free of charge. Parking is available in the East Garage adjacent to the ballpark, also at no charge. If parking in a garage is not for you, there is on-street parking available in the area just a short walk from LeLacheur Park, just be aware of the times meters are in effect. It’s entirely possible to attend a UMass Lowell game without spending a cent.
If you need a snack, the prices at the concession stand are in line with other ballparks in the area. No item costs more than four dollars.
There are a few small plaques scattered around LeLacheur Park which highlight Lowell baseball history. Longtime River Hawks coach Jim Stone, ballpark namesake Edward LeLacheur, and Lowell natives, Baseball Hall of Famers Hugh Duffy and Joe Kelley, are honored in bronze on the ballpark’s walls.
Even though it’s really sad to see that much of the décor put up by the Spinners over the years is still on display around the park, some of it is pretty interesting. The names of every Lowell Spinner alumni to make it to the Major Leagues is on display on the back of the press box, and a sign showing the distance to every ballpark in the Red Sox system greets fans as they enter LeLacheur Park.
Visiting LeLacheur Park right now for a UMass Lowell baseball game is much like visiting a friend who hasn’t quite gotten over the partner who left them some time ago. Reminders of the Spinners 20-plus very successful seasons in Lowell are everywhere to be seen. Meanwhile, the River Hawks continue on in this nice little ballpark on the banks of the Merrimack River.
Rumors continue that the Red Sox plan to move one of their A-level affiliates to LeLacheur Park in the near future. Unfortunately, this appears to be nothing more than wishful thinking, as the ballpark would need some upgrades to meet the new MiLB standards, even for the lowest rung on the minor league totem pole.