- Steve Ohnsman
Homer Stryker Field – Kalamazoo Growlers
Photos by Steve Ohnsman, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Homer Stryker Field 51 Mills St Kalamazoo, MI 49048
Year Opened: 1963
A Great Success Story in Kalamazoo
In five years, the Kalamazoo Growlers and the City of Kalamazoo have partnered to transform Homer Stryker Field into a great place to enjoy a college wooden bat league game. The Growlers are so confident that they recently signed a 10-year lease with the city which will mean continued future improvements to the ballpark.
New for the 2018 season is The Backstop behind home plate with hockey dasher boards, a unique way for fans to view the action along with full meal service. The Dugout Club seating also uses the same dasher boards and views into the dugouts. There is a larger Kids Zone play area behind third base, Home Run Alley seating in both left and right field which puts fans right at field level, a new sound system, and a new electronic scoreboard in center field.
Baseball had been played on site since 1925 and the oldest parts of the ballpark date back to 1963. Renovations in 1995 added new aluminum seating and a press box above the old grandstand, along with some additional bleacher sections. Before the arrival of the Growlers, the ballpark hosted independent baseball; the Kalamazoo Kodiaks and Kings operated between 1996 to 2008.
The ballpark now has seating capacity for 3,171 people and features different areas around the concourse to enjoy the ballgame. It was also selected to host the 2018 Northwoods League All-Star Game and the team has won multiple awards for its stadium promotions and branding. The name Growlers was chosen in a vote in the community; a growler is a 64-ounce container which can be filled with beer at various nationally known breweries in Kalamazoo and vicinity.
Food & Beverage 4
Since the Growlers offer so many seats that include food service, the food and beverage rating deserves consideration for all seating areas. The concession stands are located behind both home plate and first base offering standard ballpark fare of sandwiches, pizza, chicken wings, cheddar cheese curds, hand-dipped ice cream cones and Pepsi products. A special note: they offer locally brewed Bell’s craft beers at $6.50 per pint plus mainstream beers and hard cider.
The Home Plate Club and Dugout Clubs offer menus with multi-course choices, premium drinks, and dessert; Suite Seats include a choice of four sandwiches, cold salads, soft drinks and three tickets for beer/wine.
The moment you park your car and enter the stadium, the friendly staff members of the Growlers make you feel at home. They offer assistance with any question you have and ensure that you and your family experience a good time at the game.
The main entrance is in the right field corner and is decorated with two wooden bear statues, a giant mural displaying local baseball history and information on former Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Dick Radatz who is the father of the Growlers co-owner Dick Radatz, Jr. There is entertainment between innings offering fun for the fans. There are t-shirt tosses, racing, and one unique promotion that features a balloon toss between Growlers players and children.
The team mascot Growler wears the number 64 which is the number of ounces in a craft beer growler-get it? His image shows up on many signs around the stadium. For some reason, Growler showed up at the beginning of the game but was not in the stands later for this game.
The new scoreboard and sound system are excellent and the staff has put a lot of thought into music selection. The system offers sound drops and film for the scoreboard to enhance the fans experience, it is a proper balance of music/announcer volume. The bathrooms behind home plate are older, but most importantly clean and functional.
The premium seating areas provide swivel seats that were once installed in Baltimore’s Camden Yards and granite top tables. The Suite Seats and Box Seats along the first base side have a clever arrangement; they removed every other row of seats and installed new drink/food rails/tables and the seats are plastic bucket-style. The bleacher seats on the third base line and the back of the first base line include seat backs.
Stryker Field has one problem: it is situated/oriented incorrectly. Traditional field placement has the line from home plate to third base running towards the north; Stryker’s runs toward the south. This means that for night games, most of the seats get a lot of sun, while daytime games allow the seats under cover behind home plate to be in the shade.
Located in Mayors Riverfront Park on the banks of the Kalamazoo River about 1.3 miles east of downtown, Stryker Field is surrounded by trees. A unique reality of life here is the field floods in the spring when the river overflows its banks. A banner in the park shows pictures of the floods.
There are very few restaurants near the park but given the short distance to downtown, many options exist. Kalamazoo is gaining respect for its growing number of craft breweries; in fact, the city is competing with Grand Rapids for which has the most/best breweries. Examples here are Bell’s Eccentric Cafe with a great outdoor beer garden, Arcadia, Gonzo’s, Boatyard, Onewell and Latitude 42. The Kalamazoo Beer Exchange offers good food and innovative beer pricing which goes up and down like a stock exchange; some amazing bargains show up.
It appears that Kalamazoo has taken to heart college wood bat baseball and the Growlers. Corporations snap up the club seating behind home plate and local businesses share the four-top tables with their customers. The fans seem enjoy the games as a social event and some hard-core fans continue to support the team. The fans have added new life to the old ballpark.
The Growlers offer free parking in a grass lot adjacent to the stadium, and there is paved VIP parking available for $5 near the main entrance. Also, tailgating is permitted before each game.
There is a wide concourse behind the dugouts, and since the restrooms and food stands are behind the seating areas, fans cannot follow the game while away from their seats. The Kids Play Zone offers multiple inflated play areas which look like fun.
Return on Investment 4
This rating is more like 4.5 stars. The parking is free for games, reasonable prices for food and drink, Bell’s beer for $6.50/pint, and the pricing on the seat/meal combos offers is very fair.
Fans are encouraged to buy tickets in advance because they cost $2 more if purchased at the gate the day of the game. Box seats are $14; bleachers $9. Suite Seats can be considered a bargain at $30 when you consider the game ticket plus unlimited food and drink.
Homer Stryker Field receives extra points for free parking for all games, the high quality of both food and drinks, along with all-you-can-eat seating areas, courteous and friendly staff that make you feel welcomed the minute you step into the stadium, and the unique new seating area behind home plate.
Given the remarkable number of creative additions in the last year provided by the Growlers in their close working relationship with the city, this venue is a must-see experience. Considering that they offer college wood bat baseball, they are offering a product that competes with class A minor league parks. Their future is very bright.