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  • Matt Finnigan

Ron Tonkin Field – Hillsboro Hops


Photos by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Ron Tonkin Field 4450 NW 229th Ave Hillsboro, OR 97124

Hillsboro Hops website Ron Tonkin Field website

Year Opened: 2013 Capacity: 4,500

 

Hillsboro Hops With Baseball, Beer

Baseball and beer have complemented one another perfectly for decades. Professional baseball teams sell beer at their stadiums but do not generally market the relationship between suds and strikeouts. The High Class-A, western division Hillsboro Hops are a notable exception and their ballpark, Ron Tonkin Field, enables even non-beer drinkers to enjoy a serendipitous baseball experience in a venue that opened in 2013 and 4,500 fans.

Tonkin Field is located in Hillsboro, Oregon, 15 miles northeast of downtown Portland. According to a 2020 report from the Colorado-based Brewers Association, Hillsboro sits in one of the nation’s most prolific craft brewing states. Oregon has a total of 312 craft breweries (11th most in the nation), with 9.6 such breweries per capita (7th most in the nation). The Hops are nicknamed after a key brewing ingredient grown in Oregon (the second-largest hop growing state by volume), and have a mascot, Barley T. Hop, styled after the flower of the hop plant. The Hops celebrate the importance of brewing in the Beaver State throughout the ballpark. In August 2021, for instance, the Hops hosted a pre-game craft brewing festival that attracted numerous local brewers and fans from as far away as Austin, Texas.

Couple the celebration of beer with a beautiful stadium, replete with seats close to the action, high-quality ballpark food, and the chance to watch the Arizona Diamondbacks’ players of the future, and fans will enjoy a game at Tonkin Field.

Food & Beverage 4

A wide variety of culinary options are offered at Tonkin Field, so much so that coming to the ballpark hungry may call for an amuse bouche while evaluating what to order. Smartly, the Hops have made online ordering available at concessions stands behind seats on both the first and third base lines. Fans can order food from their seats, retrieve the food when ready, and avoid spending an inning or two waiting in a line.

The familiar favorites can all be found at Tonkin Field, with a cheeseburger and French fry basket ($10), chicken tenders and fries ($10), and hot dogs ($5). Fans wanting something slightly different can order a blue cheese bacon burger ($11), bacon cheeseburger ($11), or a burger topped with a bratwurst ($12), all with fries. Coca-Cola products are served, with a 32-ounce drink ($6), a 21-ounce drink ($5), and a 16-ounce drink ($4) on the menu. Bottled water ($4) and bottled soda ($5) are also available at most concession stands at Tonkin Field. The Hops have devoted one concession stand to barbecue: chicken and pulled pork are offered for $10 and served with chips, while BBQ nachos sell for $10. Quality, hand-made Mexican fare is available, as well, with tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas all served on freshly grilled tortillas. Vegetarians will find plenty of options, too. A veggie burger and fries sells for $10, as does a veggie wrap (grilled vegetables with a hummus spread wrapped in a tomato basil tortilla). A veggie dog is available for $5.

Not surprisingly, a broad panoply of beers is sold throughout Tonkin Field. Premium beers include those brewed by Crux, Migration Brewing Co., Deschutes, and several others. Those beers sell for $9 (20 ounces) and $8 (16 ounces). Domestic beers sell for $8 and $7, respectively, for those sizes. Mixed drinks are available for $8-$9, depending on size, and wine is available for $8-$10, depending on brand.

Like many teams, the Hops sell ice cream in miniature batting helmets ($8) or waffle cones ($6). The Hops, however, have 12 flavors of hand-scooped ice cream available. Most ballparks sell soft serve ice cream, but not here. The flavors are also more exotic than the typical chocolate-and-vanilla, with local favorites huckleberry and mountain blackberry sold along with such flavors as moose tracks, cotton candy, espresso chip, and birthday cake.

Atmosphere 4

Tonkin Field has one main entrance, behind home plate. Fans enter on ground level, pass the team shop, and walk up a set of stairs to reach the stadium’s concourse. The seating bowl spans from just beyond third base to just beyond first base, with bullpens situated beyond the outfield walls. Seats are very close to the field, bringing fans close to the game’s action. Groups have several types of party rooms available to them. Several party decks and suites provide views from behind home plate; a picnic area in the right field corner can accommodate as many as 2,000 people.

Because of Tonkin Field’s orientation of home plate facing southwest, the sun sets behind the first base side of the stadium. The setting sun thus poses a retina-burning challenge to fans sitting along the third base line. At evening games, fans should consider seats on the first base side of the stadium. Fans on the third base side whose vision survives several innings of direct sun can reap the reward of a beautiful sunset.

The stadium has a crisp, clear public address system. Fortunately (given the close dimensions of seating to speakers), music is played at a lower volume than the PA announcer’s voice. Walkup songs are played for the home team and, in true MiLB fashion, visitors’ walkup songs relate somehow to the batter’s name (Vancouver’s Orelvis Martinez received “Don’t Be Cruel” by Elvis Presley, as an example).

Neighborhood 3

Hillsboro’s Gordon Faber Recreation Complex surrounds Tonkin Field, so fans do not have restaurants, bars, and other attractions within easy walking distance of the ballpark. Those amenities are a short drive away, however. Several bars and restaurants sit just to Tonkin Field’s southeast, including McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse, Pho Tango Bistro, the Front Row Bar & Grill, Oasis Lebanese Cuisine, and O Sushi. Fast food is available there, too, including Wendy’s, Panda Express, Jack in the Box, and Big Town Hero.

Fans looking for pre or post-game craft beer do not need to look far. Three Mugs Brewing Company is approximately two miles from the ballpark. Although it does not serve food, Three Mugs has more than 20 beers on tap and in cans. Just under three miles from Tonkin Field, Deep Space Brewing offers four “flagship” beers and rotates more than 12 others through its taps. Many more craft breweries can easily be found in Hillsboro and beyond.

Several chain hotels are within a short driving distance of Tonkin Field. Staybridge Suites, Hampton Inn, TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Aloft, Residence Inn, Embassy Suites, and Extended Stay America are all within a 10-minute drive. The Orenco is a more luxurious option, with free wine tastings and various styles of rooms.

Fans 3

The Hops’ faithful may not reach large numbers, but they do know baseball and pay attention to the game. The Hops have frequently seen sellouts since debuting in Hillsboro in 2013, providing a level of support that helped the franchise move from short-season low-A in 2019 to its full-season high-A affiliation in 2021. Although the crowds do not match those at higher levels of baseball, the crowd at Tonkin Field is engaged and enthusiastic.

Craft brewing is celebrated throughout the stadium, both with the beer available at concession stands, Tonkin Field’s décor, and even the mascot itself. This distinguishes the Hops from other sports franchises that disregard what makes their cities unique.

Access 3

Tonkin Field is most accessible to those coming by car. Parking is plentiful, as the stadium’s parking lot also serves the softball fields in the Faber Recreation Complex. One note: fans wanting to park near Tonkin Field’s home plate entrance should drive until reaching the end of the parking lot. Otherwise, a longer walk awaits.

Mass transit is an option, albeit a tricky one. Portland’s Metropolitan Area Express, or “MAX,” light rail connects Hillsboro with downtown Portland via the Blue Line. However, Hillsboro’s MAX station is more than two miles from the stadium and requires a 45-minute walk. The Hops typically operate a shuttle between Tonkin Field and the MAX station, but suspended that service for the 2021 season. Alternatively, fans can take the 47 bus to the station at NE Century and Evergreen Parkway (North) and walk approximately 10 minutes to Tonkin Field.

Inside, wide concourses and abundant standing-room areas enable fans to spread out and enjoy nice sight lines of the game. The ticket window, situated just outside the home plate entrance, is well staffed and efficient. Restrooms are kept clean and are near the seating areas.

Return on Investment 4

The Hops provide an excellent return on investment. Parking costs $5, with game tickets ranging between $7 (general admission) and $20 (premium box). There is not a bad seat in the stadium, so even a general admission ticket will permit fans to enjoy the game.

Food is quite reasonable at Tonkin Field. Burgers and fries are sold together as “baskets” starting at $10. The Hops also offer a combination meal for $18 consisting of a hot dog, a choice of potato chips, and a medium soda. A kids’ meal costs $6 and includes a hot dog, fresh fruit, and juice.

Game programs are available for free via QR code. Signs placed throughout Tonkin Field enable fans to pull up a copy of a high-quality, well designed game program on their phones.

Extras 3

The Hops earn a bonus point for introducing online ordering at their concession stands. This enables fans to enjoy the game – not a wait for food.

Another point goes to the Hops for great fan relations staff. Immediately upon reaching the concourse, the Hops have a guest relations table with posters, information, and several of the team’s trophies. Ushers gladly take photos of fans posing with Barley and provide directions to seats, prioritizing fan enjoyment.

A final point is awarded because, at least for 2021, the Hops’ staff is working double duty. Tonkin Field is also home to the Vancouver Canadians, a division rival. After the Canadian government closed the border with the United States because of the global pandemic, the Hops organization offered to host the Canadians in 2021. Hops employees have thus served two baseball teams, doubling their work but not in any manner diminishing the quality of the fan experience.

Final Thoughts

The Hops have created an environment that highlights everything that makes minor league baseball so enjoyable: inexpensive tickets and food, involved fans, and a beautiful stadium. The team’s thoughtful celebration of Oregon’s place as a craft beer mecca blends well with the action on the field, yet even non-beer drinkers will enjoy themselves. A game at Tonkin Field is well worth the “hop” from anywhere in Oregon.

Follow Matt Finnigan’s stadium journeys on Twitter @mattfinniganco

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