RGCU Field at Isotopes Park – Albuquerque Isotopes
Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
RGCU Field at Isotopes Park 1601 Avenida Cesar Chavez SE Albuquerque, NM 87106
Year Opened: 2003 Capacity: 13,279
The Lab in Duke City
Disclaimer: This is NOT a review of the Springfield Isotopes at Duff Stadium. For that, check this link.
Albuquerque, NM (nicknamed The Duke City) has a long history of baseball beginning as far back as 1880, with teams playing in various B, C and D-leagues until the mid-1950’s. Most teams were known as ‘The Dukes.’ In 1964, the Los Angeles Dodgers purchased the existing team and moved them from the aging Tingley Field to the Albuquerque Sports Stadium. The team remained the Dodgers affiliate until the end of the 2000 season.
In May 2001, city voters approved a $25 million renovation of the existing stadium. Construction crews razed and completely rebuilt Albuquerque Sports Stadium on the same site. Business individuals purchased the floundering Calgary Cannons and moved that team to Albuquerque for the 2003 season as the Albuquerque Isotopes (affiliates of the Miami Marlins). The owners named the new venue Isotopes Park. The Isotopes again became affiliates of the Dodgers from 2009 – 2014. They became the AAA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies when that team moved from Colorado Springs, CO in 2015.
Isotopes Park, officially known as Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park, is nicknamed ‘The Lab’ as an isotope is a science related term. It is a top-notch stadium to watch minor league baseball.
Food & Beverage 4
The ballpark offers a decent variety of food with several local restaurants providing the fare. Permanent concession stands and carts line the inner concourse. Fans can carry sealed bottled water into the stadium.
Concession stands include Batter Up! (burgers, chicken baskets, fries, nachos, sopapillas, etc.), Pecos River Café (sandwiches, burritos, etc.), Dions Pizza ($5 – $6 / slice and fans can get green chile on top, salads cost $7), and The Sweet Spot and More (various nacho choices, burritos, green chile dog, tortilla burgers from $7 – $12.
A Hebrew National cart sells their famous hot dog ($5) and a sausage cart is on the third base concourse ($9). A craft beer cart along the first baseline sells draft beers from New Mexico breweries Santa Fe Brewing and Bosque Brewing as well as canned beer such as Dogfish Head ($10 – $12).
Most stands offer domestic beers and Pepsi brand sodas (beer $10 – $12, soda $6 – $8).
The concourse provides some drinks rails to pause and watch the game. The stadium could use a bit more of them for those who like to wander.
Mobile ordering is available. Some of the concession stands and carts may be closed based on expected attendance and precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Isotopes organization does most things extremely well starting with their friendly, helpful staff, the gorgeous mountain view beyond right field, along with the superb public address announcer.
Green fold-down seats run from foul pole to foul pole with berm seating in the right field and a picnic pavilion in left field. The seats behind home and third base – high row numbers get the shade first for day games. The first base side seating does not get shade and is in the sun for day games.
The Isotope dug out is on the third base side. Nets run all the way down to just before the foul poles, and are relatively easy to see through. The only place to watch the game net-free is the berm in right field or the group picnic pavilion above the bullpens in left field (closed because of pandemic).
The large scoreboard in left field is in two parts – 12 ads surround the secondary scoreboard which displays the line-up for the team at bat, though is a bit difficult to see during day games. The primary scoreboard shows not only the line score but a photo of the batter (if available), player stats, previous at-bat results for both teams. And, there’s even an indicator if play is a hit or an error. It’s quite informative. TV monitors just inside the first and third base entrances list the starting line ups.
Underneath the scoreboards, some pre-recorded closed captioning is shown. It’s really rule information such as don’t lean over the railing or interrupt the play of game. Not uncommon, the scoreboard does not display play-by-play calls nor captioning of the announcer.
The announcer’s voice is clear and loud and it is especially helpful that music is not played over his calls. The team game day operation does a really nice job with that. More team organizations should take notice how the Isotopes do it here.
The batter’s eye is unusual – a cluster of live pine trees, rather than the traditional green wall.
Stadium Journey’s latest visit was during the wind-down of the COVID-19 pandemic; the game day operations and promotions team closed or cancelled several entertainment events for precautionary measures. The kid’s zone featuring a carnival ride and bounce houses on the hill above the berm seating in right field, between inning on-field promotions (except t-shirt toss), and live antics from Orbit the mascot are on pause for now. Look forward to them in the future. On the video board, fan participation events offered between innings are the Zimba Cam and Flex Cam, find the ball under the spinning hats, and a chili pepper race – red, green, white (white is a taco).
The one thing that could improve the atmosphere is reducing the annoying noise snippets or songs between each and every single pitch for the Isotopes. It’s not loud, but it’s irritating. It is more of a pleasure watching the visiting team bat because that doesn’t happen.
The ballpark sits adjacent to Central New Mexico College and the University of New Mexico (UNM), and is across the street from The Pit and other UNM Lobo sports venues. It is a mile from the Nob Hill neighborhood, a vibrant area full of brewpubs, eateries, taquerias, pizzerias, local boutiques, and small art galleries. Sounds from music bars fill the late-night air in this neighborhood.
For breakfast, try Frontier. A hidden gem for Korean food is Soo Bak Seoul Bowl. For authentic, tasty New Mexico fare visit Cocina Azul – even the rice and beans are yummy. Unbeknownst to the rest of the country, Albuquerque is a hopping local brewery town. Recommended breweries close (though not necessarily walking distance) to Isotopes Park are The 377 Brewing, Gravity Bound Brewing, and Marble Brewery. But there are plenty more to visit.
Things to see and do while in Albuquerque include Sandia Peak Tramway, Old Town Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument, and of course, take a ride in a hot air balloon.
For places to stay when in town, plenty hotels are available at the intersection of Gibson Blvd and Yale Blvd (about a mile from the park) ranging from La Quinta to Marriott brands to Holiday Inns, many with shuttles to and from the airport.
Because of the history with the Dodgers, many Dodger fans are in attendance. The Isotopes attendance continues in the top three to five in the Pacific Coast League (now Triple-A West) with an average of around 8,000 fans per game.
Attend when the team plays the OKC Dodgers or during Mariachis de Nuevo México promotion games for near capacity-crowds.
Not all fans throw out their own garbage but instead leave it irresponsibly under their seats.
Approaching and traversing Isotopes Park is relatively easy. It is just a block off of I-25 with plenty of nearby parking ($5) across the intersection. Visitors or residents of Albuquerque may find it just as easy to get to via side streets vs getting on the interstate.
Two bus stops are across the street but figuring out the ABQ bus schedule is difficult. An Amtrak Station is about 2 miles from Isotopes Park. The closest airport is Albuquerque Sunport Airport, about a 5-min drive to the ballpark.
The gates open an hour before the first pitch. Three entrances are available with the one behind home used only for those with club or VIP tickets. Fans are required to use clear plastic tote bags; no backpacks. The concourse gets quite crowded behind home plate but opens up nicely down the lines. Patrons can walk the entire concourse circumference. Fans must cross a small bridge to complete the circle (fans afraid of heights and such things may find this difficult).
Re-entry is not permitted.
Local law officials do a fantastic job moving cars out of the parking lots after the game.
Return on Investment 4
Ticket prices vary. Club level $26 – $36, Box level $16 – $26, Reserved level $14 – $24, Berm $9 – $12 (sold on game day only). These prices are lower than some AAA teams and higher than others. Buying tickets in advance and attending on weekdays (not July 4) will offer the lower prices.
Concession prices are about average as well. And, if attending on a promotion day, fans may leave with a little goodie or see fireworks or mariachi.
It’s a fun time here. Attending a game is a great sports entertainment investment.
Some other items are worth noting. A Hall of Fame is inside the entry to the club level. It displays plaques and trophies of notable Albuquerque sports individuals. Unfortunately, it is only available for those with tickets in the club level.
The remarkable Sandia Mountain view is one your eyes will be drawn to throughout the game.
The history of the team’s name is quite unique. It comes from the TV series The Simpsons in which Homer Simpson attempts to foil the fictional “Springfield Isotopes” baseball team’s plan to move to Albuquerque. The concourse at Isotopes Park features four of The Simpson’s characters to tie in the theme.
Isotopes Park is an amazing venue to take in a ballgame. The view is spectacular, the team that presents the game day experience are the best around, and the prices are reasonable. It’s close to the airport so if in the Southwest, make a special trip to Isotopes Park.