- Ryan Norris
Sutter Health Park – Sacramento River Cats
Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00
Sutter Health Park 400 Ballpark Dr West Sacramento, CA 95691
Year Opened: 2000
The Sacramento River Cats have been in Sacramento since 2000 and have played at Raley Field that entire time. However, entering into the 2020 season the ballpark was renamed Health Sutter Park. The River Cats were affiliated with the nearby Oakland A’s for the first 15 years they were in Sacramento before switching affiliations to the San Francisco Giants in 2015. The River Cats have won four league titles and two class titles since 2000 and have won an impressive 11 division championships since 2000.
Long before the River Cats, Sacramento had a team by the name of the Solons who were members of the original Pacific Coast League in 1903. Sacramento is the only original charter city that has a franchise in the current incarnation of the league. The last incarnation of the Solons played from 1974-1976 at Hughes Stadium, a football facility that featured a left-field pole 250 feet from home plate. The number of homeruns created high-scoring games and leads were never safe despite the lead. The club left after renovations were made to the venue and a new ballpark was unable to be built.
Food & Beverage 4
Health Sutter Park offers more than adequate food and beverage options that should appeal to any fan. The staples are all available as are specialty items such as three different panini options, mac ‘n’ cheese, and tostada salads. My recommendation is the Dinger Dog at $8. It’s big enough to feed two people and is a quality dog, unlike most of the ballpark dogs you see at stadiums. The ballpark has been at the forefront of strange food items such as their walkin’ taco or their donut cheeseburger.
Craft beer is now available at Raley Field in the left-field corner where they have options from all over but also include locals such as Rubicon and Knee Deep breweries. Extra points for the walk-in beer fridge. Customers walk in on one side, grab their selections, walk out and pay with the cashier. This is a great feature for those hot Sacramento days.
The old cliché, “There isn’t a bad seat in the house” definitely applies to Health Sutter Park. Built-in 2000, fan comfort and viewing ease were at the top of the priority list. Sightlines are great from any seat and lawn seating allows for an inexpensive way to bring the whole family. Low sitting lawn chairs are permitted in the grassy berms.
The seating consists of two levels, with most of the upper deck designated as suite seating. The most striking feature at Health Sutter Park is the bright yellow Tower Bridge beyond the right field. This bridge connects Raley Field and the rest of West Sacramento to Sacramento, across the river.
Former River Cats that have made MLB are mentioned throughout the stadium as are their team accomplishments over the years. With the Giants being so close to Sacramento, there are many mentions around the stadium of their parent club.
For this section, I will consider the immediate area around Raley Field in West Sacramento its neighborhood as well as Old Town and downtown Sacramento, just across the river. The immediate neighborhood in West Sacramento is a little strange with new condos going up alongside old trailer parks.
Nearby Raley Field in Sacramento, you’ll find Broderick for burgers, sandwiches, and specialty fries as well as Peace Cuisine for Chinese food. If you’re crossing the river into Sacramento proper try Foundation for dinner or River City Saloon for drinks. Mother is an award-winning vegetarian restaurant that carnivores are sure to like and Coin-Op Game Room is a sports/arcade. All of Sacramento is pretty easy to navigate via car so be sure to make it to Midtown if you’re interested in some of the hipper lounges and restaurants. My favorites over there include Burgers & Brew, The Red Rabbit, and LowBrau.
There are three breweries in West Sacramento: Yolo Brewing, Bike Dog Brewing, and Jackrabbit Brewing. While I hear excellent things about Bike Dog, I can speak from experience that Device and Track 7 breweries in Sacramento are excellent choices as well if you don’t mind venturing a little farther from the stadium.
Culturally, Sacramento has a lot to offer as well. You can go to the state capitol for a tour, check out the Crocker Art Museum or visit my favorite museum, the California State Railroad Museum.
Cats fans have always ranked in the upper echelon of attendance figures in the PCL. This is likely for a few reasons. First, with nearly a half-million people in the city and over two million in the metro area, there are a lot of people to draw from. Second, they have only been affiliated with local MLB teams, appealing to their population’s fandom. Third, Sacramento has a reputation for a passionate fan base. The fans at Health Sutter Park come out, are engaged, and are invested in the team’s success. Thanks to long-term success, the River Cats have cultivated this relationship over their existence in Northern California.
Health Sutter Park is extremely easy to get to via any of Sacramento’s major freeways. If you’re coming from one of Sacramento’s suburbs to the west, you don’t even after entering Sacramento if you don’t want to. It’s also an easy drive or cab ride over the Tower Bridge from downtown so pre or postgame dinner or drinks are an easy and convenient option.
There is a bus stop right outside the stadium for multiple routes that connect Sacramento and West Sacramento. The Amtrak station is about a mile away as well. Even on sellout days, access throughout the stadium is easy with wide concourses and multiple foot traffic routes. Lines for the restroom and concessions move quickly even with high density.
Return on Investment 4
The get-in price is an excellent $10 for grass seating and you can make a trip to Health Sutter Park as inexpensive as you would like. Food can be on the expensive side for the specialty items but you tend to get what you pay for. Craft beer ranges from $7.75 to $8.75 for pints. Tickets for seating behind the plate can get well above $50 which in my opinion is too much for a minor league experience, no matter how nice the stadium is otherwise. There is free parking for all home games.
One extra has to go to the profound success the River Cats have had in their decade and a half in Sacramento. No other PCL team can claim that kind of dominance during that time. One point extra for the ushers who wear Hawaiian shirts and straw hats as well as one point to the student-painted art around the stadium. Some of the art seems a bit outdated but it paints a picture of the time when the stadium was first opening. Finally, another point to two great values: Free parking and the souvenir soda cup you can bring back to any game to get discounted refills.
Since opening, Health Sutter Park has been a hit with the Sacramento community as well as the baseball community.