- Eric Hasman
Ozinga Field – Windy City Thunderbolts
Photos by Eric Hasman, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Ozinga Field 14011 S Kenton Ave Crestwood, IL 60445
Windy City Thunderbolts website Ozinga Field website
Year Opened: 1999 Capacity: 2,557
A Niche of a Ballpark in the Windy City
The Windy City Thunderbolts have been playing baseball since 1995 when it began operations as the Will County Claws in the North Central League. In 1996, the team rebranded as the Cook County Cheetahs (Heartland League 1996 – 1998 and then joined the Frontier League in 1999) and in 2004 adopted the T-Bolts moniker.
Its ballpark has been Standard Bank Stadium (now known as Ozinga Field) since the 1999 season. The stadium has a capacity of 3,200 which includes multiple party decks, a beer garden, and its most unique feature, an upper deck on the third base side only. This one-sided upper deck is due to the inability to add a second upper deck along the first base side because of multiple high-power lines that dominate in front of the stadium’s parking lot.
The design of the ballpark creates a configuration that includes six rows of seating in the lower deck, and upper deck seating that hovers tightly above the concourse. There is not a bad seat in the house, and now that netting extends along with the seating bowl in the lower deck, you really don’t have to pay attention to the game. Though pop fouls can still hit you and you can get hit in the upper deck because the netting doesn’t extend that high.
The ballpark also includes a few distinguishable features with bullpens situated in foul territory and within proximity to the two patio decks. The ballpark has only three skyboxes next to the press box.
The stadium has seen a few renovations the past few seasons including the installation of a 13-foot-high, 22-foot-long HD video board with full video capabilities in 2014, ProGrass synthetic turf in 2015, and a second picnic area on the first baseline in 2018.
Food & Beverage 3
The food is standard fare. Hot dogs ($3.50 regular or $4.75 jumbo), burgers ($5), Italian sausage ($4.75), a slice of pizza ($5), chicken sandwiches ($4.75), nachos ($4.50), and popcorn ($3) are among the choices available at the concession stands. However, there are great tasting appetizers like funnel cake fries ($6.50), french fries, ($4.75), and cheese curds ($6.50). The lines for the concession stands can be somewhat long since a few locations are closed for certain games but move rather quickly.
For the kids or people who choose not to drink there is bottled soda-Pepsi products ($4.25) or 22 oz fountain soda ($3.75), Gatorade ($4.50), water ($3), root beer floats ($5), ice frozen lemonade ($4) and 12 oz hot chocolate or coffee for $3.
There are also some candy/dessert items such as caramel apples ($3), caramel pretzel rod ($1.50) and caramel corn ($3.50), and boxes of M & M’s, Kit-Kats, Milky Way, Snickers, Twix for $2.
The beer is provided by Budweiser (Bud, Bud Light, Bud Seltzers, Michelob Ultra). Domestic draft beer is either 16 oz cans ($5), 16 oz draft ($5), or 32 oz draft ($9). There are also local Goose Island favorites and a few craft beers of the Midwest from Sun King and Surly ($6.50). Wine is $7 and some mixed drinks are $8.50. The mixed drinks have either Old Smoky Moonshine (Tennessee Whiskey), Tito’s Vodka, Rum (spiced or regular), or Jose Cuervo. On Thursday nights, the prices start at $1 for domestic cans.
The T-Bolts have a niche market on the southside attracting a majority of its fan base from the local area. The size of the ballpark also lends to the atmosphere because it never feels empty and consists of typical fans who are either die-hards, casual fans, or others out there for a specific promotion.
Inside the facility are two concourse levels on the third base side. The lower level is tight but never really a problem with access from one end to the other. Fans can also get a good look at the field from this level. The upper concourse is located on the outside of the seating area and away from the field of play.
Behind the first base side is a raised party area that offers sit down picnic tables and open spacing. If this area is not rented, then anyone can sit up there. The sight of fans commencing in large groups with a beer in hand and enjoying the festivities of the game is very common. In addition, there is another party area down the right field line. Again, anyone can sit there if the area is not rented.
The kids love the mascot Boomer; he is very accessible during the times he is not on the field for the between-inning entertainment. The between-inning entertainment is the usual minor league theatrics of quick contests (do kids know more than their parents, match game, etc…) and t-shirt tossing.
However, the horse race is a memorable between-inning promotion. There are three wooden horses (yellow, red, and zebra) cutouts attached to a pole. An intern runs with each horse outside the park from the video board behind the batter’s eye to another advertisement board. There are fans at the ballpark that actually bet on the race.
The Thunder Store is a separate building within the confines of the park. It is not very big but they have a decent selection of hats, t-shirts, sweatpants, game-worn uniforms, and broken bats. The kids’ area is near it offering a jungle gym.
The village of Crestwood is 22 miles south of downtown Chicago and is within one hour of five independent and two major league ballparks. The surrounding suburban neighborhood is a mix of residential and retail. The parking lot is dominated by a series of power lines, and a recreational park, elementary school, and football field are adjacent to the ballpark.
Driving wise there is everything you want within five minutes; a few neighborhood type bars and plenty of fast food choices and chain restaurants. If you get there early enough there is Louisa’s (Italian) that was voted one of the best pizzas in the Chicagoland area. Blue Island is about a 5-mile drive and offers a few nice spots including Blue Island Beer Company, Rock Island Public House, and Natural Law Cocktail Club & Eatery.
The fan base is friendly and knows a lot about the team and league. The Thunderbolts average about 1,700 people a game. Of course, the weekend games are better attended than weekday games. The mix of fans is the same as any other ballpark: families, baseball purists, and casual baseball fans.
The Thunderbolts have a group of regulars at the ballpark who are called the “Pole Guys” because they stand in the concourse by the light pole on the first base (visitors) dugout. They have a good time and raz the umps, opposing players, and even the home team when there is a bad call or play. An example of their razzing is when there is an error you will hear “That is why you are in this league.” It should be noted that the Pole Guys do not curse and follow the strict rules of the game, but they can be loud. If you don’t like this sort of thing, sit on the third base side. At most games, some fans tailgate in the parking lot well before the gates open.
Qzinga Field is located to the east of the intersection of 141st (Midlothian Turnpike and S. Cicero Avenue). The ballpark is a few miles from I-294 and/or I-57. There is also bus access to the area with a short walk from Cicero Avenue if needed. However, driving will be your best option for this ballpark.
Return on Investment 4
Going to a T-Bolts game is definitely worth the price and time. The cost of a ticket is either $10 or $12 on game day (you get $2 off if you buy in advance). A bonus is that parking is free and concession prices are reasonable.
The team does have various promotional nights throughout the season. On most Thursday nights the stadium hosts a professional wrestling match by a local wrestling company on the concourse.
Every Saturday are fireworks directly after the game. These games attract the largest crowds of around 2,000 or more a game during the season. Sunday is family day, you get 4 tickets, 4 dogs, 4 chips, 4 sodas, and 4 hats for $39. It’s a great day to bring the family out for the game.
The Thunderbolts have two retired numbers: Dylan Axelrod (#23) who would make it to the majors with the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds and former manager Mike “Kash” Kashirsky (#1) who lead the club to its second championship and two division titles. He is now the left-handed batter practice pitcher for the Chicago White Sox.
The park gets an extra star because of the upper deck and the "horse” race.
This ballpark is one of the best kept secrets on the southside of the Chicagoland area. The design of the ballpark, the local fans who tailgate and support the club, and the affordable pricing should make Ozinga Field a can’t miss for any baseball traveler.