Photos by John Severs and Brydon Coughlin, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Joe Etzel Field
5000 North Willamette Blvd
Portland, OR 97203
Year Opened: 1988
Portland has a strong baseball history, despite never having a Major League team. The city has hosted numerous independent and developmental teams, but with Triple A’s Portland Beavers leaving the city a few years ago, the options available to take in a ball game are limited. The University of Portland is still carrying the torch for baseball in the City of Roses, with the Pilots hosting games at Joe Etzel Field.
The stadium is named after the Pilots longtime coach, who led the team for 21 seasons. Later, he also assumed the role of the university’s athletic director. During his tenure, the Pilots developed into a solid midlevel program, and have reached NCAA Regionals on a few occasions.
Situated in the north of Portland, in the University Park neighborhood, Joe Etzel Field is on the verge of some big changes. The Pilots have called the stadium home for 30-plus seasons, and while it has seen upgrades over the years, it will go through a big renovation in 2020. So, it’s an excellent time to take one last look at Joe Etzel Field.
Food & Beverage 2
It’s classic ballpark fare, it tastes good, and includes hot dogs, chili, nachos, and combinations thereof. It would be nice if there were a bit more. At the very least, there should be peanuts and cracker jacks. Beer and wine are accessible from the concession stand, featuring local Oregon brewery Buoy Beer Company. Coors is also available, and the wine is sourced locally.
The stadium itself is a simple, classic layout. Plastic seats behind the home plate, and metal bleachers along the first and third baselines. All of the seating is comfortable, and there are no bad lines of site. Despite its age, the stadium is in pristine condition. Every line of sight is fantastic, and the stadium itself is gorgeous. The trees lining the walls of the stadium produce a gorgeous view. Regardless of the quality of the game, Joe Etzel Field is a sight to see.
There are some downsides. Due to the stadium’s size, there is no outfield seating. There are no bathrooms in the stadium itself, which is relegated to either port-a-potties or the nearby Chiles Center. It’s inconvenient, and as the stadium is expanded that is something that should be addressed.
Overall though, the ballpark delivers a very nostalgic experience. There are not a lot of bells and whistles, but the park doesn’t need any of that. It’s just a great spot to catch a ballgame.
Joe Etzel Field is situated right on the edge of the university, in the University Park neighborhood, on the northern end of Portland. The neighborhood grew around the original Portland University, though the campus sat vacant for a time before the Catholic Church purchased the buildings and founded the modern-day university. It is a small, private university, with a student body of around 4,000.
Sitting on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River, the area provides several scenic vistas, and if you have time for a walk before the game, it’ll be a beautiful one. University Park shares the rest of the city’s reputation for great food, including The Drunken Noodle for Thai, Homegrown Smoker for barbecue, and Flying Pie for pizza. There are also plenty of chains if you’re looking for something familiar.
With the field not far from downtown Portland, there is a lot to see if you’re willing to make a drive into the city.
Pilots fans come out for the team, and when the team comes alive, so does the crowd. It’s not the biggest crowd, and with the stadium expanding soon they’ll have to find a way to start packing the seats or the stands may look pretty barren.
The stadium is easy to find, not too far off of I-5, and only about 15 minutes north of downtown Portland. There’s a bit of parking at the stadium but finding parking on the streets nearby shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets are only $6, $4 for students and children. The food is inexpensive, and there’s not a bad seat in the house. It’s an excellent experience for the cost.
Free programs and stat cards are provided for each game.
Joe Etzel Field is a simple but well-designed stadium that delivers a classic experience. Next year’s upgrades should only improve on that.