Jimmy John’s Field – United Shores Professional Baseball League
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Jimmy John’s Field 7171 Auburn Rd Utica, MI 48317
Year Opened: 2016
Four of a Kind in the USPBL
The United Shores Professional Baseball League debuted in 2016 and set up home in Utica, Michigan in the suburbs of Detroit. The independent baseball league is home to four franchises that all play games at the $15 million Jimmy John’s Field. The Utica Unicorns, Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers, Westside Wooly Mammoths, and the Eastside Diamond Hoppers all rotate and play 75 games for 15 weeks from May to September ensuring a game every weekend.
The mastermind behind the USPBL is Andy Appleby who owns General Sports and Entertainment and funded the stadium construction. Appleby is the former owner of the Ft. Wayne Wizards (Midwest League) and Derby County Football Club (Football League Championship) and has borrowed many elements of his experience and included them into the stadium to enhance the game-day experience.
These elements include seven Founders Level and five Premium Dugout Suites on field level underneath the 2,000 seats that stretch from first to third base. Home plate is 37 feet from the suites, the closest in all of professional baseball. The stadium also offers 12 Private Patio Cabana Suites, 18 On Field Diamond Tables, three Picnic and Group Areas, and grass berm seating behind right field. The AAA Clubhouse is a full-service bar featuring flat-screen televisions, tables, couches, and lounge areas.
The USPBL has sold out 102 out of its first 150 games during the league’s first two seasons and has attracted 3,325 fans per game over that time–only West Michigan and Lansing have attracted more during that same span in the state of Michigan.
Food & Beverage 4
Jimmy John’s Field has lots of great menu options, but surprisingly not Jimmy John’s sandwiches. The ballpark is home to two full-service bars: Patron Bar that specializes in frozen margaritas and The Backstop Bar on the upper concourse.
The food is reasonably priced, with most items ranging between $5 and $7, while the snacks are in the $3-$4 range. The ballpark offers smoked turkey wings, pulled pork nachos, and pulled pork sandwiches from Big Bone BBQ stand. The Southwest Cantina offers street tacos, New Mexican corn, and cantina bowls.
Snacks and desserts include cookies, pretzels, cheese poppers, ice cream, gelato, nachos, cotton candy, popcorn, potato chips, and peanuts. The popcorn stand sells prepackaged bags in all of the clubs’ colors of red, green, and purple. Pepsi products are sold throughout the ballpark.
The Short Hops Craft Beer Garden is located on the lower concourse, third base side featuring Michigan craft brews such as Midlawn Brewing (4 Hops Pale Ale), Sherwood Brewing Company (Cracker Jacked Ale), and Brooks Brewing (Pinch Hopper IPA). The area also allows visitors entrance after 9 P.M. and a 24-ounce souvenir cup.
There are plenty of options for visitors at Jimmy John’s Field. The 2,000 fixed seats provide a higher vantage point of the game, while the large grass berm seating area offers plenty of legroom behind right field. The wraparound concourse allows fans to view the game from different areas that are distinct from one another.
There are usually two mascots walking around the ballpark. Ribbi (frog), Lancelot (unicorn), and Buzz (beaver) might even battle with one another for some great photo moments. Anyone of these mascots can also be seen outside on the main street or parking lot before the game greeting customers as they pull up to the ballpark.
Appleby created a lot of nice details to ensure the ballpark’s success. There are copious vantage points to enjoy the ball game, but all areas are not open to the general public as many of these sections cater to corporate sponsors, their workers, and large groups. However, it is one of the most appealing and surreal ballparks in the country.
The stadium added a dance crew for the current season that is made up of a 26-member senior dance crew that performs at most games. The four teams also have their own distinct theme songs, and J.J., The Field General, is a golden retriever who is among the line of bat dogs who also brings water to the umpires and retrieves balls when needed.
A new speed pitch machine featuring life-size replicas of a pitcher and batter was added for the kids, who also get to enjoy the whiffle ball and playground area in the left field corner of the ballpark. It is not unusual to see a few kids and their parents swing for the fences and run around the bases.
Downtown Utica has seen a boom in commerce with the addition of Jimmy John’s Field, the main strip is a few blocks from the ballpark and houses a few places to enjoy a bite to eat or something to drink before or after the game.
Danny J’s Brick Tavern offers wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, and salads; Hogs Hollow Smokehouse is a funky little joint specializing in barbecue, and great Irish fare can be enjoyed at Shamrock Irish Pub. There are also Cactus Jacks, Muldoon’s, and The Locker Room Saloon as other options in downtown Utica.
The fans have responded overwhelmingly to the new ballpark with various sold-out games and positive word of mouth. However, housing three teams may divide up the allegiance of the fans, but everyone in attendance during our visit was enjoying their time and it looks as if the Unicorns are the early favorites among the four-ball clubs.
Jimmy John’s Field is located on M-59 between I-75 and I-94. The ballpark is very easy to navigate around the wraparound concourse. Stairs and elevators take patrons to their seats. Bathrooms are conveniently located throughout the stadium and signage is clear and visible.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets to Jimmy John’s Field are broken up into six different price points. The lowest tickets are $6 lawn seats behind the right field fence and the most expensive are the $35 front row club seats. In between, customers will find affordable price options when purchasing a ticket to the game. They include the $20 drink rail, $12 backstop, $15 infield, and the $20 platinum club. However, the price of each section goes up to $1 to $2 on game days with the exception of front row club seats.
Parking to all games is free around the ballpark and street parking is available up against the street in downtown Utica. There is even a free shuttle service that brings people to and from their cars before and after games.
One extra point for the field suites that are underneath the main seating section and are less than 40 feet from the backstop. Another extra point for the Wiffle ball baseball field tucked behind the right field corner. The giant smoker that provides a wonderful aroma down the third baseline is worth an extra point for your nose. The final extra point for providing free parking for patrons.
There is a lot to say about Jimmy John’s Field and the USPBL. There have been leagues in the past that have operated out of one baseball stadium, but those stadiums were nowhere near the caliber of Jimmy John’s Field. The customer is greatly pampered and surrounded by a friendly staff and all the best features of the minor league experience.
Appleby hopes to build similar baseball stadiums in the Midwest and other parts of Michigan, with each housing four teams. He is one of the first individuals to successfully create a league consisting of one home ballpark with multiple teams. If he can harness this success to other ballparks around the Midwest, he might very well be the smartest person in all of minor league baseball.