Photos by Michael Rusignuolo, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Loek Loevendie Ballpark Herman Bonpad 5, 1067 SN Amsterdam, Netherlands
Year Opened: 2000 Capacity: 500
The baseball roots in the cultural capitol of The Netherlands go back to 1938 when football (soccer) club S.V. RAP opened a “baseball department.” They played as the RAP Pirates for several years, before conforming to more traditional baseball naming as the “Amsterdam Pirates” when the baseball club separated from their parent sporting club in 1974. Advancing through the divisions of Dutch baseball, they cracked the top-level Honkbal Hoofdklasse for the first time in 1982, and despite some relegations, managed to capture two Holland Series and make it to international play in the European Cup.
In 2000, they moved into their new digs at Sportpark Ookmeer, west of Amsterdam city center. The 500-seat main baseball stadium became known as the “Pirates Playground,” and remained that way until 2019, when it was renamed Loek Loevendie Ballpark to honor a local baseball great. The Pirates also inked a sponsorship deal with human resources and training company L&D Support, now going under the moniker “L&D Amsterdam.”
Overall, Loek Loevendie Ballpark is a solid Honkbal Hoofdklasse entry, not standing out in many areas except its fans and values.
[All prices are in Euros. At the time of writing, one Euro is worth about $1.15.]
Food & Beverage 3
The standard in Honkbal Hoofdklasse is to have all the food and drinks available at the park on offer in the team’s clubhouse. Amsterdam follows this lead, but their clubhouse is the only in the top league where it overlooks the field with large, sliding-glass doors, letting you eat and drink while still watching the game below.
The standard fare for Dutch baseball games are available at the bar grill, including hot and cold sandwiches, sausages, Dutch meatballs, and (of course) a big selection of frites, all for €4.00 and under. You can argue the selection, but not the prices.
The erstwhile Pirates also have a healthy selection of beer to choose from. Choices change, but include Liefmans, Leffe Blond, LacHouffe, Palm, and Veltins, as well as Corona. All are €3.60 or lower, so drink early, drink often (unless you’re driving). Coca-Cola is the non-alcoholic drink family of choice, as it is across the league.
As for drinks, pick your favorite Belgian beer (or a Corona if you’re homesick). For food, you can try a hot Dutch sandwich, such as the chicken (“kip”), or be more adventurous and grab some tasty Dutch meatballs. But whatever you get, you have to get some frites with it (bonus points for mayo). You are in The Netherlands, after all.
Loek Loevendie Ballpark is in the standard location for a Dutch ballpark (a suburban sportpark), with the same overall configuration (laid out like a US Spring Training facility with multiple fields), but it has a rather unique structure. As with most Dutch ballparks, it is on the level of a nice Rookie League or low A-ball field in the American minor leagues.
You enter behind the main grandstand, a large building with a flat, sloping roof, with access from stairways on either side. The team has large solar panels on the roof to power the building, and even sells power to the local area. At the top of the stairs is a large plaza, with the team clubhouse and offices at the back. The plaza houses several picnic tables with ash trays (to accommodate the high population of Dutch that still smoke), along with some low benches and high tables with bar chairs, both by the clubhouse and scattered around. The main seating area is down concrete steps from the landing, with eight rows of molded plastic chairs running from about halfway to third base to about half to first base. You can walk around behind home plate, but fans can go no further than the dugouts on either side of the field.
There is a large digital scoreboard in the right field corner, giving out the by-inning score, basic stats, and player name and number. It rests above a standard outfield wall with some ads against an unbroken background of trees. A canal circles the park, and often home runs are “splashdowns” in the water, so take that, San Francisco. The clubhouse also houses the bathroom facilities and in one wall, there is the entrance to the small team store, featuring general baseball equipment (hard to come by in The Netherlands), as well as a small selection of team gear (almost indistinguishable from the MLB Pirates). The Amsterdam three-X flag flies several places in the park, but not the Dutch flag.
As is the case in most Honkbal Hoofdklasse games, there are no mascots or between-innings entertainment that permeate all levels of US baseball. You get in-stadium PA announcements, batter walk-up music, and the Seventh Inning Stretch, period. Since this is a step up from club ball, however, there are some nice vestiges of sportsmanship. Each batter coming to the plate for the first time usually shakes the hand of the umpire and the opposing catcher.
Sit where you want. The seats all offer a great view of the field. If you want more space to spread out, grab a picnic table (away from the smokers, if that is a problem). Like your baseball with a beer? Watch the game from the clubhouse, as this is the only park in the league where that is an option.
Although technically in the largest city in the country, Loek Loevendie Ballpark is tucked away in a suburban sportpark because… well, I can’t imagine what the rent would be to build a ballpark in the canal zone, but it is more than a fringe sport such as baseball can afford. There are still some okay amenities around, but it is slim pickings compared to the city center.
The residential neighborhood works from the food side of things, as there is a decent clutch of local restaurants just to the south of the park. Turkish Turks Restaurants Eethuis Cesme, Chinese Kwun Wah, Italian Pomdori, French Brasserie De Serre, Dutch Meram Osdorp, and Turkish Restaurant Sahan are across the street. To the northeast is Greiks Restaurant Plato. If these don’t tickle your fancy, east to the tourist areas will yield uncountable other options.
One downside is there is not a lot to do in the immediate location directly around the park. The Street Art Museum Amsterdam to the north is the only museum in the area, and there’s some shopping at the West Mall to the southeast, but that’s about it. The short ride to Amsterdam city center will offer you more of whatever you want than you’ll be able to fit into one vacation.
The stadium is in more a residential area, so there isn’t much in the way of hotels nearby. The budget New West Inn is just across the street from the park, while the mid-range Citiez Hotel Amsterdam is just to the southeast. Upscale B&B Sloterpark is a bit to the northeast, and that’s about it. Ten minutes away to the northeast is Sloterdijk Station, with over a dozen hotels in different ranges to choose from, as well as Rembrandt Park a short distance to the east with even more choices.
Baseball (or honkbal, as it is known locally) is very much a fringe sport in The Netherlands, and for all of Europe for that matter. The Dutch Honkbal Hoofdklasse is one of the only semipro/professional leagues on the continent, sharing the distinction with the Italian Baseball League.
The big-city team seems to draw on the high end of the average for most Dutch baseball games (between 100-250 people per game). After games and practices at the surrounding fields end, the players and spectators come over to watch the top-level men play their games. Another out of the ordinary status quo is that there are usually pet dogs at every game. It is a welcome change for dog lovers, less so if you don’t like them.
Unlike other parks in the league, there is no definitive “home” and “away” cheering sections, and everyone pretty much congregates in the one seating area, or in the clubhouse overlooking the field. There also are a smattering of ex-pat Americans who seem to come to games, as well. The crowd, both home and visiting are quite into the game and its proceedings, definitely more than average for the league.
Loek Loevendie Ballpark is located west of the Amsterdam city center in “New West Amsterdam,” just west of man-made Sloterplas lake. Thankfully, there are public transit and other options available to get there, and the park itself is quite easy to navigate.
There are two bus options from Amsterdam. From Centraal Station, GVB Stadbus 21 (€2.66) will get you to the Holensstraat stop, a short walk from the sportpark. A better option is leaving from Amsterdam Sloterdijk Station, where the GVB Stadbus 69 (€1.86) will drop you off at stop Bonpad, right across the street. Car, cab, or ride share is about 20 minutes from the heart of downtown. It is about an hour to get to Amsterdam from Rotterdam and 45 minutes from Utrecht, and then the bus or drive to the park.
There is a large parking lot for the sportpark, and there is plenty of free bicycle parking. Cabs and ride shares can drop you off right at the park entrance, right next to the field.
The stadium just has one entrance leading to the stairs up to the seating area on each side of the grandstand. The stairs are the only pinch point, and the wide plaza makes walking around easy and hassle-free.
Return on Investment 4
There’s no charge to get into the park, so you can’t really argue with that.
Everything is €4.00 or under, including alcohol, so you can’t quibble on the prices.
As with all the Dutch stadiums, extras are at a minimum. The clubhouse has the usual selection of baseball memorabilia (both Dutch and MLB), as well as club trophies and awards. The stadium is dedicated to local Dutch baseball great Loek Loevendie.
As Dutch clubhouse personnel are almost all volunteers, they are polite and helpful to a person and are always glad to talk to and assist visitors.
Loek Loevendie Ballpark is middle-of-the-pack in most areas, but it is a good atmosphere to watch a game for a good value a short distance from the largest city in the country.