- Matt Finnigan
Ogren Park Allegiance Field – Missoula PaddleHeads
Photos by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Ogren Park at Allegiance Field 700 Cregg Ln. Missoula, MT 59802
Missoula PaddleHeads website Ogren Park at Allegiance Field website
Year Opened: 2004
A River Runs By It
When people think about Montana, images of fly fishing come to mind. The Treasure State has hundreds of miles of legendary waters from which anglers try to coax trout. The 300-mile Clark Fork of the Columbia River is one of those streams, descending into the university town of Missoula from the Bitterroot Mountains. The Clark Fork provided the setting for author Norman Maclean’s semi-autobiographical novella, “A River Runs Through It,” from which came the 1992 film starring Brad Pitt and Craig Sheffer.
Along the Clark Fork’s south bank, just west of downtown Missoula, sits Alliance Field & Ogren Park, the 3,500-seat home to the Pioneer Baseball League’s Missoula Paddleheads. Fans can make pre-game casts into the Clark Fork a few hundred feet from the cages where players take batting practice or put in a drift boat from the launch in one of the stadium’s parking lots. The confluence of fishing and baseball is celebrated at Ogren Park.
Not only that, but Missoula’s extensive trail system provides a convenient way to get to a Paddleheads’ game without a car. Fans can (and do) bike, walk, and scooter to the game from all around “Zootown,” as Missoula is known. These trails connect Ogren Park to points all over town, including downtown, the University of Montana’s campus, and a seemingly limitless bounty of parks and open space. Ogren Park’s connection to stream and trail has created one of professional baseball’s most unique settings.
Food & Beverage 3
Ogren Park has concession stands on the concourses along both baselines. There are no major culinary surprises but the food is good quality: hot dogs ($5), brats ($6), chicken tenders and fries ($9), veggie burgers ($8), cheeseburgers ($8) are all available. So are fries ($4), tater tots ($4), popcorn ($4), peanuts ($4), and Cracker Jack ($3). Ogren Park sells Coca-Cola products in 20-ounce, plastic bottles for $4.
Beer lovers will not be disappointed. The Paddleheads sell a good range of craft beer ($7 per draft) that includes brews from Missoula’s Highlander Beer (Strawberry Wheat, Strange Haze, and Devil’s Hump Red Ale, named for the profile of a grizzly bear) and Draught Works Brewery (That’s What She Said Cream Ale). Budweiser, Miller Lite, and Coors Lite sell for $6 per draft. Draught Works’ hard seltzers (Citrus Cowboy, Mountain Berry, and Tropical Express) are available, along with wine ($8) and hard cider ($6).
There’s nothing particularly unusual about Ogren Park’s design or experience. Seats (chairbacks and metal bleachers) rise from field level to the concourse at street level, above. One concession stand has been placed on the concourses along each baseline, with a bar on the concourse behind the press box. There’s no seating behind the outfield walls; however, the Paddleheads allow fans to watch games for free from a knoll beyond the center field fence, under the osprey nest. That area can be accessed from Missoula’s Riverfront Trail along the Clark Fork River’s south bank.
Try for seats along the third baseline. You’ll enjoy a nice view of Mount Sentinel and its hillside letter “M,” which rises above the University of Montana’s campus.
An important note: there is very little shade at Ogren Park. Temperatures for day games, particularly those late in the season, can make life miserable in the grandstand. Mercifully, the Paddleheads have placed several tents in the right field corner to create a party area. When that area is not used for hosting an event, it provides the ballpark’s only shade and a nice place to watch the game.
Ogren Park’s greatest asset is its location. The city’s Riverfront Trail parallels the Clark Fork River for approximately two miles on each side. That trail is paved, vining through several Missoula parks and providing easy access to the Clark Fork for anyone interested in fishing or boating. The trail also connects with other trails in Missoula’s extensive trail system and provides an excellent thoroughfare for anyone exploring Missoula.
Allegiance Field & Ogren Park Clark Fork River, Photo by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey
The trail system connects Ogren Park with downtown Missoula and to the University of Montana’s main campus. Downtown Missoula has a restaurant or bar for just about everyone, along with shops, parks, theaters, and museums. The University of Montana is set against Mount Sentinel, where hikers can scale to the school’s hillside “M” 620 feet up the side of its west face.
Not only that, Ogren Park neighbors McCormick Park, which itself contains playgrounds, fields, a stocked fishing pond, an aquatics center, and the renowned Mobash Skate Park. Ogren Park sits near a public boat launch on the Clark Fork, approximately 500 feet west of the left field corner. Drift boats are put in and taken out at this launch even while games are being played. Just south of the stadium, the Old Sawmill District development has brought new shops and restaurants within walking distance.
Despite losing their longtime affiliation with MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks in 2020, fans have continued to come to Ogren Park. In 2021, the Paddleheads drew an average home attendance of 1,604, with local pandemic control measures limiting capacity for part of the season. Winning the Pioneer Baseball League title in 2021 may have contributed to a modest bump in 2022’s home attendance, with the team averaging 1,786 fans per home game. With a capacity of 3,500, Ogren Park can and hopefully will accommodate continued increases in home attendance.
Ogren Park does not have extensive parking. It doesn’t really need it. Missoula’s trails provide an easy way to walk, bike, or skateboard to a Paddleheads game. Boating is also an option. Several drift boats ferried anglers down the Clark Fork just before a recent Sunday afternoon game, taking out at the adjacent launch. The Paddleheads even encourage a more riparian route, sponsoring an annual “Float to the Ballpark” promotion to raise money for local charities. (A parking warning: signs abound in the adjacent Old Sawmill District that baseball parking is verboten there. Be mindful of that fact or you will quickly become acquainted with one of Missoula’s towing companies).
The adjacent trails also provide an easy and scenic route to and from downtown Missoula. A 15-minute walk along the Riverfront Trail and across the Orange Street Bridge will take you to great, local restaurants and pubs while also providing beautiful views of the town. Once downtown, try Bob Marshall’s Biga Pizza or the Thomas Meagher Bar (aka the “Mar Bar”) for food. Downtown also has several breweries, such as Tamarack Brewing Co., the Conflux Brewing Company, and Imagine Nation Brewing.
The stadium’s concourses are sufficiently wide to accommodate large crowds. Bathrooms are spacious and clean and can provide shade during a hot game.
Return on Investment 3
Pricing for the Paddlehead experience is right where it should be in all categories. General admission tickets sell for $11 and club seats, the priciest available, sell for $17. Discounts are available for seniors and children. Food and beverage prices align with other Pioneer League teams. Parking is free.
The Paddleheads earn a point for their commitments both to ornithology and their prior identity. An osprey nest stands behind the center field wall, home to a pair of ospreys that feed in the adjacent Clark Fork River. From 1999 until 2019, the team was the Missoula “Osprey.” The aerie and its residents survived the name change and continue to be a point of pride for the team.
A second point goes to the free viewing area along the Riverfront Trail in center field. The team welcomes the use of this location to catch quick glimpses of games and even to set up a lawn chair and watch more than that. It’s a nice feature akin to locations at MLB parks such as the Pittsburgh Pirates PNC Park and the San Francisco Giants Oracle Park where fans outside the stadiums can enjoy peeks of the action inside.
Third, the Paddleheads receive a point for their commitment to the Clark Fork River. Pairing with the ClarkFork Coalition (“CFC”), the Paddleheads host an annual river clean-up day. Fans can earn a free ticket to the game by venturing out to the Clark Fork and collecting trash. A local artist designs trout-themed jerseys, which are auctioned off to raise money for the CFC. The Paddleheads recognize the importance of the river’s health and are good neighbors to it.
Ogren Park’s proximity to the Clark Fork River and the rest of Missoula can provide a unique baseball experience: pre- and post-game fly fishing, punctuated by a ball game. Or pre- and post-game eating and drinking, punctuated by a ball game, but without the need for a car. Or just by coming to a game at Ogren Park and enjoying the views of the surrounding mountains, under the watch of a nesting osprey. There is no shortage of ways to enjoy a game at Ogren Park.