Shrine on Airline – New Orleans Baby Cakes
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Shrine on Airline 6000 Airline Dr Metairie, LA 70003
Year Opened: 1997
The Baby Cakes’ Crib
The 2017 baseball season brought a number of changes to the AAA affiliate of the Miami Marlins. First, the team changed its name from the Zephyrs to the Baby Cakes (more on the name later). This necessitated the stadium being rechristened officially from Zephyr Field to the Shrine on Airline. Many locals still refer to the facility by its old name of 20 years, or choose to combine the two and call it “Zephyr Field at The Shrine on Airline”. The “Airline” reference is to the highway the stadium is located on. The Baby Cakes are members of the Pacific Coast League and over the years have gone to the PCL playoffs nine times, with five league championships and one AAA national pennant.
Food & Beverage 4
New Orleans has always been known as a “foodie” city and the management at the Shrine on Airline knows that. They make sure they have a full array of the typical baseball fare, including hot dogs ($4.75), nachos ($6), a Southwestern chicken wrap ($7), large popcorn ($7), pretzels ($5), pickles ($1.50), chips ($2),cracker jacks ($3),and peanuts ($4). Pepsi beverages are served, including Pepsi sodas (24 oz. fountain drink for $4.50 or 20 oz. bottled soda for $6) or bottled water ($3). Draft beers are 16 oz. ($7). Thirsty Thursdays bring beers down to $2 and Two for Tuesdays provide two beers for the price of one.
As you would suspect, the Baby Cakes also have a number of local favorites on their concession menu. They are available at stands with names like Bayou Social, Sugar Baby, Voodooque, Big Easy Dogs and Louisiana Links. You can expect gumbo ($7), red beans and rice ($7), po’ boy sandwiches ($9), jambalaya ($7) and pigskin nachos ($6) to be readily available as well. Bourbon Street comes to the ballpark through Bayou Social, where a wide variety of beers, cocktails and mixed drinks are available.
Despite the various name changes, the stadium amenities remain the same. The Shrine on Airline has chair back seating for 10,000 fans in a two level stadium. 1,000 more fans can watch the game from the berm (The Levee) beyond the center field wall. The stadium has 16 luxury suites and two party areas, the Cakes Party Shack along the first base line and the Metairie Bank Home Run Porch, which is located atop the left field wall.
Two unusual amenities at the stadium are a swimming pool and a pair of hot tubs for use by groups attending the game. A very colorful scoreboard/video board in center field provides replays and info related to the players. The playing field has a natural surface, with dimensions of 330 feet to both left and right field and 400 feet to dead center.
The Shrine on Airline is actually located in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, which is 10 miles northwest of the riverfront and entertainment districts of New Orleans and 4 miles east of the Louis Armstrong International Airport. The location was chosen as it is less prone to flooding from the Mississippi River and does not face the high land expense of being located downtown. The stadium is rather isolated as far as dining or lodging choices within walking distance of the stadium (fortunately the food choices at the game are above average.)
The restaurants that are located nearby are not fancy to look at, but the food they serve is excellent. Three that we recommend are Bevi Seafood and the Frostop at Clearview. You also have close proximity to the Metairie location of New Orleans Original Daiquiris to get your Bourbon Street beverage fix taken care of.
Your best variety of lodging choices will be four miles west of the stadium near the airport. Brands in the area include Days Inn, Hilton and Marriott. Obviously there are a huge number of lodging choices just 10 miles away in downtown New Orleans… just be prepared for the extremely high prices anywhere near Bourbon Street or the Convention Center. However…you’re in New Orleans so let the good times roll!
New Orleans is known for its hospitality and showing visitors a good time. The management of the Baby Cakes makes sure a trip to the ballpark is no different. The team is outfitted in new uniforms in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold, music is always playing and there is some type of contest or entertainment taking place between each inning. The seating is close to the field and there is no bad seat in the house. After Katrina, the necessary repairs resulted in a much nicer scoreboard to keep you updated on the game stats and upcoming events. Fortunately, the new team name has not resulted in a diapered baby mascot waddling around the park. You will be thoroughly entertained by Boudreaux Nutria and his wife Clotile, a pair of bayou creatures who set up shop at the stadium long ago.
The baseball team has dealt with low attendance in recent years despite being well priced and entertaining. There are a number of issues that have led to this problem. The distance from the prime tourist areas of New Orleans is one of the most obvious causes. Other issues are that New Orleans in the summer time can be extremely hot and humid, making a three hour game into a steam bath for the fans and finally, that New Orleans is still, even 12 years later, recovering from the effects of Katrina.
The Shrine on Airline is easily accessible from its namesake Airline Drive. Airline is a main thoroughfare connecting New Orleans with Louis Armstrong International Airport. This provides greater accessibility than many of the narrow streets within the New Orleans CBD and riverfront areas. The access to I-10 is also much easier from Metairie than downtown New Orleans.
The concourses within the stadium are wide and provide for a good flow during the game. There are two drawbacks to the accessibility at The Shrine on Airline. One is that like all buildings in the New Orleans area, the water table is just below the surface. This means the field cannot be excavated to a lower level. As a result the stadium concourses are elevated higher than the entrance to the stadium. This can cause a backup at the stadium gate. The second problem is that there are only two entrances and exits into the parking lot, resulting in a slow departure after the game.
Return on Investment 4
The prices at the Shrine on Airline are what you typically would expect at the AAA level of baseball. Advance ticket prices are $12 for adults on the lower level or $10 on the upper level (game day sales are $1 more).
Children, seniors, first responders, and military can attend for $11 in the lower level and $9 in the upper deck. Seats on the Levee are considered General Admission and are $5. Parking in the stadium lot is $5. The food prices are very good and the selection of regional foods available far exceeds most ballparks.
Baseball, like the city of New Orleans, is a survivor. A team has played in the Crescent City region for over 110 years. In this period, the professional teams representing New Orleans have been members of five different leagues, had innumerable name changes and been affiliated with 14 of the 30 major league franchises. The Shrine was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina, but never missed a game. The end of the 2005 season ended three days prior to the storm coming ashore and the stadium was the first professional sports facility in the area to resume play with the 2006 season opener taking place on time. This provided a great emotional lift to the area and was the first sign that New Orleans was on the way to recovery.
The game day staff is known as the Krewe. They do an outstanding job of making your trip to the Shrine a fun and enjoyable experience.
The berms behind the outfield fences are known as “The Levee” and mark the highest altitude in the city of Metairie, which is below sea level.
The name “Baby Cakes” refers to a longtime New Orleans tradition at Mardi Gras. A small plastic baby is hidden inside of a Mardi Gras cake, known as a King Cake. Whoever finds the baby in their slice of cake is considered to have good luck for the next year. The team will provide a lifelong pass to Baby Cake games to any child born in the state of Louisiana during 2017. Additionally, these babies will also be eligible for a raffle where the winner will win a 4 year scholarship from the team to attend any state college in the Pelican State.
In addition to minor league baseball, the Shrine on Airline has hosted the Conference USA baseball tournament on two occasions and one Sun Belt Conference baseball tournament. After Hurricane Katrina, both the University of New Orleans and Tulane University played a season at the Shrine, as their campus stadiums received much greater damage from the storm.