Turtle Creek Stadium – Traverse City Pit Spitters
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Turtle Creek Stadium 333 Stadium Drive Traverse City, MI 49684
Year Opened: 2006
This Ballpark Isn’t the Pits
Traverse City, Michigan, is a popular tourist destination spot during the summer season. Visitors can choose from boating, swimming, walking the downtown streets, and touring the vast wineries in the region, and for the sports fan, a baseball game at night.
Sponsored by a local casino, Turtle Creek Stadium’s design blends in nicely with the modern lakefront housing that is popular in the region. The exterior and interior of the ballpark set it apart from many other designs in the country.
Today, the ballpark is home to the Traverse City Pit Spitters, members of the Northwoods League, who took over from the Traverse City Beach Bums of the Frontier League from 2006-2018. The summer collegiate club is owned and operated by the West Michigan Whitecaps of the Midwest League who has brought the excitement back to the ballpark.
The facility was originally named for Beach Bum owners John and Leslye Wuerfel when it first opened in 2006 to record crowds. The FL club was the city’s first professional baseball team since the Traverse City Resorters operated from 1910-1914 in the Michigan State League. Ironically, this was the name used for one of the make-shift clubs during the 2020 season, a nice connection to the city’s baseball roots.
During the 2020 season, the club joined a Michigan-pod with Battle Creek and Kalamazoo to play an abbreviated season. The Resorters and Spitters were joined by the Northern Michigan Dune Bears, but after two weeks of play shut down due to COVID-19 cases. The play was resumed without the Dune Bears, who quietly folded after several games.
Food & Beverage 3
The normal food and beverage items were on pause of the season but there were more than enough options to choose from during the game. Your standards were all here plus great craft options from the state, spirits, and even a custom made burger for the club.
The items available are hot dogs, burgers, nachos, pizza slices, brats, chicken fries, pretzels, peanuts, and foot-long corn dogs. Down the third baseline, the club sells the cherry burger that features dried cherries mixed with the beef and topped with cherry salsa.
The desserts feature local Moomer’s ice cream, lemon chill, caramel corn, and licorice rope. For something a bit sweeter that packs a punch, fans can order a Pit Spitters Punch.
There is a lot of beer to choose from at the ballpark and range from a small domestic pint for $5.50 to 32-ounce craft beer for $9. There are two bar areas in the stadium: Spittoon Salon and Craft Cave. The Saloon features hard liquor and beer choices. The Cave offers 12 draughts from Michigan breweries of Short’s, Petosky, Earthen Ales, Founders, and Bells.
A grand total of 500 folks were in attendance, considered a sell-out during the pandemic, and even though the crowd was light, the atmosphere did not reflect that actual number of fans at the game. It was almost business as usual for the management of the club, which can be quite hard to do during these times.
Part of that might just be the design of the stadium that seats 4,600 people and features a massive grass seating section behind the outfield from the foul line to foul line. The area was closed off, relegating fans to the main concourse area.
Staff members greeting fans walking through the main entrance, programs were handed out, and the wait staff was ready to assist visitors with their food options. There was even a mascot for both clubs who stood on the concourse before the game. It had the feeling of a normal summer evening baseball event, much different than other ballpark experiences during the coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout the game, fans were entertained with a variety of in-between inning promotions from frozen t-shirt contests between players, mascot tossing, dizzy bat racing, and Spitters mascot Monty bagging a drum behind home plate to stir up the crowd. The familiarity of a baseball game was highly noted and much appreciated to many in attendance.
The ballpark is located seven miles from downtown and the Grand Traverse Bay; there is everything from fine dining, craft breweries, distilleries, retail shops, hotels, and leisure activities. The town of 15,000 is picturesque, full of commerce on the pedestrian-only Front Street.
There is an assortment of food from Sparks and Blue Tractor BBQ, Red Ginger, Scalawags Whitefish & Chips, Midland Burger, The Franklin, Little Bohemia, and Mama Lu’s. Many of these restaurants are located on Front Street, and easily walkable from one another.
There is a host of spots for beer, wine, or spirit. North Peak, Workshop Brewing, State Street Market (an adult food court with beer and barbecue), Mackinaw Brewing Company, and Rare Bird Brewpub are just a few of the many places to enjoy a drink or two. There are also 15 plus wineries in the area that include Left Foot, Mari Vineyards, 2 Lands Winery, Cherry Republic, and Hawthorne Vineyards.
Visitors can also enjoy a dip in the crystal clear waters of the bay, kayak, rent a boat, or ride a bike along the scenic waterways. You can also find yourself reading a book underneath the shade of a large tree, get into a game of volleyball with locals, or have a picnic on the massive green spots near the water.
There were 500 fans in attendance, but it felt like more, many cheered loudly for the hometown team, others picked their personal favorite and made sure they were able to be heard from their seats. It was if everybody had a vested interest in the players on the field.
Many were just happy to have the opportunity to enjoy baseball after the club had canceled games after an undisclosed number of players tested positive for coronavirus earlier in the month. Baseball resumed shortly after and many were willingly back to enjoy their summer passion of nights at the ballpark.
Traverse City is a bit of a drive for many visitors and is somewhat off the beaten path in regards to its location from other cities in the state. The closest major city is two-hours south in Grand Rapids, and part of that journey is a 30-mile trek on two-lane roads through small towns. Although quite a charming drive, it does require some planning, the rewards are gratifying and the ballpark is located on the edge of town right off Highway 31.
The ballpark itself is easy to move around with concessions, the Pit Shop souvenir store, bathrooms and exits all located behind the infield playing area. There is also plenty of parking outside the venue and maybe the only complaint is that the entrance can sneak up on you if you are not looking for the lights of the ballpark.
Return on Investment 3
The price of a ticket this year is $10 apiece and limited to 500 people, due to the pandemic, and it would be wise to purchase them in advance to avoid being disappointed at the window. Normally, the lawn seats are available for $6, but the area has been suspended for the current season.
The concession items range from $3.75 for a hot dog to $8 for a cherry burger. The beer prices also range from domestics at $5.50 to 32-ounce craft beer for $9. The Spitters do have a nice promotion where one its players take three cracks of smacking a homer from the second base over the outfield wall in order for fans to purchase half-price domestic beers, many lined up for a $4 32-ounce beer that was ideal for the hot, summer day.
The price to park is $5, somewhat reasonable for any level of baseball and concession items ranging from t-shirts, caps, children items, replica jerseys, and other souvenirs. A baseball cap will cost anywhere from $21-$25 before tax, on-field caps a tad higher. However, the team has a great looking double-cherry logo that had me pull out my credit card.
Perhaps the biggest hindrance to the return of investment is something that management has no control over, the price of lodging in the region. Hotel rooms are at a premium during the months the Spitters operate at the ballpark, and a typical hotel online can range in price from $140 to $350 depending on the brand.
The club earns a point for the name and logo that reflect the region being known for its cherry production. Cherries can be found at local markets and incorporated into salsas, juices, The logo features two cherries spitting out pits is ingenious.
The ballpark earns another point as it does not look like any other venue in the country. The interior matches the exterior of a cottage home, and the concourse features overhangs that provide a nice bit of shade during sunny days.
The tabletop seats looking as if they belong at a beach club but blend in well with the overall atmosphere of the ballpark. The tables are for four, include wait staff, and feature umbrellas for extra shade.
Turtle Creek Stadium is one of those ballparks that’s a little bit out of the way but once you arrive at it and take in the surroundings, you will be glad you made the journey. The design and aesthetics of the ballpark is one-of-a-kind, the staff is friendly, the logo is awesome for fans of any ages, and then you get to enjoy the many restaurants, wineries, and breweries of Traverse City.