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  • Writer's pictureJim Flannery

Spitz Stadium – Lethbridge Bulls


Photos by Jim Flannery, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Spitz Stadium 2601 Parkside Dr S Lethbridge, AB T1J 4W3

Year Opened: 1975 Capacity: 3,000

 

The Lethbridge Bulls at Spitz Stadium

Henderson Stadium opened its doors in 1924 in Lethbridge, Alberta, and has been the home of baseball in the small city ever since. A bricks-and-mortar grandstand was opened in 1975, just in time for the professional ball to come to town; the Lethbridge Expos of the Rookie-level Pioneer League played two seasons at Henderson Stadium before changing affiliation and becoming part of the Dodgers organization, an association they would maintain until 1983.


Pro baseball would be absent from the Lethbridge landscape until 1992 when the Mounties, Pioneer League affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, arrived. They changed their name to the Black Diamonds in 1996 and they played at Henderson Stadium until 1998.


Replacing the Black Diamonds in 1999 was the Bulls, playing in the Western Major Baseball League. The WMBL is a summer collegiate league that has been likened to A-class baseball in terms of overall talent level.


The Bulls have enjoyed a good deal of success, including four Western Division titles and a league championship in 2015. But they were also linked to tragedy in 2011 when Tanner Craswell and Mitch MacLean, two Bulls players, were murdered in a mass shooting. So, the Bulls have been through both great highs and great lows as an organization.


Spitz, a local sunflower seed manufacturer, began a long-term sponsorship of the diamond in 2008, changing the name to Spitz Stadium. Since then several improvements have been made to the stadium, making the fan experience that much better.


The most recent round of renovations began in the fall of 2016, with $2.9 million invested in upgrading the ticket office, the washrooms, moving the bullpens outside of the outfield walls, and a major refit of the grandstand itself, which was done between the 2017 and 2018 seasons.


The new-look park is fresh and inviting, looking every bit like a 21st Century diamond. And the more open, airy feel just feels safer in this post-pandemic world.


Food & Beverage 3

There are four concession stands around Spitz Stadium: the main stand in the lower southwest corner of the grandstand (which also doubles as the pro shop), a stand in the upper concourse, with the entrance just to the third base side, a small booth behind the third base bleachers, and a booth beyond the first base bleachers.


Choices are fairly basic, including pop, peanuts, chips, candy bars, and, surprise, surprise, Spitz-brand sunflower seeds. There’s also an interesting selection of poutine available, from the basic (French fries, cheese curds, and gravy) to the fancy (barbecue chicken or taco)—this is a tasty option, and not outrageously priced, at $7.50.


All four locations also have some alcoholic choices, including beer as well as harder stuff. There is also occasionally a specialty tent set up with some special treats. For example, local brewery Theoretically Brewing was serving their beer at the July 1 game.


Atmosphere 3

It’s a relaxed atmosphere at Spitz Stadium, with the crowds seemingly out to enjoy a nice summer evening as much as the game, but there’s nothing wrong with that. This seems to be the crowd feel at all the WMBL parks.


In case you haven’t heard, do be aware that Lethbridge has a reputation for wind. Lots and lots of wind. If the temperature is chilly, that wind will cut right through you if you’re out in the bleachers or the patios. You’ll be much warmer and more sheltered if you go for the grandstand seating. On the other hand, summer heat also tends to take the winds away, so hot days are generally just hot.


The grandstand was renovated before the start of the 2018 season. A brand new concourse was built at the top of the grandstand, accessible by stairs on either end of the structure and an elevator on the west side. Additional washrooms have been added to the new concourse, as well as a concession, a patio area, and an open-air club suite. The concourse tunnel at ground level in the old structure has been taken apart, leaving an outdoor path around the exterior perimeter of the grandstand. The look overall is much more open and inviting, improving on what was already a nice experience.


Some well-done landscaping and hardscaping around the left-field patio add a nice touch to the appearance of the stadium, making the fan experience that much more pleasant.


Neighbourhood 3

Spitz Stadium is located a half block off Mayor Magrath Dr., one of the main arteries in Lethbridge, on the north end of Henderson Park, a huge green space that features a lake, a public swimming pool, Japanese gardens, and an 18-hole golf course. While there aren't a ton of dining options in the immediate vicinity, Henderson Park is lovely and you're only a 5-10 minute drive to just about everything in the city.


Across Mayor Magrath Drive, kitty-corner to the diamond, you’ll find the Superlodge Hotel, which has one of the top-rated pizza places in the city right up front. Pizza King & Donair can whip you up a great pizza or, if you’re in the mood for something else, a donair, or shawarma.


Only a couple blocks north, and across Mayor Magrath, you’ll find the Firestone Restaurant in the Coast Lethbridge Hotel. The Firestone is one of the more popular locations in town and can give you something a little more upscale than your typical sit-down franchise-type restaurant.


Another block north of the Coast Hotel is the Sandman Inn, which features a Denny’s and an in-house lounge.


Another two blocks north of the Sandman is the distinctive water tower which has been converted into a restaurant. The Water Tower Grill & Bar serves premium steak as well as a ton of other options that use locally sourced ingredients as a key focus of their menu.


Heading south on Mayor Magrath you’re only a few minutes from just about every franchise restaurant in the free world, whether it’s McDonalds, Taco Bell, Boston Pizza, or Swiss Chalet.


Fans 4

Some might prefer audiences to be a little more demonstrative but, while the crowd tends to be fairly sedate, they still cheer at all the right times, indicating that they are engaged and paying attention.


The Bulls have some of the more dedicated fans in the league, drawing a little better than 1,000 per game in 2015, 2016, and 2018 (top three for per-game attendance in the league), and that’s pretty nice to see at this level of ball. Seats in the main stands are mostly occupied, with things thinning out as you get out to the bleachers, so it still feels fairly full most nights.


The Canada Day game historically has the best attendance of the year, in part due to the city’s annual Canada Day fireworks display taking place right after the game at Henderson Lake, a two-minute walk away from the diamond, so if you’re looking to see what a sellout in this park is like, July 1 is the right day.


Access 5

Access to Spitz Stadium is easy from all parts of Lethbridge.


Mayor Magrath Dr. runs north-south and will quickly deliver you to either end of the city. Only a few blocks north you'll get onto the Crowfoot Highway (Highway 3) which can quickly move you east-west across town. Either way, you can easily get around Lethbridge in minutes.


Parking at the diamond is plentiful enough for a typical crowd and it is free. Just be forewarned: the spots nearest the grandstand are very vulnerable to foul balls, so park there at your own risk. There is more parking around the Henderson Park grounds and in surrounding neighbourhoods so you should be able to find a spot to drop off your car with relative ease.


Lethbridge Transit also runs buses up and down Mayor Magrath regularly so that's an option.


Inside the diamond, it’s pretty easy to get around. Walking paths are wide enough to accommodate the number of spectators without any serious bottlenecks. The addition of the new upper concourse frees up space at the bottom of the grandstand, making it even more roomy.


Return on Investment 4

Game day bleacher tickets are only $15 each; spots in the grandstand range from $18 to $25, depending on your location. If you purchase your tickets 24 hours in advance, that price drops to $12 for the bleachers and $15-$25 for the grandstand. You can get one of the Club Suites for $280-$450, seating 12-20 people. As a result, it won’t break the bank to attend a Bulls game, no matter where you sit. That’s very good value for your money.


Extras 3

The recent stadium improvements have improved the fan experience. A new scoreboard with a big video screen offers replays and live action. Trees have also been added beyond the outfield fence to beautify the park.


In Centerfield, a memorial depicting the names and jersey numbers of Tanner Craswell and Mitch MacLean, the two fallen players, is mounted on the wall.


Souvenirs can be found at ground level in the west wall grandstand, right next to the concession.


T-Bone, the Bulls mascot, makes his way around the stands during the game to entertain the kids and help with various giveaways and promotions.


Final Thoughts

There’s nothing like going to see a ballgame on a warm summer evening. The Lethbridge Bulls provide a nice opportunity to get out and enjoy quality ball at a great price. Spitz Stadium doesn’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles that a Major League park might provide, but it gives the fans a fun, almost old-school experience while still giving the audience many of the modern upgrades a 21st Century fan is looking for.


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