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  • Eric Hasman

Northwest Medicine Field - Kane County Cougars

Photos by Steven Burke and Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86

Northwestern Medicine Field 1 Cougar Trail Geneva, IL 60134

Year Opened: 1991

Capacity: 7,400

Kane County Cougars – Still Drawing Fans

Northwestern Medicine Field is located next to a former landfill in a far western suburb of Chicago (approximately 40 miles) and was originally named the Kane County Events Park (1991 to 1993). The name was switched to Elfstrom Stadium (1993-2013) in honor of Philip B. Elfstrom (the former Kane County Forest Preserve president, and the person most responsible for bringing the Chicagoland’s only affiliated minor league baseball to Kane County.) In 2012, the owners of the stadium found a sponsor and was renamed Fifth Third Field (2012-2016). When the Fifth Third sponsorship ran out in 2017, the owners of the stadium found another sponsor and was renamed Northwestern Medicine Field.

The Cougars have switched affiliations several times during their years of operation, having gone through the Baltimore Orioles (1991-1992), Florida Marlins (1993 to 2002), Oakland A’s (2003 until 2010), Kansas City Royals (2011 and 2012), Chicago Cubs (2013 and 2014) and beginning in 2015 became affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Note, when the Cougars changed affiliation to the Diamondbacks the team updated their logo and mascots to give the Cougar a meaner/edgier look, which angered some fans who liked the cuddlier look.

The concourse goes from foul pole to foul pole. You can not walk around the whole stadium. The seating bowl consists of eight rows of regular chair back seats that are closest to the field; then remaining rows consist of aluminum bleachers with backs for a total of 7,400 seats. In addition, there are lawn berms down both baselines. In 2009, the Kane County Forest Preserves added upper level sky boxes for approximately 10.5 million dollars. Amazingly, the sky boxes don’t look anything like a retrofit. A recent addition to the right field berm is an area with Adirondack chairs and stone seating. The picnic area beyond the outfield fence known as the Leinie Lodge is a nice area for group outings and features picnic tables, umbrellas and a deck.

The dimensions are 335’ to left field line, 400’ to center and 335’ right field line.

The Cougars have won Midwest League Championships in 2001 and 2014 while making it to the finals in 1997, 2004, 2006.

Food & Beverage 4

The concession prices here are a bit high for Low A baseball but the food is excellent. There are six concession areas in the ballpark, so you never have to go far to find one. The Cougars have a wide variety of great food options.

The home plate stand and baseline bites stands have a wide variety of the usual ballpark fare: entrees include pulled pork sandwich or chicken tenders and fries $6.50, cheeseburger, hamburger, or turkey burger $6.25, veggie burger $6, corn dog and fries $5.50, bratwurst or pizza slice (cheese, sausage, or pepperoni) $5, mac-n-cheese cone $5.50 jumbo hot dog $4, kid’s hot dog $3.25.

Snacks include nachos grande $6.25, cheese fries $5.25, french fries $4.25, soft pretzel or regular nachos $4.50, lemon chill and dove bars $4.50, cookie ice cream sandwich, peanuts, cracker jacks, and popcorn $4. Beverages consist of fountain Pepsi products large $5, regular $4.25 and kids $3. Bottled water is $3.75, draft beer is $7, and premium draft beer is $7.50.

Wannemaker’s Grill down is located down the right field line has a wide variety of grilled meats and sandwiches like BBQ Pork Chop, Rib eye sandwich, Italian sausage, an Italian combo, BBQ pork and Italian beef. Prices range from $4 to $9. In addition, they have a foot-long Polish sausage hamburger, cheeseburger, and grilled chicken sandwich, bratwurst and jumbo hot dog. Prices range from $4 to $7.

Other various specialty stands are also on the concourse which serve sausages (various types), hamburgers (various types), sweets (Affy Tapples – Carmel apples, Oreo churros, ice cream and more), a lemonade cart and a gluten free cart (turkey burgers, chicken with hummus wrap, lettuce wraps and more) and a Taco cart.

A unique feature is the Cougars Craft Beer Cave which is located on the third base side of the stadium concourse. It is a restaurant-style walk-in cooler with at least 50 to 100 different craft beers, all beers are $6 for a can. The staff operating the Cave have been educated on the selection and styles stocked in the cave.

Due to the number and placement of the concession stands, the small enclosed concourse is way too crowded and hot especially on fireworks nights. In addition, it seems that the lines really don’t move that quickly. You can easily spend 20 minutes in line waiting for some food on crowded nights (over 8,000 people).

Condiments available are the usual ketchup, mustard, onions jalapenos and sauerkraut.

Atmosphere 3

The majority of the crowd tends to be families, so there are lots of kids. The park is always bustling with activity.

You will not find the amenities of the newer ballparks here, besides the video and an older digital scoreboard. The video board is not big, but it is serviceable. however, the Cougars really don’t take advantage of the board since it is mainly used for stats and advertisements. You will not see many, if any, replays. There is an older digital scoreboard adjacent to the video board. In addition, there are older digital scoreboards in the outfield near the foul poles, but they are not working. There are a lot of ads on the outfield walls which help give the stadium an old-time look.

Every half inning the Cougars are doing the usual minor league on-field promotions: t-shirt guns, on-field contests, happy birthday singing etc.

The kids’ play area is located beyond the right field group areas, so parents cannot watch the action while keeping a watchful eye over their kids. This area features an inflatable obstacle course, an inflatable slide and two moon walks, and you must buy tickets for participation, which I don’t like but it is understandable. There’s no playground equipment for younger children.

Depending on the day the mascot(s), Ozzie the Cougar and Annie the Cougar are constantly available for pictures and interaction on the concourse. Some days I have only seen Ozzie and no Annie. However, after the game the mascot is available for pictures in the gift shop.

The outfield view is nothing but trees and the party areas, there are no buildings or anything to see. Every once in a while, you will hear a train and train horns because beyond the trees are commercial train tracks. The builders of the park did a good job of hiding the tracks and embracing the parkland / forested area.

The picnic / group areas in the outfield have an aged wood facade wall giving it a nice rustic feeling.

The Den gift shop is located on the concourse to the first base side and is large with a wide variety of Cougar merchandise.

Neighborhood 2

Northwestern Medicine Field is basically located in an industrial area. However, about 10 minutes south of the ballpark is Chicago Premium Outlet Mall, which has high end stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, Ann Taylor and Armani, which people seem to love considering this mall is always crowed.

The Country House is located about two blocks south of the ballpark on Kirk Road. The food here is excellent and a bit higher end than a regular bar. The restaurant has won awards for its burgers, including the coveted “Best Burger in Chicago Award” from the Chicago Tribune. The menu is sandwiches, burgers, fish, ribs, steaks wraps and salads. The onion soup, duck, muffulettas and the burgers are outstanding here.

Fox Valley Ice Arena is adjacent to the ballpark and it contains Chelios Bar and Grill (this is named after former Montreal Canadian, Chicago Blackhawk and Detroit Red Wing Chris Chelios who grew up in the Chicagoland area). It has bar food like burgers, wraps, chicken sandwiches, pizza, tacos, etc. There are some excellent daily specials there too. Note, the Ice Arena is also home to the United States Hockey League’s Chicago Steel.

Atwater’s Restaurant (a Fox riverside American fine dining restaurant) and The Little Owl Restaurant (a circa-1920 restaurant featuring American pub grub & billiards) are located in downtown Geneva about five minutes from the ballpark and both are very good.

The Penrose Brewing, Stockholms Brewery, and Two Brothers Brewery are all about 15 minutes from the ballpark and good places for drinks and a full food menu if you enjoy micro brews.

There is a Sonic and other fast food options about 10 minutes south of the ballpark on Kirk Road. Approximately five minutes north of the ballpark there is a Wendy’s and a McDonald’.s

Plenty of chain hotels are within a few miles of the ballpark: Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Super 8, Geneva Motel, Best Western Inn, Herrington Inn & Spa and the historic Hotel Baker in downtown St. Charles.

Also, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), which is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics, is located about 10 minutes to the south of the stadium. Visitors are allowed to visit two buildings on their own in a self-guided tour. In Wilson Hall, visitors can explore the exhibit and viewing areas on the first and 15th floor as well as the Fermilab Art Gallery on the second floor. Many people revel in the ample opportunity for outdoor recreation, such as biking, running, bird watching, fishing, buffalo viewing, etc…on the large 6,800-acre site. Visitors may enter Fermilab through any of the three entrances: Pine Street or Wilson Street in Batavia, Illinois, or the Batavia Road entrance in Warrenville, Illinois.

Fans 3

Cougars fans generally consist of families with children. You will encounter a lot of children running around and screaming, etc. Generally, Cougar games seem to be more of a social event than a baseball game.

The Cougars have drawn fans very well over the years. The Cougars averaged over 7,000 per game prior to 2009. Since 2009 they draw approximately 6,000 per game. In July 2013 the Cougars became the first Class A team to attract 10 million fans.

Access 3

Getting to the stadium is relatively easy – it is located about five miles north of the intersection of Farnsworth / Kirk Avenue and Interstate 88 on Skyline Drive. Public transportation is not an option to get to the ballpark. However, being in the Chicagoland area that has never ending road construction, getting to the park can be trying at times, especially on the weekend because the Outlet Mall traffic is horrific.

Return on Investment 2

Lawn, reserved, box seats and strike zone premier seats on game day are priced $10, $14, and $16 and $19.75 respectively (tickets are a dollar less if bought in advance). These prices are a bit higher than the surrounding Independent baseball teams but that is the price you pay for affiliated baseball.

In addition, there are Super Suites, Party Suites, Outdoor Rooftop Seats, Outfield Deck seats which can be rented only for groups and a fan can not sit in these areas if the areas are not rented.

Parking costs $10 which is a lot of money for Low A baseball.

Extra 3

The Cougars get an extra point for not bowing down to the Chicago Cubs and changing their name to the Kane County Cubs in 2014 (I like original names for teams and not the major league club name). Of course, this is another reason why the Cubs switched affiliates to South Bend.

Another extra point for the Cougars for having overhead netting to protect the fans line from foul balls in the concession area and Craft Cave in the right field concession area.

The Craft Beer Cave walk-in beer cooler deserves another mention since craft beer is a huge thing now.

The Cougars get a point taken away for the parking cost of $10 and another point taken away for spending the 10.5 million on improving the seating area for everyday fans (as South Bend did) and concentrating on sky box money.

During the 2018 season the Cougars added a small creek / waterfall feature in the left field berm area which is really nice, but it is not protected or blocked off therefore kids find it a magnet for running / playing on and near.

Final Thoughts

This ballpark is overall in the lower end of the Midwest league pertaining to amenities, comfort and seating, however, it is still a good place to see a game. With all the baseball options within one hour of the Kane County Cougars, they produce a nice entertaining environment for the only affiliated MiLB franchise in the area which makes it a good experience. This is why the Cougars are now in their 28th year and still drawing lots of fans.

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